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Apple announces iPod Hi-Fi

Jan Kabili

Apple announced the new iPod Hi-Fi at this morning's special event. While it's not terrifically exciting, it's an alternative (albeit a pricey one at $349) to third party iPod speakers. The Hi-Fi features a Universal Dock into which you can slide your iPod and another spot on the back for an iPod shuffle. (If you've got an iPod model without a dock connector, you'll have to buy a separate audio cable to integrate your iPod with the Hi-Fi.)

The iPod nano and the iPod with video will display a new Speakers menu for the iPod Hi-Fi. The menu will let you control tone (with settings like normal, treble boost, and bass boost), display large album art on the iPod while the Hi-Fi is playing, and set the iPod backlight to remain on so you can see the album art. Sorry, but apparently there won't be a Speakers menu or tone control for older iPods.

Theoretically, the Hi-Fi is portable. It will run on six D-cell batteries "for several hours" according to Steve. However, the size and rectangular design of the Hi-Fi makes it look like it will be awkward to haul around. It's about as big as a breadbox: 17" x 6.6" x 6.9"  with hand grips built into the plastic shell.

The Hi-Fi will charge your iPod while you're playing music. It includes an Apple Remote to control music playback from across the room. And it's got a combined analog and digital optical input jack, so you can connect it to your computer or to an Airport Express to use as a speaker system for those devices. However, the requisite audio cable is a separate purchase, which is too bad.

I'm no sound expert, but I can tell you that Steve was hyping the sound quality of the iPod Hi-Fi during the announcement, and the Apple site touts the Hi-Fi's sound quality across a range of frequencies. It's got two 80 mm speaker cones in dedicated chambers, and a 130 mm woofer for bass tones.

To be honest, I'm not likely to run out and buy this updated boombox. I'm happy with my Logitech mm50 portable iPod speaker for now. Have you got a big check left over from the holidays that you're just itching to spend? Will you spend it on this?

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