Griffin is cashing in on the wireless craze with its latest iPod speaker, the Evolve. This speaker/dock system lets you place the two battery-powered wireless speakers anywhere, and control your iPod's playback with the included remote. Although the Evolve is meant for small rooms like a den or dorm, it also makes an interesting multiroom audio solution.
Griffin Evolve Design
The Evolve consists of a 15.7 x 5.1-inch (width/depth) base station with a universal iPod dock, two short antennas, and power and volume controls in the middle. On either side of the dock are charging stations for the two self-powered 5.1-inch cube speakers. The glossy black plastic trimmed in gray and metallic silver gives the whole system a classy look. Each speaker has rubber pads on the bottom to prevent slipping, and rubberized grip handles on the back for easy carrying.
A switch on the base station toggles the sound between stereo and mono, handy if you're using the speakers in two different rooms (in mono mode, both audio channels come out of each speaker). If you forget which speaker is right and which is left in stereo mode, they automatically get reassigned once you put them on the base station.
The speakers have independent power buttons, and charge as they sit on the base station; if left idle for 60 minutes, the speakers automatically shut off to save power. Each speaker is rated for about 10 hours of audio playback per charge, which seemed about right in our testing.
Compatibility and Remote Control
The Evolve works with any iPod with a dock connector (including the iPhone), though there are also RCA inputs and outputs on the back. S-Video and composite outputs let you watch your videos and photos on a TV, but only if you have a fifth-generation iPod; the iPod touch, iPod classic, the third-gen iPod nano, and the iPhone are not compatible.
The remote lets you adjust volume, skip tracks, play, pause, and power the system on and off. You can also toggle on and off your iPod's current equalizer settings. We're not crazy about the silver plastic buttons; the engraved labels are tough to see unless the light catches them just right. And forget about using the remote in a dark room unless you've memorized the button layout.
Evolve Sound Quality and Range
The Evolve's bass didn't extend very deep (its frequency response is an unimpressive 120 Hz), and highs weren't crisp--both due to the fact that each speaker is equipped with a single 4-inch, full-range driver as opposed to separate woofers and tweeters. Still, the overall sound quality will easily satisfy casual listeners. Each speaker's built-in 12-watt amp is enough to fill a small room, though you can experiment with placement in mono mode if you want to use the Evolve in a medium-size or crowded room.
The Evolve's wireless range is rated at 150 feet; our results varied depending on how many walls and other wireless devices were present. In general, we got between 100 and 120 feet when used on the same floor, versus about 40 to 70 feet when used on different floors. The remote control also works via radio frequency (433 MHz), so it doesn't need a direct line of sight to the base station. It has roughly the same range as the speakers.
Interference an Issue?
The speakers use 900-MHz digital frequency, so it won't interfere with wireless networks and cell phones, which use 2.4 GHz. We didn't experience any dropouts or interference in our testing--even when we put one speaker in front of a running microwave--except when we ran into range limitations. We could hear some slight system noise while the speakers were idle, but nothing distracting, and it was easily drowned out by music even at low volume.
Griffin Evolve Verdict
The Evolve won't impress audiophiles or keep a house party thumping all night. If you don't mind a one-piece system and need true portability (read: battery-powered), we prefer the Cambridge SoundWorks PlayDock i or Bose SoundDock Portable for their superior sound. If wireless is your true goal, the slightly pricier Mondo Mint (a speaker system with wireless iPod dock) provides better sound and more versatile wireless features. But the Evolve does have an undeniable cool factor that makes it an attractive option for students, wireless nuts, or people who want a versatile, compact iPod speaker for a den or second home.