Griffin Amplifi full review

Griffin Technology has been there for the iPod almost since the very start. Along with Belkin, it was one of two key manufacturers Apple approached in 1992 to make peripherals and add-ons for the iPod. So, the company knows the iPod market, and it shows in the Amplifi.

Introduced in January 2007 and available in the US in mid-summer, Amplifi is only now reaching UK shores. With Griffin’s admirable track record in iPod product development, we had to give the relatively affordable system the once-over. Can it really compete with the likes of Bose at this price?

Reassuringly, the Amplifi borrows its looks from the traditional audio world. Shaped like a rectangular box, (the system measures 16.5 x 10.5 x 8.8in and weighs 10lbs), the low-slung speaker is black and silver, with an iPod dock situated on the top. The enclosure is acoustically tuned and features all-wood construction, which helps add a little warmth to the music you play. There’s also about an inch of space underneath with the sides of the speaker doubling up as feet.

This gives the built-in downwards-facing 5in bass subwoofer an air cushion to bounce music onto, further enhancing music playback. The rear of the unit features ports for an AC adaptor and a 3.5mm standard line-in socket, so you can use the Amplifi with other devices as well as your iPod.

Sing something simple
It’s an incredibly simple system – connect it to the mains, pop an iPod into the top-mounted dock using one of the six iPod adaptors supplied, press play, and your new system is installed.

The Amplifi looks good, too, with its blue LEF-illuminated large front-mounted knob. It’s simple, elegant, and eye-catching. That blue-illuminated knob controls volume when rotated and acts as an on/off button when depressed. The supplied six-function infrared remote control is intuitive to use, and you can also tell when an instruction despatched via the remote is received because that same blue light flashes to let you know. The remote lets you play, pause, skip forward/back and switch the system on or off.

Griffin has kept the power of the system secret, all we do know about what’s inside is that the Amplifi contains two 2.75in tweeter/midrange speakers plus a 5in woofer and bass reflex port (which points down to the air cushion below). These speakers work together to deliver a decently balanced sound that’s capable of spitting music out at high volume. At top volume you may experience some decay in audio quality when playing back poorly compressed digital music files, but iTunes Plus songs and tunes compressed at higher bitrates sounded superb.

We found the overall mix fairly bassy, but not so much as to ruin classical music, for example. Stereo separation is also pretty good – we’re confident you could use Griffin’s iPod-friendly solution in any small to medium-sized room without feeling like you are listening to a tinny transistor radio.

While separation doesn’t match that of a ‘proper’ stereo music centre or the most highly-specified iPod system (such as the £259.99 Voix MPX & MPY solution), for the price it competes admirably with more expensive but similar systems from the market leaders such as Bose. Clarity is good, and you can be confident that there’s enough extra power under the system’s hood for that extra oomph you sometimes need to get a party started – or for a spot of solitary rocking out.

In every life a little rain must fall – even for the Amplifi. This means there are a few caveats to what is otherwise a highly positive account of this product. For one thing, it only charges a docked iPod while the system is switched on, which is a pain.

And while we understand this product is marketed as an iPod system for the room and not the computer, we do think it would have been useful to include a USB port so you could also make the Amplifi part of your iPod (or iPhone’s) sync routine.

While we are on the whole highly impressed by the quality of music playback, we did mention the slight preponderance of the bass. This is by no means a deal breaker, but we did feel that some of the mid-range signals were a little less distinct within an otherwise satisfying overall mix. This may have been mitigated by including on-board bass and treble controls, but we suspect Griffin was focused on delivering an extremely high-quality system at a price that doesn’t make an iPod user’s eyes pop.

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