When we reviewed Klipsch’s iGroove HG desktop iPod speaker system back in September 2006, we were impressed by its full, rich sound and attractive design; it wasn’t the best desktop system on the market, but it was one to consider if you were in the market. However, as with most of the top-tier desktop speakers, the iGroove’s price tag — $250 — made it too expensive for many iPod owners.
Klipsch’s answer for those on a tighter budget is a downsized version of the iGroove. Called the iGroove SXT and priced at just $149, it’s considerably more affordable than the original iGroove, yet offers much of the same appeal: full, rich sound in a desktop design.
At 12 inches wide by 4.75 inches high by 4.6 inches deep, I was surprised by just how small the SXT really is — less than half the size of the original iGroove. The SXT also looks quite different: instead of the matte-silver or gloss-black plastic of the original, with metal speaker grills, the SXT has a matte-black plastic body with silver plastic trim and black fabric grills. Although the original iGroove’s materials were attractive, its size and clamshell-like design made it stand out, especially in smaller rooms; the SXT uses a more traditional design — similar to Bose’s SoundDock — and is far less conspicuous.
Like most desktop iPod speaker systems, the SXT provides an iPod dock in the middle with speakers on each side. The dock uses Apple’s Universal design; seven dock inserts are included to accommodate most older dockable iPods (newer iPods each include their own adapter). Behind the system’s black, cloth grills are are left and right 2.5-inch woofers and 0.75-inch tweeters; the latter use Klipsch’s horn-loaded technology.
(The iGroove SXT works with the iPhone, although not officially — you get an onscreen alert about putting the iPhone in Airplane Mode to reduce interference. But even when I declined to do so, the SXT exhibited interference problems only when the iPhone was receiving a call, or when receiving email, text, or voicemail messages.)
On the top edge of the SXT are three simple buttons: power, volume up, and volume down; the power button glows blue when the system is on and red when it’s off. On the back is the power jack for connecting the included AC adapter, as well as a 1/8-inch auxiliary-input jack for connecting an additional audio source and an S-Video output for connecting the SXT to your TV when using a video-capable iPod. Your iPod is charged when docked; turning off the SXT puts your iPod in sleep mode. The back also has what appear to be two slots for mounting the SXT on a wall, although I couldn’t find any documentation for this.
One feature missing from many iPod speakers but present on the SXT is that the system automatically turns on if your iPod starts playing. This means you can use the iGroove SXT along with your iPod’s alarm-clock feature — you just set the alarm on the iPod, put it in the SXT, and turn off the SXT.
The included infrared remote offers basic playback control: power, play/pause, back, forward, volume up and down, and mute. Although the remote uses inexpensive “bubble” buttons, it’s relatively thick and feels solid in the hand. Range was impressive in my testing, with the remote offering solid performance over 25 feet away from directly in front of the system; it also offered good performance to either side. The only issue I experienced with the remote was that whenever I hadn’t used it for a while, I had to press a button more than once for it to work; subsequent button presses were recognized immediately. It was almost as if the remote had gone into a power-conserving sleep mode and had to be “woken up.”
Given the SXT’s compact size, the system produces surprisingly rich, full sound. Although you don’t get true bass with such small drivers, upper bass is strong enough to give the system punch and warmth. (The system uses a ported speaker-enclosure design to add some weight at the lower frequencies.) Midrange is also good, and for such a small system, the SXT plays quite loud without distorting. On the other hand, I wasn’t especially impressed by the SXT’s noticeable lack of treble detail compared to some of the other desktop speakers at this price and, like most one-piece desktop speaker systems, you don’t get much stereo separation.
Two areas where the SXT’s audio quality improves on the original iGroove relate to noise. The full-size iGroove’s metal speaker grills tended to rattle a bit at high volumes; this isn’t an issue with the SXT’s fabric grills or the plastic behind them. The previous iGroove also exhibited low-level background hiss at low volume levels or when no music was playing; the SXT was silent.
Like Griffin Technology’s Amplifi, the iGroove SXT offers solid sound in a package that’s much less expensive than the best desktop speaker systems out there. Although it doesn’t sound as good as some of our favorites, such as JBL’s Radial and Logitech’s AudioStation or Pure-Fi Elite, the SXT costs less than half as much, while being good enough that many people would be perfectly satisfied. And the SXT’s smaller size may be more appealing, as well. However, fans of detail will want to look elsewhere.