iLuv is expanding its range of iPod accessories, developing unusual and unique iPod solutions and swelling the already crowded accessory market.
The iLuv 7500 is a compact music system for iPods. Like most mini-systems it lacks a record and tape deck, making it a child of the digital music age (naturally including CDs and MP3 CDs).
Its Universal iPod dock recharges and plays music from most modern iPods. It offers a USB port that works with an iPod shuffle and many memory cards and USB devices. However, it lacks a line-in port for other devices, so it’s useless as a host for your old record deck.
Additional features include an AM/FM radio with PLL (phase-locked loop) digital tuning technology and a clock with timer that can be used as an alarm, waking you to music from radio, iPod, or CD.
The radio, which offers adequate reception, supports up to 40 programmable radio station presets. The various features of the device are navigated using the front-mounted LCD screen, which lets you shift modes and helps you move between the five preset EQ settings. The 7500 also lets you search by name for tracks on MP3 CDs. It ships with a 20-function, reasonably comprehensible infrared remote control, although this won’t allow you to navigate through your playlists and batteries aren’t included.
The unit has no problems with CD and MP3 CD playback, though the search feature is only effective
if you’ve burned the relevant track info to an MP3 CD.
The system consists of a pair of satellite speakers, a bass bin subwoofer that integrates the iPod dock, and the main unit housing the controls. First impression was that the system was a little flimsy, though that isn’t unusual in any but the most premium music systems. Assembly was fast – it took more time unwrapping the components than fitting them together.
Unusually, the iPod dock is situated atop the subwoofer. This is because the top-loading CD player takes up the top surface of the main unit. You’ll most likely store the subwoofer beside the main unit.
There are some other odd design decisions. First, both the main unit and subwoofer have their own separate power supply, so you’ll need two wall sockets. Second, with two power supplies you’d expect two power switches, one for each unit. But you’d be wrong – there are three. The bass bin cunningly hides a second switch at its rear, which needs to be on before the subwoofer works. Third, volume isn’t integrated: the satellite speakers have one volume control, and the subwoofer volume is tuned with a small, black knob on the front lower left of that unit. Also, controls on the subwoofer match the colour of the unit, making them hard to find them in the dark. And the remote doesn’t control the subwoofer. We think iPod users would prefer more integrated solutions.
The main unit hosts the screen and 14 buttons controlling mode, volume and so on. There’s a large blue-illuminated volume knob and volume is displayed on the screen. A USB port and memory card reader are concealed behind a cover at the bottom of the unit.
We noticed the system sometimes became unresponsive when a new iPod was put in the dock. We would choose a track, put it into the dock, and the track would pause. Pressing play on the iPod often failed; the remote control would briefly summon the play arrow on the music player, but the iPod would switch to pause again. Pressing the play button on the main unit also had no effect. We tested three iPods and this problem remained consistent, though a fourth iPod nano had no such problems. Whatever the cause, our tests suggest the system should be switched off and on again if the problem occurs – the player works fine after that.
Finally, volume. As with all compacts, if you want volume output that makes your ears bleed, you’ll need to look elsewhere. The two satellite speakers push out 4.5W each while the subwoofer offers 15W. That’s 24W, fine to fill a small room. We were pleased with the loudness and accuracy of sound playback. It delivers good quality sound for its size, but ideally the cables connecting the speakers should be over four feet long.
iLuv 7500 has some flaws – the extra power button on the subwoofer, for example. The need to control the subwoofer manually limits usability – you must figure out the best possible sound balance yourself, rather than getting full use out of the remote control. It’s an acceptable mini-system, but certain technical and usability hurdles must be overcome.