Logitech AudioStation Express
There's no shortage of made-for-iPod speaker systems on the market, and plenty of them are made by Logitech. Given the company's experience in that area, it comes as no surprise that the AudioStation Express ($99.99) is impressive in both form and function. It's no replacement for a full-on home audio setup--it offers little in the way of bass and should not be played at loud volumes--but this unit is a decent option for bringing your music experience into the office, bedroom, or kitchen.
Although the AudioStation Express can run off six AA batteries (not included) and comes with a handy travel case, we wouldn't consider the unit ultraportable. At 11.5x4.5x3.5 inches, it's a bit too boxy and bulky to tote in your carry-on. However, it's certainly a manageable size for picnics and trips by car, and its footprint is small enough for your desktop or bedside table. The AudioStation Express is contained in a glossy white plastic body, with a black speaker grille covering the entire front of the unit and wrapping around either side. A volume knob encircled by a glowing orange LED protrudes front and center, and the few ports (Power-in, Auxiliary line-in, and Video out) live on the back. A slot for the remote also is etched out of the back of the unit, while the iPod dock is cut into the top. It's a simple design with an understated aesthetic.
In order to control playback from afar, you'll need to use the included IR remote, which includes a power button, a Play/Pause key, track shuttle buttons, and volume controls. Simple, but effective. As mentioned before, the AudioStation Express includes a travel case, and we're surprisingly impressed with this extra. The case is padded and has a handle built into one side for easy transport, and it's designed in such a way that you can leave the speaker in it while in use: a flap opens to leave the front of the speaker unhindered, and there's a hole cut in the back for the ports. And of course, we appreciate that Logitech has included a dock adapter for every permutation of iPod since the Mini (10 in all, with all the sizes taken into account). There's even a line-in cable for connecting non-iPod MP3 players. It's the little things that count sometimes.
Considering how weak the iPod's EQ settings are, it would have been a nice touch if the AudioStation Express offered some adjustable bass and treble controls, though given the low price, we can't complain too much. Still, the unit could use some bass adjustment: there's little low-end to be had. On the whole, music played through the speakers had a hollow quality to it, though the high-end detail was impressive. In fact, audio sounded great if played in the lower third of the volume range, which makes the AudioStation Express an appropriate speaker system for rooms in which you'd likely play your music at a low volume, such as the bedroom or an office. However, while the unit gets quite loud, we don't recommend turning it up: this increased the hollow sound, and at the highest levels, introduced some irritating noise.