Logitech's Pure-Fi Express Plus rolls in around £50 and is a simple, compact stereo speaker for iPods and iPhones. It has a built-in clock and alarm that can be used at home or taken on the road, as long as you're willing to splurge on a set of six AA batteries that power the unit when you cut the cord.
The unit looks understated and fairly sleek from afar, but pick it up and you'll see immediately that it has all the traits of a low-range system. The first tip-off is that it's fairly light, weighing in at 1.5 kilos for its frame, which measures 343mm wide by 127mm tall by 102mm deep. All of that makes it easy to carry -- there's even a handle on the back for toting purposes.
This is one of the simpler iPod speakers we've tested. There's a single knob on the front that controls the volume and allows you to set the time and alarm when you're in the settings mode. One button on the front toggles the alarm on and off and lets you set your songs to repeat (one song or all) or shuffle and play randomly. A small remote is included, but all it really controls is the volume, pause and play, and the ability to skip tracks forward and back. There's no navigating your iPod's menus from the remote.
Some people will find the lack of features refreshing. We prefer to have an AM/FM radio on hand, but some users could care less about that. iPhone owners will appreciate that the Express Plus is GSM-shielded, so you won't need to put your iPhone in airplane mode to listen to music.
As noted, the Pure-Fi Express Plus runs on an AC adaptor (included) or six AA batteries (not included). The unit runs for about 10 hours on a set of alkalines, but if you plan on taking this on the road, we recommend purchasing some rechargeable NiMH batteries, which probably won't last quite as long. While there are some advantages to using standard batteries, we generally prefer a built-in rechargeable battery, which is included on the competing .
As for sound, the Pure-Fi Express Plus speakers don't sound all that good, but they stack up well against other iPod speakers in their price class. The system features omnidirectional speakers, which means you can set the them in the middle of the room and you'll hear music emanating from both its front and back. This seems to be a growing trend in low-cost speakers, and while it's kind of cool, we're not sure how much of an impact it has on overall sound quality. Also, why would you have your speaker in the middle of the room?
But we digress. When it comes to sound in small iPod audio systems, the challenge for designers is to provide a reasonable amount of bass and balanced treble. There isn't a tonne of low-end here -- and you don't get any bass or treble settings or sound expansion modes to tweak the sound -- but there's enough bass on-board to prevent the system from sounding painfully thin.
That said, we listened to recent albums from Kings of Leon, Snow Patrol and Beck, and didn't have to raise the volume too high before we hit some distortion. Clearly, this isn't designed to fill a large room. Those who are picky about audio quality may prefer the larger, but better sounding, iM600.
In the end, what it really comes down to is what kind of iPod audio system you're looking for. If you want something for casual listening that's fairly compact, looks nice and is able to double-duty as a home and mobile unit, the Pure-Fi Express Plus fits the bill.
On the other hand, we can't help but feel that most buyers will be better off with the iM600, as it has a built-in rechargeable battery, FM radio and superior sound quality. We expect the Pure-Fi Express Plus will be the best fit for those who are on the go, as its small size and built-in alarm make it an excellent companion for travellers.
Edited by Marian Smith