The iWoofer is mostly spherical (think Magic 8-Ball for the black version), with four metallic legs, and two "eyes" that serve as the right and left speaker channels. Add a "mouth" (the subwoofer air vent) and a telescoping FM antenna to the top, and you have an undeniably robotic-looking creature. Located within the iWoofer's underbelly is a 2.5-inch subwoofer, which pumps out 6 watts. Adding to the iWoofer's overall appeal are four blue LEDs (the halo lamp) that surround the subwoofer and light up the surface below the speaker (definitely more effective in darker environs).
Available in white or the newer black model, the iWoofer has a built-in dock designed for 5G iPods. (Nano owners should check out the similar iWoofer Nano.) Bundled with the speaker are holders for three sizes of iPod (30GB, 60GB, and the iPod Shuffle), which plug into the antenna base. This places your iPod front and center right above the speakers. This is an ideal method for watching videos, though the iPod's viewing angle is not quite square and can't be adjusted. The dock recharges the iPod (only on AC), and a USB pass-through allows for syncing with iTunes. In addition, a mini line input allows you to connect other audio devices. Note: The Shuffle works via line in and cannot be controlled using the iWoofer.
The iWoofer takes up very little space, and its rubberized feet keep it stable. The iPod volume controls are disabled when it's plugged in; buttons on either side of the unit control the iPod and the FM feature, though you can skip tracks using the iPod. The iWoofer's left side includes circular iPod controls, which double as the FM tuning control, and a dedicated FM button that turns on the radio. The center button toggles the LEDs on and off. The right side features volume and bass controls and the center power button.
Unfortunately, there is no display, so you cannot monitor what FM frequency you're on. In addition, there is only one programmable FM preset. Each time you change the FM channel, you're actually scanning for the next good channel, though we definitely got some dud frequencies. You can, however, operate the FM without an iPod, and the LED lights blink like UFOs during the scanning process, a neat extra. It's also difficult to tell how much bass you've administered, though volume and bass (and FM) will default to the last setting before the iWoofer is powered off. The one thing we'd love to see is an integrated remote control--less for across-the-room control and more because the volume control can be difficult to access on the iWoofer's side.
The 12-watt speaker system itself sounds crisp, though we are talking about small sound and not the kind of audio you'd expect from, say, the bigger and pricier Bose SoundDock ($300). The right and left speaker cones are made of neodymium and aluminum and provide 30mm, with 3 watts of power each. Stereo separation is predictably close to nil, but the overall sound, with the much needed help of a subwoofer that adds some presence at higher volumes, is good, and will fill a small room (in other words, use the subwoofer). Just don't crank your music up to 100 percent because the unit will start shaking and audio will sound bad. FM reception is good and is a nice extra feature. Those looking for a more conventional, quality speaker set that's battery powered should check out the Logitech mm50.
Throw in four AA batteries, and you can take this little guy on the road. Though the unit is small, it has four protruding spikes (the legs) so you may want to get an iWoofer carrier ($29.90). We will report back with our battery-life tests.
Overall, the iWoofer makes a whimsical yet useful addition to your desk space, and though the FM feature is only half-baked, it's useful nevertheless. But mostly, the slightly overpriced iWoofer charms with its physical presence (though some CNET staffers aren't so convinced).