The all-in-one form factor for iPod speaker systems have long been a popular choice for consumers. Apple's own iPod Hi-Fi exploits the ease of use provided by a single-unit system, and the Bose SoundDock remains a popular choice on the Apple Store.
Griffin has aggressively launched the Amplifi at a sub-£100 price point, something bound to catch the bargain-scouting consumer's eye. For just £90 though, can this all-in-one option truly compete in the mean world of iPod accessories?
Whether a conscious decision or otherwise, Griffin has reflected the minimalistic iPod design in its Amplifi system. The absence of buttons, bar the central, clickable volume wheel, is in keeping with the iPod's simple, classy looks. Overall the design is superb. The system's wooden enclosure is coated with a slick black paint job, giving it an elegant finish. It's a solid build and significantly weighty, too.
Behind a black metallic mesh reside twin 70mm (2.75-inch) high- and mid-range speaker drivers. The drivers are set to the left and right of a large central volume wheel, itself backlit with a seductive neon-blue glow. The underside hosts a 127mm (5-inch) subwoofer and a deep 40mm (1.6-inch) bass reflex port. The sub is given roughly 30mm of breathing space thanks to the extended side panels the Amplifi sits on. Small rubber feet beneath this pseudo-stand keep the system from slowly walking over the edge of whatever it's sitting on.
Around the back of the unit, the minimalist aesthetics are extended -- just simple power and line-in sockets sit neatly in the centre of an otherwise plain and simple rear.
Overall, it's a superbly built setup that far exceeds what we expect for a mere £90. The question is, does it sound as good as it looks?
It's been noted by some that the Amplifi's lack of features hinders its usefulness. For example, there's no radio, display, equaliser or battery operation. We'd argue against this, since Griffin's aggressive pricing is certainly the result of resisting tacking on pointless features and, instead, focusing on delivering one feature very well. This feature is of course the iPod docking system and it's delightfully simple to use: stick an iPod in, switch the speakers on, choose a volume.
The Amplifi belts out a total of 40W from two 10W front-mounted neodymium speaker drivers and a 20W sub. It can be controlled with a pitifully small, credit card-esque infrared remote control that performs a whopping three functions: volume, skip and power. Go nuts.
Due to its cost, we didn't wholeheartedly expect to be blown away by the Amplifi's sound quality, but we were wrong. As well as going to ridiculously high volumes, the Amplifi pumps beautifully balanced bass with warm, well-driven mids and highs.
Mike Portnoy's powerful kick drum in Dream Theater's Dark Eternal Night smacks you in the chest without overpowering the loud guitars and keyboards. Out Here, a drum 'n' bass track from Australia's Pendulum, thrusts an intense bass line, reproduced extremely well by the 20W sub.
While there's not a great deal of separation from the twin drivers, KT Tunstall's Little Flavours was capable of proving the Amplifi can deal moderately well with panned sounds.
What you don't hear from this system is anything close to the crystalline high-end clarity you would expect of a more expensive system. What you do get is a powerful, warm sound, with plenty of balanced bass and a great deal of volume.
One of our main performance complaints is that the Amplifi only charges a docked iPod when it's switched on -- with the system switched off, the docked 'Pod simply sits inactive. A distinct shame.
For under £100, this is a truly superb little speaker setup. We can guarantee no-one will hold anything against Griffin for charging so little for such a capable piece of kit -- it's less than half the price of the iPod Hi-Fi. You may want more features from an audio system, but for those who just want attractive, affordable speakers for their iPod, we have every reason to recommend you give the Amplifi a shot.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide