Review: Logic3 i-Station7 Docking Station for iPod with Remote
Pros: As of publication date, the leader in portable audio performance and features at the sub-$100 price point, bundling a remote control, Universal iPod Dock with charging and synchronization features, wall charger and AA battery options. Equally good for home and travel use, with comparatively clean, rich sound given other portable options at its price level. Great remote, which is highly unusual for the price.
Cons: Visually simple, limited protection when traveling, low-end-heavy audio is solid given system’s size and total package but not stellar on an absolute basis.
Back a year and a half ago, we reviewed Logic3’s original i-Station portable speaker system (iLounge rating: B+), a not so sexy but good-sounding $150 option that had two unique features - a dedicated, pop-out bass driver and a street price of only $85. It was popular with our readers, and convenient for home or travel use. Flash forward to today and you’ll see many newer i-Stations, including this one - i-Station 7 ($100), a straight replacement for the original model, but with even more features, an additional color choice, and a couple of other tweaks. While not totally new, and certainly no sexier than before, i-Station 7 is now an excellent value for budget-conscious iPod owners, and highly recommendable.
Now available in white and black, i-Station7 continues the original product’s tradition of including two total left- and right-channel drivers alongside an integrated “subwoofer” - just a 2.5” dedicated bass driver - to produce sound that skews bass-rich, but sounds impressively clean for the price. The sound difference between i-Station7 and the new subwoofer-less, cheaper i-Station3 is pronounced, with 7 delivering much fuller, deeper sound, less amplifier distortion, and slightly greater apparent volume. As before, a 3D Sound button is included on i-Station7’s body, but adds little to the audio when engaged - there is a tiny treble bump, and no noticeable distortion. Two nice lights alongside the Universal Dock indicate that power’s on; they change from blue to red when the 3D Sound feature is activated. Additional details can be found in our prior i-Station review.
One of Logic3’s tweaks insures greater compatibility: the company has added an Apple-standard Universal Dock to the unit’s center, along with iPod-specific adapters that color-match the black or white i-Station7 you purchase. This Dock is thereby compatible with all current and presumably future iPods, though Apple’s supplied adapters may not match your chosen system’s coloration. An iPod-to-computer cable (not included) can be connected to a rear Dock Connector port for PC or Mac synchronization, while an audio input port and an minijack-to-minijack cable are provided for non-docking iPods.
Travelers will still find the unit easy to carry around, though sparingly protected against scratches or scuffs; rather than the fabric cases included with Altec Lansing speakers, a clear plastic shield is included for the speaker drivers’ travel protection, leaving the rest of the unit exposed. Again, battery compartments for four AA cells are found in the rear to let you take i-Station 7 on the road without the included power supply; now, the unit’s face power button is augmented by a rear power switch that switches the unit between battery and wall power.
The biggest added feature, and the one that most nets i-Station 7 its high recommendation, is an included Infrared remote control with thirteen buttons: in addition to the five standards (track, volume, play/pause), there are album, playlist, repeat, shuffle, 3D Sound and power buttons. This is noteworthy for three reasons: first, Logic3 deserves credit for including any remote at all, given that it’s highly unusual to find a remote packed in with any portable $100 speaker. Second, it earns bonus points for including more than just the standard remote features. Third and finally, the remote actually communicates well with the speaker base - even with fluorescent light interference, our “tough” test, we were able to control the audio from a distance of 19 feet away, reaching 30 feet with no light on. Our only gripe with the remote is a tiny one: it automatically flips your iPod from on to off at the same time as you turn the speaker off, which is great, except that if the iPod’s already off, it gets turned back on.
That criticism and our earlier notes on the design’s lack of sex appeal underscore how small the flaws are in this otherwise well-designed unit. As a total docking, remote, and audio package, i-Station 7 bests the current portable $100 offerings from companies such as Altec Lansing (iM11) and JBL (On Tour), and though its sound quality is not mindblowing - the only other reason we’d consider an A- rating here rather than a full A - there’s no doubt in our minds that Logic3 is pushing the affordable portable speaker category forward at a time when other companies are seemingly content to see it stand still. If you want superior overall audio quality and frills such as a rechargeable battery or nice carrying case, consider Logitech’s popular, excellent mm50 instead, but if you want a strong audio performer for the $100 price with a great remote and Universal Dock, i-Station 7 should be your top choice.
See comments on the original i-Station here.