Griffin Evolve Review

In a world cluttered with iPod speaker systems, Griffin Technology’s Evolve claims an advantage by virtue of its detachable, wireless speakers.

Is this a mere gimmick, or a real-world-useful feature? The Evolve package consists of a curvy base station with two antennae and a centrally-mounted iPod dock, two boxy little speakers (each with a 12w amp), a set of iPod dock adaptors, and a power supply. The Evolve has a sleek designer look, with a discreet black and grey finish that enables it to be relatively unobtrusive once it’s in place on your desk or shelf.

The aerials look fragile, though, and we were perhaps overly careful of busting them whenever we moved the base station.

The base station features left/right audio phono inputs, for connecting non-docking devices such as CD players, older iPods, and laptops; and video outputs in the form of composite and S-video, so any compatible iPod can provide movie playback on a TV while you enjoy audio through the shielded Evolve speakers. There are also left/right audio phono outputs, but we’re not sure why you’d need these. There’s no provision for syncing the iPod to your Mac or PC while it’s hooked up to the Evolve.

Ace of base
There are just a few controls on the base station – power on/off, a mono/stereo switch, and volume up and down. The remote control operates play/pause, volume, next/previous, forward/rewind, shuffle, repeat, EQ (cycling through iPod EQ settings), and on/off. We would like the ability to navigate playlists; the overall package is not exactly feature-rich – it seems that the design energy put into the Evolve has gone into the speakers rather than elsewhere.

The speakers are interchangeable; there’s no ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ – as you place them on the base station, they are paired, Bluetooth-style, and detect which side they’re on. A green LED lights on each speaker to remind you which is which. This LED lights orange if the built-in lithium ion battery needs recharging – a fully charged speaker (after two hours’ charging) should run for around 10 hours. Each speaker has a power switch, so you can rest it while away from the base if required, and they have a sleep mode – if no audio is detected for an hour, they switch themselves off.

We tested the Evolve using an 80GB 5G iPod and a 16GB iPod touch. The first thing you’re going to do – of course – is see how far you can get from the base station before the signal gives out.

We tested this in a non-scientific way – three of us set off in different directions, outside the building, one with the remote, the others with a speaker each, and the speakers became baby boomboxes, bringing the gift of music to our neighbours. This was surreal enough, but when somebody else, a small figure down the street, is determining your song selection and volume from a remote control you can hardly see, that’s really strange.

This is why there’s a mono switch on the base – when your speakers get very far apart, or you place them in different rooms, stereo imaging is not going to happen, so you’re better off listening in mono. We managed to walk about 45 yards from the base station before playback ceased.

The Evolve sounds good, and it’s loud too – there’s no performance hit when carrying the speakers around. Whether docked or not, it makes for a neat speaker system.

The audio input is a worthwhile addition – any incoming audio is streamed wirelessly to the speakers too. There’s no input select switch, so make sure your iPod isn’t playing, if connected, otherwise you’ll hear both sources at the same time. There’s a stated audio latency of 20ms, which is effectively nothing for typical listening use.

OUR VERDICT

We’re not excited by the Evolve’s features in general, but they’re adequate, and we are definitely excited by the wireless speakers. If room-to-room portability overrides a more fully featured remote control, or clock and radio functions, or simplicity of design, then you can’t go wrong with this.

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