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When Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the new iPod Hi-Fi on Feb. 28 by saying “I’m an audiophile. I’ve had stereos costing — well, I won’t say — but a lot, [and] I’m actually getting rid of my stereo,” he offended the tender sensibilities of audiophiles worldwide.

When Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the new iPod Hi-Fi on Feb. 28 by saying “I’m an audiophile. I’ve had stereos costing — well, I won’t say — but a lot, [and] I’m actually getting rid of my stereo,” he offended the tender sensibilities of audiophiles worldwide.

To disappointed, tech-oriented “gadget-geeks,” the iPod Hi-Fi appeared to be nothing more than a bulky, white boom box — and at $545, an expensive one.Serial “Apple haters” gleefully dismiss it as a new “white elephant,” and the beginning of the end of Apple’s innovative reign. But make no mistake: This device produces glorious sound.

The iPod Hi-Fi no more replaces an expensive home stereo system than the Bose Wave Radio “fills a room with concert hall sound,” but Steve Jobs is to be forgiven for being enthusiastic about the iPod Hi-Fi’s sonic performance.

As any car or home audio enthusiast will tell you, it takes a big, stiff, well-damped enclosure to produce deep, tuneful bass.

Apple designed the iPod Hi-Fi around that premise, starting with a rigid, double-walled 17-by-6.6- by-6.9-inch acoustically tuned box that’s neither graceful-looking nor, at 14.5 pounds, lightweight.

But the dual-ported box, fitted with a robust 5-inch woofer, outputs surprisingly deep, supple, musical bass. A pair of rich-sounding 3-inch midrange tweeters deftly integrate with the woofer to deliver the rest of the music with equally smooth composure.

Apple didn’t neglect functionality, or its famous obsession with small details — too many to list here. The Hi-Fi charges your iPod while it plays, there’s a remote control, an auxiliary analog/digital mini-jack, inputs for CD players, satellite radios, an Apple Airport Express (so you can play tunes wirelessly via your computer) and of course older, pre-docking iPods and the Shuffle.

The Hi-Fi can run on six “D” batteries and, thanks to a pair of integral handles, you can easily pick it up and move it, though fitted with batteries it weighs 17 pounds. The Hi-Fi was not designed for a cluttered computer desktop, where smaller separate speakers are a better fit, and it loses some high-frequency pizazz if you place it too far above, below or to the side of your listening position.

But unlike its smaller, perhaps more stylish competition, the iPod Hi-Fi doesn’t suffer from “boom/tizz syndrome,” and driven by powerful digital amplification it can play loud and fill a relatively large room without sounding strained or compressed.

Like any piece of purpose-driven audio gear, the proof is in the listening. So go listen!

Michael Fremer, is Stereophile senior contributing editor and edits MusicAngle.com

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