Review: Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere Compact Speakers for iPod
Pros: An almost entirely superior sequel to the best $150 portable speaker of 2005, featuring superior functionality and sound quality to the prior model. Produces wide, dynamic sound at average to above-average volume levels, besting the clarity and range of peer-priced alternatives. Includes rechargeable battery, nice remote control, carrying case and color-matched Dock Adapters; comes in black or white. Packable design enables you to stow power supply inside rather than carrying it separately.
Cons: Small cosmetic blemishes around black unit’s speaker drivers. Battery should be topped off frequently because of relatively rapid on-shelf discharging. Physically wider than most other portable systems.
In 2005, Logitech released mm50, a class-leading portable speaker system for the iPod, which was followed in 2006 by AudioStation, a similarly superb all-in-one desktop iPod speaker system. Last month, the company announced that it would discontinue both systems in favor of newer, better replacements: mm50 was being refreshed as Pure-Fi Anywhere ($150), and AudioStation as Pure-Fi Elite ($300), names designed to better reflect their purposes. Each was retooled cosmetically and electronically, supposedly fine-tuning characteristics that had previously won them awards. Did Logitech succeed at making great speakers even better, or did it stumble?
As the rating above indicates, the company succeeded in both cases: the two Pure-Fi speakers are extremely impressive speaker systems for their respective prices, and with the exception of certain aesthetic touches, the very best iPod portable and desktop systems we’ve seen overall. Pure-Fi Anywhere is a marked step up from mm50 sonically, with even better clarity, treble, and faux 3D spatialization, while Pure-Fi Elite remains on the same impressive level as AudioStation, but tilts its bass output in favor of more controlled sound.
Pure-Fi Anywhere is a four-driver speaker system in a 13.25” wide by 3.7” tall by 1.6” deep white or black plastic enclosure—roughly 0.5” wider, barely shorter, and 0.1” deeper than the mm50. Both systems are propped up by flip-out metal feet with rubber pads, and come with rechargeable batteries, semi-hard carrying cases, wall chargers, and remote controls.
But Pure-Fi Anywhere’s components are better: the battery now has a level indicator which tells you how much of the 10-hour charge remains, the carrying case looks nicer and holds the wall charger inside, and the remote has gone from a membrane-based 7-button controller to a more tactile 13-button design. We were able to achieve 25-foot control distances with the remote under ideal, line-of-sight conditions, less under challenging lighting. Menu navigation buttons, shuffle and repeat controls have been added to the prior track, volume, 3-D sound and power buttons. Logitech has also replaced the mm50’s plain iPod-agnostic dock with a Dock Adapter-ready Universal Dock, and included nine color-matched adapters in the package.
The most obvious differences between mm50 and Pure-Fi Anywhere are external. mm50’s body was monolithic, with a unified metal speaker grille for all four drivers, and top buttons that matched the system’s base white or black color. Anywhere is more obviously two-tone: each system has a glossy plastic body that’s white or black, but silver trim is used to separately surround each of the speakers, and form a band that wraps around the unit. Up close, we noticed small paint alignment imperfections in the silver rings around the unit’s larger drivers, but they’re not noticeable from a couple of feet away and don’t take a lot away from Anywhere’s otherwise good looks.
The wrap-around silver band contains six buttons—power, volume, surround sound, shuffle, and repeat—plus the aforementioned three-stage battery light. Logitech added the shuffle and repeat buttons in this edition to give users easier access to commonly-used but buried iPod menu features, a nice idea, and the whole array of buttons looks cleaner than before. All in all, some users will prefer the mm50’s looks to Anywhere’s, or Anywhere’s to mm50’s; visually, we think they’re a draw.
Visual and small functional changes aside, audio performance has changed—generally for the better—in each system. In the two years that have passed since mm50’s release, the system went from being sharply better sounding than any peer-priced competitor to only slightly better sounding than its top rival, Altec Lansing’s iM600. With impressive dynamic range (highs, mids, and lows) for a portable speaker, mm50 remained a bit clearer in the mids and lows, and delivered consistently great sound from song to song, while iM600 had a slightly crisper sound that sometimes helped songs and sometimes didn’t.
Pure-Fi Anywhere starts with mm50’s performance as a base, then builds upon it with sound that’s wider, a bit more capable in the treble and mid-treble, and clearer than before. Overall, the sound is big, dynamic, and lifelike—preferable to the flatter mm50’s. The only offset is that Pure-Fi Anywhere is, as noted above, a half-inch wider than the prior model, which itself was wider, though shorter, than the Altec iM600. If packability is your number one concern, you may think iM600 or mm50 is a better option, and they may in fact be; that said, Anywhere’s the only one of the three that lets you carry its own power supply within its footprint, and the included carrying case remains entirely packable in all but the most space-constrained bags.
The only real issue we have with Pure-Fi Anywhere is one that we noticed in mm50 only after extended battery use: the systems could be better at holding their charges over time. As they’re designed, you should really plan to recharge them right before a trip if you hope to find enough juice left to make full use of their run times; an even more efficient power management system would further improve the experience. It’s also worth pointing out that Anywhere lacks one feature found in iM600, namely the FM radio tuner; overall, we’d trade that feature any day for Pure-Fi’s better sound quality and included carrying case.
Overall, Logitech’s 2007 high-end and portable speakers are almost entirely better than the already great models they replaced: Pure-Fi Anywhere delivers superior sound, a more packable power supply, a better remote, and arguably better styling in a package that’s as affordable and portable as 2005’s mm50, while Pure-Fi Elite offers at least slightly better styling, controls, and sound than the AudioStation it replaces, as well. Though Logitech could have done well by merely reducing the prior models’ prices, we can’t knock it for deciding instead to improve both products and keep their prices the same, which is an equally reasonable alternative. Both of these Pure-Fi models are fully worthy of their $150 and $300 asking prices, as well as our flat A high recommendations.