Saturday, October 09, 2004

iFire and Apple Pro speakers

ATPM 10.02 - Review: iFire

Apple sells Apple Pro Speakers for their G4 machines. I don't think they're supported on later model G5 machines, so they don't have much of a future. They require an unusual audio connector that provides firewire-level power as well as ditigal sound output.

As the G4s move into the twilight unsold speakers are being dumped on the market. Dealmac listed a Small Dog computer price of $15 for demo models (open box) with a $3 shipping credit.

Turns out other machines can use these -- if one buys a Griffin iFire. Griffin's site has a very limited description, but the this and this review gives a much better picture. The iFire is mouse-sized converter that gets its power from a firewire port -- or a an iPod charger or other firewire-type power source. It has a standard analog audio in jack, so it's doing D/A conversion . It's a bit disconcerting that the iBook/iPod is translating the digital music to an analog output, then the iFire is converting the analog signal to a digital signal for these speakers, which in turn translate it to an analog output (sound waves). Seems like one could do with fewer D/A conversions. Good thing I'm not an aesthete. We do need to get better about digital output.

Too bad the AirPort Express doesn't support these speakers!

I've ordered both the iFire on the Apple Pro speakers from Small Dog. The combination was $50 (I'm surprised Small Dog isn't bundling them), but this is still a good price. I'll either use them with my iBook and/or iPod in the kitchen (powered off my iPod charger) or upstairs powered from the firewire PCI card in my XP machine. In both cases I'm getting a compact set of speakers and I don't have to fuss with yet another power brick!

These aren't really travel speakers, they're a peculiar niche product of high quality compact sound sources.

I'll update this posting after I get my toys.

Update: I got my speakers from Small Dog computing today. They came without packaging, manual, etc. They were dusty, dirty, and spartan. They work just fine though, and a damp cloth made them look fine too. The iFire is smaller than I'd expected, it's a bit thicker than an iPod mini. I never read the directions, it was obvious how to hook it up. I experimented with putting the speakers on my iBook, but for now they're on my XP machine upstairs. The PCI firewire card (Orange Micro) is powering the iFire, in turn the iFire is managing the speakers. It's quite compact and much neater than traditional PC speakers (no power brick!).

They're not the greatest speakers for rock and roll or R&B (limited bass), but Jazz sounds terrific (good mid-range).

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