Griffin Amplifi 2.1 Speaker System Review
- Product Name: Amplifi
- Manufacturer: Griffin
- Review Date: September 19, 2007 13:31
- MSRP: $ 149.99
- Frequency Response: 50 Hz to 16 kHz
- Power: 120-220 Volts AC
- Remote Operating Range: 10 meters line of sight
- Right price
- One Button
- Loud and warm
- Lacks hi-fi sparkle and clarity
- Little or no features
Gear Corner Review
For the last twenty years, I have been a career musician. It hasn’t always been pretty, but it has been pretty fun. Part of my job is to acquire and figure out a lot of different types of musical gear. I’ve read my share of manuals, mastered many a menu, and wrestled with the buttons, switches and inputs on everything from high-end recording gear to stomp box guitar pedals. So when I was given the opportunity to check out Griffin’s “one-knobbed wonder, “ the Amplifi, I was stoked. Just one knob? Sounds like a bit of heaven! Griffin continues to put easy to use, value-priced gear into the marketplace and this piece is no exception as it goes up against competition like the Bose SoundDock and the Altec Lansing IM7. Lets see how it does.
Design & Features
Wow, it’s heavy - but in a good way. Solidly constructed of wood, metal and a bit of plastic, the Amplifi looks and feels like a contender right out of the box. Weighing in at around 12 lbs, it’s not exactly portable; it’s more like furniture. The enclosure uses what Griffin calls its special Resonance Drive construction. It is about 14 inches wide, 6 inches tall, and 9 inches deep. There are two 2.75 inch drivers behind the metal grill on the front and a ported 5” woofer cranking out the low end on the bottom. There is only one large knob on the front of the unit, which is lit by an inviting blue LED. This is in keeping with the simple design of the Amplifi. The knob appears to be aluminum and feels really good when you give it a spin. Also included in the box is the infrared remote control, various international AC plug adapters, and an assortment of rubber cushions to assist with iPod docking.
Like its design, the Amplifi's feature set is fairly one-dimensional. The knob controls both power (push) and volume (twist). Unlike comparable (but pricier) units, there are no EQ controls, no video output, no FM radio, and no means of USB pass-through. On the back of the unit, there is a DC power jack and a stereo mini-jack line in. The IR remote is pretty sparse too, controlling power, volume, play/pause and track skip. Looks like the Amplifi is simply designed to do one thing. Let's see if it does.
I tested the Amplifi with a new generation iPod Shuffle, an iPod Nano, and an iPod Mini. I also used my trusty old 12” Powerbook plugged into the mini jack input. (If you use both inputs, the Amplifi defaults to the docked iPod)
I started out with a bit of Sufjan Steven’s Chicago from the Illinois album. The orchestration is fairly dense on that record and the Amplifi did a good job with it. The sound really filled the living room and was warm and punchy if not a bit undefined in the low mids. The downward firing 5” woofer pleasantly surprised me as it bounced off of a teak and glass coffee table. I’m sure that bass response will differ depending on the surface and density of the table, cabinet or dresser you use. Using the remote, I noted that it responds well and all of the functions work just fine. Keep an eye on it though, because if you misplace it you’ll find yourself crossing the room and using the iPod to control everything except the volume.
Next, I listened to a bit of modern jazz with the self-titled recording from Steps Ahead. This is a fantastic sounding record to begin with and sounded really great on the Amplifi. The upright bass was resonant and warm and Michael Brecker’s tenor sax was bright and right. The high end of the cymbals had that watery quality that I love about jazz. Impressive.
I moved on to the Get Born record by Jet and just turned Cold Hard Bitch all the way up. My dog went into the kitchen. I think she felt insulted. I fully expected the Amplifi to crap out at maximum volume and was really surprised when it didn’t. The guitars were bright and punchy and the kick drum felt good in my chest. At full volume, the brightness of that particular record was a bit unpleasant so I turned it down a bit until it sounded good again. Thankfully, it was still loud enough for rock and roll.
I ended my testing with John Mayer’s Something’s Missing from Heavier Things and was a bit disappointed when the bass got away from me and became flabby as it flew around the room. The guitars also felt a tad shrill. Something was definitely missing. My CD of this recording sounds really good in the car so an investigation was in order. As an experiment, I un-docked the iPod and plugged my Powerbook into the input jack. I played the same song (with the eq set to flat) and the bass cleaned up considerably. The strident guitars were much improved as well. Huh. This brings up the reality that not all iPods and output devices are created equally. (duh) I have heard it bandied about that different generation iPods and Shuffles have different and better converters, etc. I’m also reminded that we have traded convenience for fidelity in our MP3 and AAC world. But I digress. It’s a new world, and the iPod is here to stay. And the Amplifi can only amplify what you give it, eh? Incidentally, I did try out a few higher resolution AIFF files and guess what? The better sounding the source file is, the better the Amplifi sounds! Wow, I must be a genius.
Okay, overall I’m really impressed with how the Griffin Amplifi delivers. It’s loud and powerful and will fill a room or patio with the full spectrum of sound. Although it occasionally lacks clarity and sparkle, I could just as easily blame the compressed nature of most of the source audio we all currently use. But for the money (around $150) I don’t see how you can beat the Amplifi. The Bose SoundDock is twice the price and the Altec Lansing IM7 is also considerably more. I hope that the sound and construction quality of the Amplifi bodes well for the upcoming wireless iPod speakers that Griffin is introducing this fall. By the way, I never even glanced at the manual. Oh well, back to the world of many lights and many buttons. peace.
The Score Card
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