Editors' Note: The rating on this review has been lowered from 7.0 to 6.7 due to changes in the competitive marketplace.
First we had the Wii, now we have the iYiYi. The first is a game console, the second is Tivoli Audio's latest iPod stereo system that includes and AM/FM clock radio. Aside from its unique name (pronounced "aye-yai-yai"), the system offers some key distinctions from Tivoli Audio's last iPod dock-equipped radio, the iSongBook: the iYiYi offers a sturdier one-piece design, and for compatible stations it displays information such as the station and the artist. Like the iSongBook, the iYiYi is available in white or black for $300.
One advantage of the iSongBook is that it can be stocked with six standard or rechargeable AA batteries for easy transportability. In contrast, while the comparatively beefy iYiYi is certainly movable--it's 7.36 inches high by 11.88 wide by 8.66 deep, and weighs 6.5 pounds--the AC-only system isn't designed for travel. That said, its power transformer is internal, so there's no big wall wart on the end of the power cord. It's also an all-in-one stereo unit, as opposed to the somewhat clumsy detachable speaker of the iSongBook.
We've always liked the look and feel of Tivoli Audio products, and the iYiYi retains the old-style world radio look seen in earlier products. In fact, you can imagine Tivoli Audio's designers working off the notion of joining two iPALs side-by-side to come up with a stereo version of that monaural system.
In addition to sharing design elements, the iYiYi offers many of the same features found on other Tivoli Audio radios as well: 10 radio presets (five AM, five FM), sleep and snooze timers, an alarm clock function (wake to the radio, an iPod, or a beeping tone), and an LCD readout. If you don't have an iPod--or you've got an older, nondocking version or a Shuffle--you can jack in to the iYiYi's line-in port. Alternately, you can opt to use the mixing input, which allows you to hear an external source (say, your computer) along with whatever else is playing. There's also an audio line-out jack (although no video), plus a headphone jack on the front.
Radio fans will appreciate the Radio Data System (RDS) text feeds from stations that offer them. As you listen, the name of the station, as well as the artist's name and the track info, scroll across the small but easy-to-read blue-backlit LCD. You can toggle RDS off if the scrolling text--including the occasional radio-station promotions--annoys you. The blue backlight on the LCD can't be toggled off, but there's a built-in light sensor that adjusts the backlit display according to the ambient lighting conditions. Finally, Tivoli Audio throws in a card-size remote that not only allows you to skip forward or rewind songs but also to jump ahead or back through albums and playlists, as well as tune into radio stations and adjust volume levels.
The iYiYi has a digital AM/FM tuner that does a good job of pulling in stations using the internal antenna. But if you're looking to pick up smaller stations, you can attach the included external antenna (it's basically a long wire), or even connect to a more elaborate rooftop antenna if you'd like.
We weren't all that impressed with the sound of the iSongBook, though a small portable system such as that one certainly requires some trade-offs. Because of its increased depth, we were expecting--excuse the pun--bigger things from the iYiYi. We were partially rewarded, but we didn't necessarily feel that iYiYi distinguished itself, on a performance standpoint, from some of its $300 competitors. Like a lot of these systems, the iYiYi delivered nicely in the midrange and high end, but fell short in the low end and doesn't seem to feature any special digital trickery to widen the soundstage (there is no SRS mode or even bass and treble controls). However, while it did lack the super deep bass needed to thump out R&B, it performed better than many systems in the midrange and treble. For instance, we listened to a couple tracks off Primus' greatest hits CD, They Can't All Be Zingers, on both the iYiYi and the iHome iH52 (the latter being half as expensive but including a separate subwoofer) and although many of the tracks were bass heavy, we felt definitely preferred the iYiYi because of its more detailed sound. While we can't recommend the iYiYi to those who love booming bass, we think a lot of people will enjoy its nuanced sound.
In the final analysis, the iYiYi is a nicely designed iPod speaker system that has a decent set of features that makes it in many ways superior to the identically priced Bose SoundDock. However, the competition in the iPod speaker system space is pretty intense these days, and we would have liked to see the iYiYi distinguish itself a little more in the sound and features department. For instance, the Logitech AudioStation sounds great, and it even features video outputs for the watching iPod videos--though it lacks the iYiYi's alarm functionality. So, while we did like it, we can't quite muster a full-fledged yippee for the iYiYi.
Assistant Editor Matthew Moskovciak contributed to this review.