Price, performance and design find a perfect balance in the Klipsch iGroove SXT. It's an excellent iPod speaker system, with great build and sound quality. With its warm tones and strengths in the upper bass, it's ideal for producing a terrific sound in a small room
The most popular thing since the iPod is the iPod accessory, or the 'podcessory', if you're funky. Speaker systems for the iPod are among the most popular of the so-called podcessories, and thanks to the popularity of music in heavily compressed formats, cheap and low-quality speakers are plentiful.
But what about systems for those who appreciate high-bit rate or lossless music? The audiophile needn't ignore iPods anymore thanks to Apple Lossless encoding, and Klipsch -- a manufacturer of high-end audiophile hi-fi equipment -- has released an iPod speaker system, the iGroove. At £90 it's certainly affordable, but is it worthy of the Klipsch name in terms of quality?
It would take a blind man with no sense of touch to claim the SXT was not well built. Truly, the affordability of the system belies its superb construction, putting it on par with what we saw from Tannoy's i30. Credit card-style remote controls are often flimsy and tacky, but the SXT's design doesn't cut corners. It's so refreshing to see.
Unlike Tannoy's offering, the SXT features physical volume and power buttons on the main unit itself, so you needn't rely on knowing where the tiny remote is. A pair of reflex ports sit on either side of the system, allowing for some bassy breathing room. Driver specs are pretty good, too: a pair of 64mm woofers team up with two 19mm horn-loaded tweeters, meaning separate drivers handle separate frequencies.
Compatibility with all iPods is a good start, but it works with the iPhone, too. That said, the remote control won't let you browse an iPod's menus -- it simply lets you play, pause, skip forward and the like.
Thanks to a 3.5mm line-in socket to the rear, it will at least work with any other audio device you have lying around. There's no USB socket for using the system as an expensive dock though, unlike Tannoy's seemingly- comparable i30.
Sadly, while older iPod models will be able to output video via the S-Video output, new models -- including the iPod touch and iPhone -- will not.
We've not be let down in terms of performance, with the SXT substantiating its audiophile tag with a class D amplifier and sonically impressive sound quality, even if separation between channels isn't all that great. In a small room it sounds terrific, with a generally warm tone and strengths in the upper bass. It's no replacement for a hi-fi and a capable subwoofer, but it proved itself an ideal choice of students or bedroom listeners.
Feist's poppy track 1234 was the first to impress us, with the SXT delivering the pop-country number with splendid warmth and detail. Believable bass was audible underneath bright vocals and we heard an array of subtleties in the background. It can really drive as well, with mellow and soft rock -- including Miss Feist, of course -- and is not unimpressive at very high volumes.
Dream Theater's Metallica-esque track Constant Motion, with its booming twin bass drums, thick guitars and those layers of keyboards and vocals, sounded impressive through the SXT, though John Myung's deep bass lines were somewhat lost in the darkness of Petrucci's complex guitars, and Portnoy's array of cymbals lacked that crystalline finesse in the high end. Not bad at all though, and certainly very decent for a system of its size and price.
Heavy electronic dance is less impressive, as a result of the small drivers' inability to move that much air. If you're looking for the be-all and end-all of iPod systems for use with your favourite drum 'n' bass tracks, you'll need a sub, and this won't support one. Consider Scandyna's awesome -- if expensive -- Podspeaker iPod solution.
We like this speaker system very much. It can be snagged for under a hundred quid and apart from your glow stick-friendly dance music at higher volumes, it sounds very nice indeed. We see this as a terrific model for students whose parents aren't loaded, as price, performance and design are all perfectly balanced. Just don't expect to be able to hear the difference between MP3 and CD-quality all that much.
We've compared the iGroove SXT to the Tannoy i30 on occasion and we believe Tannoy's offering to gives better performance. Although at the time of writing it can be had for little more than the SXT, its RRP is around the £230 mark, and the difference isn't inaudible. If you want extra power, more separation between left and right channels and USB connectivity, consider the i30 over the SXT.