When we reviewed the Logitech AudioStation speaker system for the iPod last year, we were generally impressed with both its design and performance, so we gave it high marks. Flash-forward to 2007, and Logitech has dumped the AudioStation name in lieu of its new Pure-Fi designation. But while the name may have changed, the Pure-Fi Elite looks a lot like its predecessor--and sounds a lot like it, too. Logitech has made some improvements to the system's design and tweaked its sonics, making a good product even better. But it didn't correct a couple of small but annoying issues. That said, it's a lot easier to forgive the faults of the Pure-Fi Elite: its $180 list price is almost half that of the AudioStation's original asking price.
The Pure-Fi Elite is an all-black affair that caters to owners of like-colored iPods, but white and other rainbow-hued iPods don't clash too badly with the system; they'll just stand out against the black background rather than meld into it. Color preferences aside, this is one of the sleekest iPod speaker systems we've tested. We like its clean lines and minimalist--but not too minimalist--design, which includes easy-to-read LCD-screen backlit control buttons located just below the display. One of the changes Logitech made was to those buttons--in the AudioStation they were touch sensitive, in this model they're standard, pressure-sensitive buttons. (Many users complained that the touch-sensitive buttons didn't work as advertised.) As for dimensions, the 8-pound system measures 16 inches wide (at the front), 7.25 inches high, and 4.25 inches deep, which makes it shelf-friendly.
In its promotional materials, Logitech makes a point to show the system with its speaker grilles off, exposing the speakers' 1-inch dome tweeters and 4-inch "long-throw" woofers. It's hard to say whether going with or without the grilles looks better, but the fact that you can remove them if you want is a nice plus--and they're now made of metal rather than cloth.
We also like that Logitech chose to go with a larger remote than the credit card-size remotes that ship with competing models such as the Bose SoundDock. Logitech has redesigned the remote for the Pure-Fi and we found the new remote, which has raised, rubberized buttons designed to be easier to use, though it's not intuitive how to get to the bass and treble controls. Overall, the remote's look, feel, and responsiveness are improved. We complained that skipping tracks forward and back on the iPod with the AudioStation's clicker sometimes required a certain degree of finesse. But this one didn't have that problem. You still can't navigate your iPod's menu system from the remote, but that's the case with all but the highest-end systems.
In our review of the AudioStation, we noted that the S-Video port on the back of the unit was recessed, which made it difficult to plug in many S-Video cables to watch iPod video and photo slide shows on your TV. That small design gaffe hasn't been corrected in this model. We were easily able to connect a standard composite cable (you know, the yellow video cable), but S-Video offers better quality, so you may have to shave down the plug on an S-Video cable to make it fit the connection. It's important to note that while the Pure-Fi Elite's video output works fine with older video iPods, it isn't compatible with the latest generation of video-enabled iPods, including the iPod Touch, the Classic, the new Nano, and the iPhone. We should also point out that the included power adapter is pretty bulky. We suspect this has something to do with having to power an 80-watt system (that's the number listed in the specs anyway), but just be aware that it isn't all that easy to hide. (If you're looking for something that's more portable, check out the Pure-Fi Anywhere instead.)
Other features of the Pure-Fi Elite include iPod charging while it's docked and an auxiliary input for connecting other audio devices. Aside from the aforementioned ability to display videos and images stored on your iPod, you also get a built-in AM/FM radio and a clock with a sleep timer, though again Logitech has failed to include an alarm. Yes, the company's step-up model, the $250 Pure-Fi Dream, does offer alarm functionality. But the fact is that when you see a clock on a system, you expect there to be an alarm as well. (How much could that cost to add, anyway?)