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Klipsch iFi review: Klipsch iFi

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The Good Maxed-out 2.1-speaker system for the iPod ; a pair of two-way satellite speakers; 8-inch, 200-watt powered subwoofer; cute remote; iPod docking/charging station; two line-level inputs.

The Bad Larger size and more cables than competing iPod speaker systems.

The Bottom Line The great-sounding Klipsch iFi is the 800-pound gorilla of iPod speakers.

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8.0 Overall

Leave it to Klipsch to develop a new twist on iPod speakers. We've tested or used most of them, but the iFi is--at least for the time being--in a category of one. It's a four-piece system consisting of a combination iPod docking station and charger, a hunky 8-inch, 200-watt powered subwoofer, and a set of Klipsch's superb RSX-3 satellite speakers. At $399, the Klipsch iFi is also more expensive than most iPods. But most other iPod speaker packages miniaturize the sound, squeezing it through teensy, bass-challenged speakers, and their compact size makes a cruel joke of stereo separation. By contrast, the iFi pumps up iPod sound to room-filling dimensions.

The Klipsch iFi comes with a pair of the aforementioned Reference Series RSX-3 satellite speakers premounted on a swiveling table stand that can also serve as a wall bracket. The RSX-3 is a two-way magnetically shielded speaker with a 3.5-inch aluminum woofer and a 0.75-inch titanium-dome tweeter. It's 8.75 inches tall and fitted with heavy-duty binding posts to secure connecting cables. Other iPod speaker sets cram their tiny stereo speakers within one small cabinet, but you can place the iFi's satellites where you please.

The all-new 8-inch subwoofer was designed specifically for the iFi and houses a built-in 200-watt amplifier that powers the woofer and the satellites. The sub's rear also has a stereo minijack input intended for use with the audio output from a laptop or PC. It is always active, so you can hear sounds from your computer while listening to music from your iPod. The bantamweight sub measures 10.6 inches wide, 11.75 inches high, and 14 inches deep.

The iFi plug-and-play system is compatible with all dockable iPods, including the iPod Mini and the iPod Photo. The combination iPod docking station and charger has volume and subwoofer level controls and a stereo minijack line-level input, so you can play any audio source over the iFi, including first- and second-generation iPods without the dock connector. The downside to the minijack is that you have to manually hook it up each time you use it, then disconnect it to hear your iPod. The dock's yellow Light Bar provides a visual indication of the system's volume and the subwoofer's relative level.

The flattened football-shaped miniremote uses radio signals (RF) instead of infrared light, so you don't have to aim it at the iFi to raise or lower the volume, play/pause, change tracks, or fast-forward/reverse music on the iPod. It even works from other rooms in the house, though it can't access your iPod's playlist or other menu functions--not that they'd be much use when you can't see the iPod's screen.

The iFi's sound quality stands head and shoulders above that of its iPod-speaker competition. All sorts of music were well served, from rock and roll to acoustic jazz and classical. The potent little subwoofer supplied a weighty foundation to reggae music's rumbling rhythms, and the satellites' midrange clarity came to the fore on Bruce Springsteen's Devils & Dust CD. The Klipsch iFi is powerful enough to fill even fairly large rooms with full-bodied sound, and once we placed the satellites seven feet apart, the stereo spread was excellent.

We noted that Klipsch sells the RSX-3 satellites separately for $130 each or $260 a pair. Since the iFi retails for $399 with a pair of RSX-3s, you're in effect paying only $139 for the sub, the docking station, and the remote--that's quite a deal. In the end, though, there's a classic dilemma of aesthetics vs. sound quality. Those who are put off by the somewhat bulky four-piece design (which necessitates several interconnecting cables) may want to opt for the simpler one-piece frame of the sweet-sounding and less expensive Bose SoundDock instead. But if you're looking for maximum sound quality when listening to your iPod at home, the Klipsch iFi is the 800-pound gorilla among flea-powered iPod-speaker alternatives. It just plain sounds better, has deeper, more powerful bass, plays louder, has better stereo separation--and thanks to its versatile remote, is easier to use.

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