What with the iPhone being all the rage right now, we're just happy to see that accessories makers such as Griffin haven't decided to leave the iPod in the dust. The company is in the midst of launching three new sound systems for the omnipresent MP3 player: one , one wireless, and one portable. We got our hands on the portable unit, dubbed Journi, for this review. Right off the bat, we're digging this $130 speaker's fabulous design and wealth of features, but the audio quality isn't so fantastic. Still, if you're not superpicky about sound, this is one sweet system.
No doubt about it: The Griffin Journi's design is awesome. It's the most unique-looking portable speaker we've seen in a while. When fully closed, the unit looks like a datebook or a clutch. This is thanks to what Griffin calls the Wrapstand, a black, leatheresque casing decked out with silver dot detailing. The Wrapstand uses a magnetic closure to keep the speaker fully concealed when not in use--simply pull it out and around and insert its tabbed end into a slot at the bottom edge of the speaker to create a handy stand. Neat!
The front of the Journi features the standard central iPod dock, but Griffin forgoes the standard dock adapters in favor of an adjustable wheel that allows any docking iPod to sit flush with the speaker. The wheel can be turned from the back of the speaker unit, which also features a magnetic slot for the remote. Returning on the front of the Journi, you have the standard silver speaker grilles on either side of the dock. Hidden behind the grilles are two 50mm high- and midrange drivers and two 64mm passive radiators.
The features of sound
The Griffin Journi offers an impressive array of features for its price point. It comes with a basic remote that includes volume, power, and playback controls. Texturized power and volume buttons can also be found on the right edge of the unit. The left side of the speaker houses a battery button, which activates a set of battery meter LEDs--this innovative extra lets you see the amount of juice left in the internal lithium-ion battery (rated for 10 hours). Griffin also includes a modular cable/power adapter that gives you the choice of charging through either your computer's USB port or a standard AC wall outlet. Below the battery meter, a rubber flap can be opened to reveal a 30-pin iPod port (for pass-through syncing) and an auxiliary line-input (for connecting non-iPod MP3 players).
Sweet design and bountiful features notwithstanding, the Griffin Journi's sound quality fails to impress. Given that the speaker has SRS Wow technology built right in, this came as a bit of a surprise. In our tests with both an iPod and a Creative Zen V, music was far too bright for our taste, lacking the warmth and depth we like to hear. Rap songs in particular sounded hollow. We heard a wee bit of bass, not to mention nice clarity on the high end, and the speakers can pump out the volume with no distortion, but all in all, the Journi's audio is only about on a par with that of a high-end CD alarm clock radio.
So, the Journi's audio quality is not the best, but it's also not terrible. Plus, the speaker is superstylish and packed with useful features. In final analysis, we think this speaker is still a good choice for those who want something ultraportable that won't put a huge dent in their wallets.