For Part II of our iPod speaker feature, we focused on larger systems designed to take the place of the traditional home stereo. See iPod Speakers, Part I for the rundown of smaller shelf-based and portable systems.
Topping our list is a stylish Swiss audio-wolf-in-sheep's-clothing, the Geneva Sound System XL (pictured above right). Housed in a single, piano-lacquered wooden cabinet (measuring 24"x18" and available in white, black, or—my favorite—a hot Geneva red) the Geneva uses the patented EmbracingSound technology currently deployed in the Oscar-winning studio of Per Hallberg to deliver compelling hi-fi experiences at low levels or to blow the roof off of your next house party with up to 600 watts of sound. During a test at Cool Hunting headquarters, we were amazed at how masterfully the Sound System could handle the deep bass sounds of a Dre track and then recreate the acoustics of Carnegie Hall with a chilling recording of Mahler's 8th Symphony. Capable of playing individual CDs through a built-in loading slot, digitally tuning to FM radio, and easily connecting to TVs, game consoles, computers, and most MP3 players, the Sound System is a highly versatile solution to all of your audio needs. The Sound System can sit directly on the floor for an ultra minimal look but we loved it even more mounted on its optional 6" silver stand, which also makes it easier to connect.
$1,075 for the XL and $600 for the 100-watt, 11"x17" Model L (add $75 for the optional stand) from Geneva.
The iFi is slightly more reminiscent of a traditional stereo component system as it comes in four pieces including a subwoofer, two smaller satellite speakers, and an iPod dock, allowing you to space out the system over an entire room or office. Once you get past the iFi's rather plain, industrial aesthetics (you would probably want to hide the subwoofer behind a monolithic chaise-lounge and keep the speakers on a cluttered shelf below eye level), you will be very excited by its capabilities to produce up to 200 watts of high quality sound. The iFi can be connected to most any other devices and as one of the first iPod speaker systems, it is still one of the better audio bargains out there.
$400 from Klipsch.
Hammacher Schlemmer Triode-Tube Speakers
Hammacher Schlemmer has developed a high-end analog option with their Triode-Tube Speakers. By utilizing an analog technology that is nearly extinct in today's digital world, Triode-Tube is the first tube base iPod speaker system ever created to cater to diehard audiophiles who own iPods. The speakers, engineered in Germany, consist of aluminum-encased amplifiers housing powerful class-a tubes which smooth over digital imperfections inherent in compressed audio files and emit a faint glow of light as they radiate rich, warm, hi-fi sound. In addition to being a masterwork of acoustical engineering, the Triode-Tubes would also serve as elegant objet d'arts for any space they might inhabit; however, considering the sound quality limitations of MP3 files and the price tag, you really have to ask yourself if playing your iPod through these speakers wouldn't be a little bit like killing an ant with a sledge hammer. That said, these speakers can be connected to a wide variety of other audio outputs, so you could get the full experience from these speakers if you still had an old reel to reel kicking around in the back of your mini-storage unit.
$4,000 from Hammacher Schlemmer.
Apple iPod Hi-Fi
Last but not least, we're including Apple's iPod Hi-Fi as another excellent choice for your home audio system. Originally, we were thinking about including this model with Part I of our iPod speaker feature, but after interacting with it, we realized in spite of its built in handles, the Hi-Fi is much less practical to lug around than a traditional boom box and better suited as a more stationary enhancement on the shelf next to your favorite easy chair. Measuring only 17"x7" and capable of producing around 130 watts, the Hi-Fi has remarkably good sound for its size. It is contained entirely within its sleek modern cabinet that has removable grill if you want a more modern look. The Apple Hi-Fi also has an apple remote, a battery power option, and Apple AirPort compatibility so it will fit right into your wireless lifestyle.
$350 from Apple.