Griffin Journi Portable iPod Speaker: First Look

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Griffin Journi Portable iPod Speaker: First Look

Griffin Technology's Journi ($129.99) is a hardback book-size portable iPod speaker that weighs a little over 2 pounds. Attached to the back of the speaker unit is a wraparound leatherette case that protects it while it's in your carry-on bag then functions as a ministand when you pull it out to blast your iPod tunes in your hotel room, at friend's house or campsite, or wherever your travels take you.


The Journi is a compact iPod speaker system with a remote that "sticks" to the front thanks to a strategically placed magnet.


While the stand didn't look quite as pretty when we set it up as it does on Griffin's website and in the drawings in the instructional brochure that accompanies the Journi, it works just fine to prop up the speaker at a nearly 90-degree angle from the surface on which it sits. The power and volume buttons are on one side of the unit, and the battery charge meter, line in, and dock connector jack are on the other.


Despite Griffin's claim that it features something called "WOW sound," the sound didn't wow us that much - at least not after listening to it for about 30 minutes, playing rock, rap, folk, blues, and country. With almost every song, the sound degraded noticeably at any volume past about "medium" (it's not really clear where you are on the sound spectrum since there's no indicator anywhere on the unit). At very high and highest volume, the sound got muddy on some songs (like "Lola" by the Kinks); on other tracks, like "One Week" by Barenaked Ladies, it was unbearably tinny. What this speaker needs - and for the price should by all rights have - is treble and bass control.


The one track that sounded quite good at high and top volumes was "Shadowboxer" by Fiona Apple. That makes us think that if you're into "piano rock" like Apple, Elton John, and Marc Cohn, the Journi could be the perfect portable iPod speaker.


A unique feature: The adjustable "pad" that allows you to create a snug fit for any iPod model (even 1G and 2G iPods and shuffles). You turn a knob behind the speaker to lower or raise the level of the pad, making it possible for your iPod to sit flush with the front of the speakers' face.


The round "pad" behind the iPod dock adjusts higher or lower to keep your 'Pod snugly in place. (Although, of course, you can't pick up the Journi and turn it upside-down or the iPod will probably fall off.)


Additional points to consider:


> The infrared remote only works when pointed directly at the front of the unit - kind of a pain if you're moving around in a very large room. However, a magnet built into the back of the remote lets you "clip" the remote to the front of the unit, making the 1.25-by-3.25-inch remote that much harder to lose.


> Remote features play/pause, volume controls, fast-forward, rewind, and power on/off (for the Journi unit only). To access playlists and iPod menu, you must use the iPod's clickwheel.


> Onboard volume controls are impossible to press with one finger. You have to grip the side of the speaker with another finger on the same hand, or with your other hand.


> Power cable is 47 inches long, which may not be long enough if you're in a hotel room without a lot of outlets. However, the cable plugs in via a USB-dock connector, which also lets you power the unit from your Mac via USB.


A handy battery indicator on the side lets you know when you need to recharge at the press of a button.




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