"There are eight million stories in the naked city," says the voiceover from the 1958 film noir of that name, and there are also 3000 stories in the Made for iPod city. One of them is Logitech's AudioStation. It hasn't got a handle, so it isn't exactly a boombox, but it does have two speakers surrounding a central control unit. What makes it special are touch-sensitive controls and a jutting dock for the iPod's 30-pin receptacle.
The enclosure is nothing special, just black plastic, with a slight backward tilt to the speakers, suggesting placement on a low table. Speakers have removable fabric grilles. A white backlit liquid crystal display shows the time in inch-tall letters when not busy confirming volume and other commands. The most attractive feature is the array of backlit white-on-black controls below the display. They include volume up/down, track forward/back, power, a source button to toggle between dock and mini-jack, and a select button, which switches the clock to dancing vertical EQ bars.
The dock, as usual with these things, charges the player as well as accepting audio input from it. Unlike the Logitech mm50 speakers, this system does not have anything to support the back of the iPod when your fingers are pushing against the player's controls. However, like virtually all docking systems, it does have a plastic insert that anchors the iPod at the base.
Because some iPods support video, the back panel has S-video and composite video outputs. There's also a 1/8-inch mini-jack to accept heretical non-Apple players. You'll also find antenna inputs for both AM and FM radio. You can set the system to awaken you with either music or a buzzer.
The power supply is a wall wart measuring six by three by two inches—large enough to put some serious power into the speakers. If it were any larger, you could use it for an end table. It's corded at both ends for easier placement. Total system power is rated at 80 watts RMS, meaning honest watts, not inflated peak watts. Each of the drivers—a pair of four-inch long-throw woofers and one-inch soft-dome tweeters—gets an unspecified percentage of the juice, making this a biamplified system, something formerly limited to high-end power-pig component systems but seen increasingly in hipper-than-usual compacts like this one. I was fascinated to note that the woofer amps are efficient, energy-saving Class D, while the tweeter amps are the same sweeter-sounding Class AB used in most surround and stereo component systems. There are small heat vents in the top and back.
Although the speakers are sealed within the enclosure, the midrange never escapes the plastic-box coloration customary with such systems. It does err on the mellow side of neutral. Bass is merely adequate, and treble extension just average, though both are adjustable, and the latter improves slightly when you remove the grilles. What the system does well is volume: With most material, you can turn it all the way up without hearing crunching distortion or extreme breakup, and Logitech rates SPL at 110dB. Grab the supplied remote, crank it, and have a good time. Another advantage—compared to Apple's iPod Hi-Fi—is that vertical dispersion is fairly even, so the sound is consistent as your head moves up (standing) or down (seated). You have to be sitting pretty close to hear any stereo separation, even in the "3D" mode.
My only serious complaint is the nearly $300 price. Logitech's amazingly good-sounding Z-10 PC speakers sell for half the price of the AudioStation, and while they don't play as loud, they sound better in every other respect. However, while the Z-10 does have a mini-jack to accept a music player's headphone-out, it has no dock, no way to charge the iPod, and no clock/radio, and needs a USB-to-PC connection to sound its best. So if you want a dual-purpose docking system that'll get you up in the morning, in time to take the iPod out for a jog, the AudioStation is Logitech's best shot, at least for now.
Mark Fleischmann is the author of the annually updated book Practical Home Theater and tastemaster of Happy Pig's Hot 100 New York Restaurants.