iYiYi [Mac] full review

Tivoli’s iYiYi (pronounced ‘eye-eye-eye’) is an iPod speaker system. Like Tivoli’s smaller iSongBook, the iYiYi is available in white with silver and grey trim or black with black trim. And unlike many of the desktop speaker systems we’ve tested, it feels sturdy.

The front of the iYiYi hosts buttons for power, source (AM, FM, iPod, or Aux), RDS (Radio Data System), clock set, alarm and sleep, as well as five buttons for radio presets. You also get rubber-coated dials. Overall, the iYiYi has a somewhat retro look.

The larger screen is one of the better LCD displays we’ve seen in an iPod speaker system. Text is large enough to read and there’s ample contrast between the background and text.

The chunky iPod dock on the front of the iYiYi – which also charges your iPod – uses Apple’s Universal design, so you can use the dock insert that ships with all recent iPods for compatibility with those models. Tivoli also includes a set of seven adaptors that accommodate all older dockable iPods. On the front of the dock cradle are a power-indicator light and a headphone jack.

Inserting an iPod into the iYiYi’s dock automatically switches the input to iPod mode and starts or resumes playback. This can be a convenient feature, but it can also be annoying if you just want to charge your iPod.

The iYiYi’s FM tuner is very good. However, connecting a powered external antenna improved reception. We also liked the iYiYi’s RDS (Radio Data System) feature, which displays information about what’s playing, such as the song title and artist. The only drawback is that the iYiYi’s onscreen characters are so big that only eight can fit on the screen at any one time, so you have to watch to see information scroll by.

The iYiYi is not the best alarm clock in the world – setup is confusing. The Sleep button is too. It’s actually easier to turn on the alarm or sleep mode from the remote. Still, despite these shortcomings, the iYiYi’s alarm clock is usable.

The built-in alarm is annoying. It starts out with a single, quiet beep, but after a few seconds the beep gets louder and faster. It switches off and on each minute for an hour unless you switch it off.

Again, setting the alarm to wake to radio or iPod isn’t exactly intuitive. Another minor complaint is that the system beeps whenever you set or enable the alarm. It’s not unusual to need to set or turn on an alarm after your ‘sleeping partner’ has gone to bed, in which case beeping the alarm on after a night in the pub could well earn you a stint in the doghouse.

The sound
The iYiYi gives clear, extended treble response and good midrange, with a decent amount of warmth and good bass. However, the amount of additional bass response isn’t as much as you might think. You get a bit of bass kick, and lower extension, but you shouldn’t expect booming bass. This system focuses on tight, detailed presentation. The iYiYi can also go quite loud, but some distortion is apparent at the highest volume levels.

And the iYiYi suffers from the same issues with stereo separation (or lack thereof) as other one-piece desktop speaker systems. The iYiYi doesn’t offer bass or treble controls, either.

How does the iYiYi compare to other desktop systems in this price range? Its audio performance is better than Bose’s still-popular SoundDock. The SoundDock is a bit warmer, but the iYiYi offers better clarity and treble response. On the other hand, JBL’s Radial, which lacks a radio or clock but is currently the best-sounding desktop speaker system for the iPod, clearly bests the iYiYi in terms of sound quality. And, if you’re not wedded to the idea of a single-piece system, you can get better sound for less money in a system such as Monitor’s three-piece i-deck – a new version, the i-deck plus, even includes a radio tuner.

In other words, if you’re looking for the absolute best sound quality in a desktop iPod speaker system, the iYiYi isn’t for you. But if you want a full-featured system, or are a fan of radio, the iYiYi is tough to beat and still offers very good audio performance – there’s just a bit of a sonic trade-off for getting all these features in a compact package. And you may find that the Logitech AudioStation suits your needs better.

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