"One cannot live while the other survives."
- J.K. Rowling
It's been what feels like three years in the making, but the final fight in our iPod Dock Battlemodo begins now. The $150 Griffin Amplifi is our budget contender, going face to face against the posh $350 Altec Lansing IMV712. And with that long of a model number, you know it's gotta be good.
But only one will leave this
ring coffee table alive.
The Amplifi has nothing extra. There are two ports on the back: one for power, one for a line-in. That's it. The lack of features will be argued as a good thing to some, who want the simplest experience whatsoever. And while it's true that not dealing with inputs is convenient, we would love to see a simple video out tuner, or a more advanced system with the volume
The Altec Lansing IMV712 is the exact opposite of the Amplifi, having the largest feature set of any dock we tested. It starts with a massive 8.5" screen. As we've complained before, it's put to poor use while listening to music, unless you enjoy watching the Altec Lansing hypnotic logo for hours on end.
But video playback is pretty decent. There is an aspect ratio issue that is tough to ignore, but other than that, it's a solid viewing experience.
You also get left and right audio inputs, RCA video in and S-Video out. Surprisingly, there's no radio, and alarm integration would have given the IMV712 and unbeatable feature set.
FEATURE WINNER: IMV712
The Bass Test
We busted out the Dr. Dre, a scene that closely resembled the opening scene in Office Space, we're sure.
And the Griffin comes to fight. Its low range swings for the fence, and the effect is low, loud and a bit sloppy. But the thing can thump. We're talking tubas. We're talking synth.
The IMV712 has clean bass, and you can certainly hear it, but it won't shake your guts. And sometimes we all could use our guts shaken. The IMV712 has a built-in subwoofer, otherwise it would have no bass, or faux bass. But we wish it had a bit more...balls.
The Griffin's underside "bass port" may look like a gimmick, but it's an excellent design...and it leads this category upset.
BASS WINNER: AMPLIFI
To many, even most, the Amplifi will pass as great audio. And for a selling price of about $130, it's gonna make a lot of people happy. But while the highs and lows are both very strong, there's a distinct lack of midrange balance. It's like eating great turkey and cranberry sauce, and then realizing, "Shit! We forgot the stuffing."
The result is that certain voices or instruments can either become harsh without solid grounding, or just be lost in the spectrum. But the Amplifi plays its game well, fooling my ear with its strong extreme ranges. And in that respect, it's very much doing its job. Enigma Variations sounds surprisingly brilliant, still respectable even when played side-by-side with the IMV712. That's a feat.
The IMV712, on the other hand, just has well-crafted audio—an iPod dock poster boy if you will. Despite a lack of EQ adjustments, the system is quite satisfying. Multiple genres of music, from folk to rap, have an excellent balance. I probably say it a bit better in my last review of the unit, but the entire gamut of instrumentation shows up, no matter what the song. It's tough to find any real weaknesses with the sound—other than maybe what we already talked about in the bass portion: an adjustable bass knob with a bit more kick would be the cherry on top here.
One complaint: When switching inputs or tracks, there's a semi-loud static in the speaker. We don't know what Altec Lansing can do to fix the problem—we're no engineers—but it must be fixable, and it's the only real thorn in the entire listening experience.
SOUND WINNER: IMV712
So the Altec Lansing should win, right? It took two of our three categories. Case closed.
To us, there is still the outstanding question of value and overall function. It's a decision we've known was coming from day one when I balanced the bracket to have a budget and premium winner, so we're not going to cry about it or anything. But it's not an issue that we ever necessarily resolved.
As reviewers, the choice could be very easy. We can tell you all that $350 is the price you should pay to have a good iPod dock.
But let's be honest. Most people will never watch video on the IMV712's screen.
And in most listening situations, the average consumer will not hear a massive difference between the docks. But that's the battle of buying audio: It's a game of diminishing returns. It's a question you need to be honest with yourself when answering: Do you need the Passat, or will the Jetta treat you just as well? Do you need the $20 brick of cheese, or will your crackers taste as good spending half that?
OVERALL WINNER: GRIFFIN AMPLIFI
For a shelf price of about $130, the Griffin Amplifi is a steal in the world of iPod Docks. Its worthy competition, the IMV712, is an excellent choice for those who plan on a close listening to their system. But for the many who are just looking for a decent-sounding box to pump out their tunes in an extra room, the Amplifi is the dock for you.
And they all lived happily ever after.