Review: Klipsch iGroove HG All-in-One Digital Music Speaker System
Pros: A solid all-in-one speaker system with unique styling, a remote control, adapters for mini, nano, and non-iPod docking audio devices, and a lower-than-Bose SoundDock price. Smooth sound, good bass, and relatively low distortion at higher volume levels.
Cons: Some amplifier hiss evident in acapella tracks and/or at close distances. Remote control isn’t the best we’ve seen in an all-in-one system, even by Infrared standards, achieving around half the distance of SoundDock’s. Not as much sound adjustment or portability as identically priced top speaker in its category.
When we reviewed Klipsch’s original iGroove All-in-One Digital Music System (iLounge rating: B) in late 2005, we noted that the company had aimed for 2004’s target accessory, Bose’s SoundDock (iLounge rating: B+), and missed by a little in sound, looks, and pricing - a mistake given that the market had evolved by that point to include Altec Lansing’s superior inMotion iM7 (iLounge rating: A-) at a lower price point. With iGroove HG ($250), Klipsch has responded, dropping its pricing by $30, modestly updating the unit’s cosmetics, and now including both iPod nano and iPod mini adapters to guarantee that all current iPod models will fit in its unique docking bay.
We won’t rehash all the details of our earlier review - they’re still here if you want to see them - but it suffices to say that iGroove HG’s tweaks were appropriate, not substantial. Rather than using the silver coloration found on the original iGroove, HG now uses a glossy jet black, ideally matched to today’s most popular iPods, and a sharp, piano-like contrast with white models. Retained are the speaker dock’s SoundDock-like concave shape and large metal front grille, its easily resizable central iPod dock, and simple volume and power controls; similarly, its iPod shuffle and other MP3 player adapter is as it was before, only in black. The included Infrared remote still has six standard buttons, and works at distances of around 15 feet from the speakers under challenging conditions, more if there’s no interference from room lighting.
How does it sound? Our prior review noted that iGroove includes two one-inch tweeters, each of which incorporates a MicroTractrix Horn, and two 2.5” woofers, all of which contribute to a sound profile that’s very comparable to the Bose SoundDock in all but one way. It delivers very rich bass - we’d give iGroove HG a tiny edge on bass and overall smoothness of sound, but the difference is small enough that most people won’t know or care. iGroove also delivers very similar stereo separation to SoundDock - surprisingly close given the unit’s wider-than-SoundDock body - which is to say good, but not as pronounced as what you can get with iFi or any of the less expensive component systems we’ve reviewed. Both systems can be driven cleanly up to very loud volumes, though as we noted with iM7, it’s much safer for your ears to do this with a system with a good remote, like SoundDock’s 30-footer, than one that requires you to be up close to make adjustments.
That said, Klipsch has continued to tout its iPod speaker systems as possessing “audiophile-quality” sound, and though we didn’t agree with that conclusion for iGroove - even for the $280 price - there were early indications that iGroove HG would be modestly improved in the audio department. We were mostly concerned about amplifier hiss - a static noise heard at close distances, or in tracks without significant instrumentation, which we previously found more noticeable than in SoundDock or iM7, and closer to what we’ve heard in lower-end inMotion systems from Altec. After some comparative testing, any changes that were made appear to be very minor; this is essentially the same speaker as before, only a bit cheaper, and less silver. Our higher rating this time out is in equal parts due to the more appropriate color match and the lower price, nothing more.
Can you do better for the dollar? In our view, most users will still be better off with a pair of JBL’s Creature IIs (iLounge rating: A), which even when paired with an excellent iPod dock and remote combination will cost less than iGroove HG, and give you equal or superior clarity, better stereo separation, and more control over the equalization (treble/bass) of your audio. But those who want a simplified all-in-one experience at a price lower than the SoundDock’s will find this system to be so highly comparable in most regards, save near-field listening, that we’d call them equally tempting at their respective price points. For $250, Altec still rules the roost with the bigger-sounding, feature-laden iM7, but if you don’t like the inMotion’s tube-like style, need something black, or just want a slightly better remote control, iGroove HG is Klipsch’s most compelling iPod option to date.