AudioStation Review

Like Tivoli Audio’s iYiYi, Logitech’s £199 AudioStation is a premium ‘desktop’ speaker system. The addition of an AM/FM radio and a clock, along with an attractive design and very good sound quality, make the AudioStation a definite contender in the bedroom audio market.

Although most of the body is matte-black plastic, two removable mesh-fabric speaker covers cover much of its front face. An iPod dock sits between these covers. The dock uses Apple’s Universal design and charges your iPod while docked. Eight dock adaptors are included for accommodating most dockable iPods. The unit is finished off with a large, backlit LCD display; and seven touch-sensitive, backlit buttons.

Note that Logitech doesn’t include the third-generation iPod – the first iPod with a dock-connector port-in the AudioStation’s compatibility list. Although the 3G iPod will play through the AudioStation, you won’t be able to control playback using the AudioStation’s remote, nor will a 3G iPod be able to charge while docked.

Four speaker drivers hide behind the removable mesh speaker panels: left and right 1in tweeters and left and right 4in woofers. Each tweeter is powered by one of two 3W class-AB amplifiers, with each woofer powered by one of two 32W class-D amps. Total power for the AudioStation is a whopping 80W. The AudioStation uses tuned, sealed enclosures instead of ported ones. The latter usually provide improved bass response compared to similarly-sized sealed enclosures, but since the AudioStation uses relatively large woofers, its sealed speakers provide better bass response than the ported ones found on most desktop iPod speakers.

The back of the system features a captive audio cable (which connects to a rather bulky external power supply), a stereo auxiliary-input minijack for listening to an external audio source, two video-output jacks (composite and S-video) for watching video and photos hosted on capable iPods, and AM and FM antenna connectors. Conspicuously missing is a data port for syncing your iPod with your computer.

The AudioStation’s backlit display isn’t the clearest, but it’s good enough that it doesn’t interfere with the system’s use and it’s large enough to view from a good distance. Weirdly for a unit with a clock and an adjustable sleep function, the AudioStation doesn’t have an alarm. Other than this omission, it’s a perfect bedroom system.

You can control many of the system’s functions using the touch-sensitive buttons below the screen. During audio playback, pressing the Select button cycles between displaying the clock, a spectrum analyzer visualiser, or, in the case of the radio, the current frequency (and, optionally, FM RDS information). Accessible using the remote control’s Menu button are onscreen menus for adjusting bass and treble levels, screen brightness (with separate settings for when the system is on and off), and iPod backlight.

Overall radio performance is decent as iPod stereo systems go. On stronger stations, the AudioStation’s FM tuner pulls in a clear, static-free signal, although the tuner isn’t as sensitive or selective as that of Tivoli’s iYiYi. AM performance was only fair, with only the strongest of local stations being listenable, even when using the included loop antenna instead of the internal antenna.

In FM mode, you can opt to display the station name, track, and artist on the screen. Unfortunately, this feature didn’t work consistently in our test.

The AudioStation’s remote is larger than most. That’s generally a good thing. You get standard playback buttons, as well as buttons for sleep, source selection (iPod, Aux, AM, FM) and ‘3D Stereo’ mode as well as Up, Down, Select, and Menu. One undocumented feature of the remote is that during iPod playback, the Menu Up and Down buttons toggle shuffle and repeat modes, respectively, which is a pretty handy feature.

The AudioStation is among the best-sounding one-piece speaker systems we’ve heard. Unlike most desktop systems, it has no glaring weaknesses, offering very good detail and good midrange along with better bass response than any similar system. The ability to adjust treble and bass levels is a relatively rare feature, too. And although the 3D Stereo mode doesn’t offer as dramatic an improvement in stereo separation on the AudioStation as it does on Logitech’s portable mm50, the technology does provide a bit more ‘space’ to certain tracks. Finally, the AudioStation is one of the few one-piece systems we’ve tested that can even come close to putting out as much volume as Apple’s iPod Hi-Fi without distorting.

Compared to Tivoli’s iYiYi, the most similar system out there in terms of features, the AudioStation offers sound that’s more balanced, thanks to better bass and lower-midrange, and the 3D effect gives the AudioStation slightly better stereo separation. A closer competitor, in terms of overall sound quality, is JBL’s Radial, the best-sounding desktop system we’ve seen. Although the Radial doesn’t have the same range of features – most notably, it doesn’t include a radio or clock, although it does offer a superior RF remote that lets you navigate your iPod’s menus – it provides audio quality that’s roughly comparable to that of the AudioStation. Both offer good bass response for a desktop system, as well as very good detail.

OUR VERDICT

The AudioStation is a standout product in the crowded field of one-piece iPod speaker systems. Like Tivoli’s iYiYi, the AudioStation includes useful non-iPod features such as an AM/FM radio and a clock. But it also competes with JBL’s Radial as one of the best-sounding systems in this category. Although the lack of an alarm function is puzzling, and fans of radio will probably prefer the iYiYi thanks to its superior tuner, the AudioStation offers an impressive combination of features and quality at the same price as its competitors.

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