Review: Saffire iWoogie Blaster Hi-Fi Stereo System
We receive enough "seen that before" speakers these days that we've opted not to cover all of them in depth; iWoogie Blaster ($200) from Saffire suggests why. Designed to strongly resemble Apple's polarizing all-in-one speaker system iPod Hi-Fi, iWoogie Blaster changes up the formula only slightly, placing its Universal iPod Dock in the front rather than on top, and making a slight reclining adjustment to the front angle. As with iPod Hi-Fi, the front fabric grille is removable to let you see most of the speaker drivers; there's also a large port on the unit's back and a rear-firing subwoofer driver behind a metal grille back there.
There are some decent points to the unit’s design. It’s made with a substantial-feeling wood cabinet that’s been coated to a glossy plastic level of finish, and in addition to serving as an audio system, it can also be used as a large computer dock for the iPod, and a video output device for more recent full-sized models. As with the company’s JukeBox Station, an Infrared remote control is included alongside AV cables and five Dock Adapters; when working well, the remote permits iPod menu navigation in addition to control of its shuffle, repeat, track, volume, and play/pause features.
What undoes iWoogie Blaster’s design is ultimately is audio quality. We tested it against a group of peer speakers in the same price range, including Monitor Audio’s i-deck compact, Kensington’s SX 3000R, and several others, and found that it was the least impressive of the group, suffering equally from mediocre amplification and a less than optimally tuned set of speaker drivers. The system has lots of amplifier hiss and distortion even at low volume levels, and doesn’t improve much when it’s turned up, fairly classic signs of a speaker that was designed more for its looks than for what’s inside. If we were big fans of the iPod Hi-Fi’s aesthetic, that might be okay, but we’re not, and a system that neither sounds great nor looks great isn’t much to write home about.
We were also less than impressed by the unit’s controls. Unable to place power and volume controls on the unit’s top or front, Saffire situated them on the rear, so you have a panel with volume and power buttons, alongside another full power switch. The included remote control - highly similar to DLO’s HomeDock and HomeDock Deluxe remotes, but for another slight change of one angle - sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t, with the unit signaling that it’s received responses with a dock-mounted blue light. When it’s working, the remote’s features provide more than enough access to prevent you from having to touch the iPod or the unit’s rear-mounted controls, but as with all Infrared remotes, you’ll need to be on a line of sight to make the control work, and even that’s sometimes not enough.
There’s more that could be said about iWoogie Blaster, but it suffices to note that for the price, you can do better on design, sound quality, and features than this. In the bigger picture, it’s not a bad speaker; mostly in systems we haven’t bothered to review, we’ve seen worse. This is just a second-rate, lower-priced lookalike of a speaker that we didn’t think was worth duplicating in the first place; with proper audio tuning and a better amplifier, it could be rendered good if the developers continue to hone it.