Anyone hooked on an iPod has probably given serious thought to dispensing with what is fast becoming a relic of yesteryear — the home...
Anyone hooked on an iPod has probably given serious thought to dispensing with what is fast becoming a relic of yesteryear — the home stereo.
Why crowd your living room with a stereo receiver, speakers and CD player when you can replace it all with a compact, all-in-one system for docking your iPod and playing your entire music library? With one purchase, you save space, get rid of a tangle of wires and power cords, and make your music-listening life a whole lot simpler.
Just spin your iPod’s click wheel, and you have access to thousands of songs, as well as podcasts unavailable on your stereo.
Certainly many companies are eager to help you make this transition. Scores of stand-alone iPod stereos and speaker systems are now available, including one from Apple, the maker of the iPod.
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Some of these are full-blown audio system substitutes (or close to it), while others are meant for a desk or night table.
Apple’s iPod Hi-Fi ranks among the former, as you would hope from its $349 price tag — the same price as Apple’s top-of-the-line, 80-gigabyte iPod. As with other iPod stereos, the iPod docks directly into the unit; there are no slots for CDs, cassettes or other audio throwbacks. Apple sees the Hi-Fi as a bona fide stereo substitute, as its marketing makes clear. “Where did the stereo go?” the company asks, the answer obviously being the attic or eBay.
Another popular option, the Bose SoundDock, for $299, also touts high-quality sound in a small package.
The Hi-Fi and the SoundDock include two must-have features for anyone thinking about using them as their main stereos — a remote control and an iPod charger. You want to be able to change the volume from the couch, and you don’t want to have to deal with another gizmo for charging your iPod.
But you may face tradeoffs in deciding to ditch your stereo.
Despite their price tags, the Hi- Fi and the SoundDock do not include AM/FM tuners. Presumably, you would rather download podcasts than listen to the radio.
And audiophiles may find even these high-end units sorely lacking.
With a traditional home stereo, you can position speakers anywhere in the room, deciding what sounds best. With all-in-one units like these, everything stays in one place, as the iPod docks directly into the unit with the speakers. That saves space, no doubt, but may limit your ability to maximize sound quality.
Another option, the Tivoli Audio iSongBook, for $300, includes a detachable speaker, letting you separate the two by up to six feet.
What’s more, it also includes an AM/FM tuner and alarm clock.
Whatever your choice, don’t ignore the family logistics of using an iPod as the home stereo. If someone takes the iPod, then those at home have no tunes — unless, of course, you run a multiple-iPod household.
More iPod stereos, with other features, are being introduced all the time, and it may just be a matter of finding the one with the right combination of price, quality and features.
If you want something for your bedside, then the iHome iH5, for $100, gives you a clock radio with an AM/FM tuner. Those seeking a portable mini-stereo for an office desk might want to check out the Altec Lansing inMotion iM11, also $100.
But before you give away your traditional stereo equipment, just consider what you will gain — and, yes, give up — by making the switch.
If you have an elaborate home entertainment system, complete with multiple speakers for your TV and stereo, you may not be ready to toss out your high-fidelity investment. To access your iPod’s digital music collection, you can always hook an iPod to a stereo with a device like Apple’s iPod AV Connection Kit or cables and gizmos from Kensington, MacAlly and other companies. That doesn’t let you simplify things in the manner of an stand-alone iPod stereo, but it does let you have access to all your digital tunes from your existing stereo.
And maybe your living room isn’t the place for an iPod stereo, after all. There’s always the kitchen, the playroom or just about anywhere else in the house.