The Logitech Pure-Fi Express Plus is about as basic as iPod speakers get, though it does have a built-in alarm clock. At just under $100, we think the Express Plus sounds impressive for the money, and makes for a decent accessory either indoors or outside.
The Express Plus has a nice design for desktops, with a backward-angle body, matte black plastic top, wraparound fabric grille, and carrying grip. The GSM-shielded universal dock on top works with iPhones (nixing the buzz when calls come in) as well as iPods with dock connectors, and there's a pair of speaker drivers on both the front and the back for what Logitech calls "omnidirectional" sound. The Express Plus also comes with a small wireless remote with controls that resemble those on an iPod shuffle.
Operating the Express Plus is a snap. The oversize push-knob in the center controls volume and power, and small buttons under an amber LED screen control clock and alarm settings. Larger buttons on either side of the screen give you access to your iPod/iPhone's repeat and shuffle functions, but you'll need the remote for playback controls and your iPod's screen or click wheel to navigate your music.
Tracks from older recordings such as Stevie Wonder's Innervisions and John Coltrane's Blue Train sounded crisp and clear with reasonably full bass at any volume, though the speaker needs to be at top volume to fill a mid-size room. Newer recordings tended to be significantly louder, and thus can push the speakers harder; at max volume, vocals on TV on the Radio's Dear Science and R.E.M.'s Accelerate lost a little clarity, though nothing distorted noticeably.
The omnidirectional speaker array means you get roughly the same sound quality in back as in front, with the minor caveat that the rear speakers are angled downward instead of slightly up like the front. This lets you place the speaker in the middle of a room (perhaps on a coffee table) and while it could be helpful outdoors, its usefulness isn't as apparent on a desktop. There are no tone controls or sound enhancers on the unit whatsoever.
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Battery life is about 10 hours with six alkaline AA's (not included), but we really wish the Express Plus had a built-in rechargeable battery. It's worth noting that your iPod/iPhone won't charge when the speaker is running on battery power. Our only other gripes are that it lacks an FM tuner, none of the controls are backlit, and the alarm's only sound is an unpleasant series of beeps. Also, while music is paused and ringtones come through, the Express Plus does not act as a speakerphone for the iPhone.
Logitech Pure-Fi Express Plus' low price of $99.99 makes it well-suited to bargain hunters looking for a simple, affordable iPod speaker for a dorm room, office, den, or desk. It's equally at home anywhere in a room, and it's not bad for a day at the beach either. It's a little chunky, so if you're looking to save space on your desktop, Altec Lansing's Moondance Home is thinner, has a more full-featured alarm, and costs about the same, but it doesn't sound as good.