Despite its name, Logitech’s AudioStation Express has very little in common with the company’s top-of-the-line AudioStation other than the fact that both are iPod speaker systems. Whereas the AudioStation is a premium desktop system, with a $300 price tag to match, the $80 Express is a modest transportable system — one that can run off batteries or AC power, but that’s a bit too bulky to fit in a backpack or laptop bag — for those on a budget.
Made of white plastic with a black-metal speaker grill covering the front, left, and right sides, the AudioStation Express is 11.75 inches wide by 3.5 inches high by 4.7 inches deep and weighs just over two pounds (without batteries). Behind the black grill are left and right 2.5-inch speakers. On top is a Universal-design iPod dock. (Nine included inserts accommodate older dockable iPods; newer iPods each include the appropriate Universal adapter. The Anywhere also works with the iPhone, although not officially — you get an onscreen alert about putting the iPhone in Airplane Mode to reduce interference.
The front of the Express hosts a large power/volume dial; you rotate the dial to adjust volume and press it to turn the system on or off. An amber ring around the dial glows when the system is on; the ring also blinks when the Express detects a command from the include infrared remote control. Your iPod charges when the system is plugged into AC power, and turning off the Anywhere also turns off your iPod.
The back of the Express provides a jack for the included International (100V to 240V) AC adapter; a 1/8-inch stereo minijack input for connecting a second audio source (cable included); and a composite-video output for displaying video from a capable iPod on your TV. There’s also a slot for storing the remote control.
The remote uses inexpensive “bubble” buttons and includes only the basic functions: power, play/pause, back, forward, and volume up and down. Given the Express’s low price, it’s not surprising the remote’s functionality is limited; however, it’s worth noting that Logitech’s recently-released Pure-Fi Anywhere portable system includes a much improved remote with better buttons and more functionality, and many competing systems provide better remotes nowadays. On the other hand, the remote’s range was good for an infrared model; I was able to control the system from nearly 20 feet away (directly in front; range decreases as you move to the side).
Logitech has used the Audiostation Express’s larger size (compared to most portable speakers) along with a ported speaker design to enhance the system’s bass response. This approach does indeed offer better low-frequency response than you might expect, given the small speaker drivers, but there still isn’t a lot of bass here — mostly upper bass, which gives the system a bit of punch. And due to the lack of a dedicated tweeter, you also don’t get the best treble detail. The result is a midrange-heavy sound. Although that description might not seem flattering, keep in mind that many inexpensive audio systems emphasize treble (resulting in “tinny” sound) or produce boomy, cheap bass; a focus on the midrange is generally a more-listenable approach.
The AudioStation Express can run off 6 AA batteries for up to ten hours depending on volume levels, making the system somewhat portable. And although the Express is bulkier than many truly-portable systems, Logitech has included a neoprene soft case to carry the system. Openings at the top and back provide access to the iPod dock and rear jacks, respectively, so you can use the Express without removing it from the case; you just flip down the front cover. (Mesh side panels are used to avoid blocking each speaker’s port.) There’s also a thin, elastic carrying handle on the left side. However, the case doesn’t accommodate the Express’s remote or AC adapter. (You can place the remote in the aforementioned storage slot on the Express while the system is in the case, but you then have to remove the Express from the case to access the remote.)
When first introduced, the AudioStation Express had an official price of $130, which placed the system within impulse-spending range of a number of better-sounding and fuller-featured portable products, such as Altec Lansing’s inMotion iM600 and Logitech’s own mm50. At the current MSRP of $80, with recent street prices as low as $65, the Express is a much better buy. It doesn’t stand out in any way, but it offers solid performance on a budget.