When we reviewed Jamo’s i300, a subwoofer/satellite iPod speaker system designed to take the place of a home stereo, we remarked on how few “full-size” iPod systems were out there; for whatever reason, portable and desktop systems dominated the market. That was 2006, and since then, things haven’t changed much; the vast majority of iPod speaker systems still use either a portable or desktop design. Even Jamo has entered the fray with its own i200.
Like Klipsch’s iGroove SXT, Jamo has taken a relatively compact approach. At 15 inches wide by 5.4 inches tall by 3.1 inches deep, the i200 is wide but short. Unlike most iPod speaker systems, and in keeping with Jamo’s Scandinavian design philosophy, the i200 is notably austere in its appearance: entirely black with no immediately-visible buttons or jacks. (A white/gray version is also available.) The front and sides are glossy plastic with fabric speaker grills; the plastic back of the system has a matte finish; and the iPod-dock area in the middle is covered in matte rubber to keep your iPod scratch-free. To complete the look, the back panel of the iPod-dock area actually sits on a spring-loaded track; when there’s no iPod in the cradle, you can release the panel with a gentle push and it slides forward, flush with the rest of the i200’s face. Overall it’s an attractive design, although one that’s quite, well, Scandinavian. My biggest aesthetic complaint is that the glossy plastic looks cheaper than it should for a system in this price range.
Behind the speaker grills are left and right 2.75-inch midrange drivers and 0.5-inch tweeters. The i200’s iPod dock uses Apple’s Universal design. Seven inserts are included to accommodate most older dockable iPods; newer iPods each include their own adapter. Your iPod is charged when in the dock, and automatically goes into sleep mode when you turn off the i200. One minor complaint about the dock area is that your iPod sits quite low in the dock “well”; the bottom of the iPod’s Click Wheel is below the front edge of the dock area, which makes it difficult to navigate your iPod’s menus while it’s in the i200.
(The i200 works with the iPhone, although not officially — you get an onscreen alert about putting the iPhone in Airplane Mode to reduce interference. Even so, the i200 experienced very few problems — I heard GSM “noise” only when the iPhone was receiving a call, or when receiving email, text, or voicemail messages.)
So where are the buttons? On the back. Although that may sound like an odd location, the button’s placement — flush with the right-hand side of the i200 (when facing the front) actually works better than I expected. The Power On/Off and Play/Pause buttons are near the top of the system, with the Volume Up and Volume Down buttons near the bottom. The i200 is just over an inch thick at the sides, so to press the desired button you put your index finger around the back and your thumb on the front and squeeze. Of course, this design means you need to learn which button is which by feel, and the location of the volume buttons, so close to the bottom, makes pressing them a bit awkward, but after a few minutes using the i200 I had the hang of it.
On the left side of the i200 is a 1/8-inch minijack output. Although it’s labeled “Sub Out,” implying that it’s only for connecting a powered subwoofer, the jack is actually a standard audio output, so you can also use it to connect the i200 to a larger stereo or other audio system. The system also provides an auxiliary-input minijack, and unlike most desktop systems, puts it in a location that’s convenient to use. Instead of hiding it in the back, Jamo has placed the input jack inside the iPod dock area so you can keep your non-dockable iPod or other media player accessible. The only other connection on the i200 is the jack in the rear for the system’s included international AC adapter. (Two plug cables are included, for US and European wall outlets.)
Although a desktop speaker system, the i200 can also be mounted on a wall; Jamo even includes a two-piece wall-mount kit. You attach the base to your wall and then attach a matching mounting bracket to the back of the i200. This design lets you easily pull the system off the wall to, for example, take it to another room.
Although the i200’s infrared remote offers only basic functionality (buttons only play/pause, back, forward, volume up and down, and power), the remote’s design makes it one of the most unique I’ve seen. At 5.5 inches tall but less than an inch wide, the remote’s six rubber buttons are arranged a single line near the top. The bottom of the remote is circular with a flat, weighted base designed to let the remote sit stably upright when not in use. Just above the base, the remote tapers to a thin, rectangular shape. The remote is easy to hold, and the buttons are easy to push, although because they’re arranged in a single row, you have to learn their arrangement. I was able to control the i200 from up to 15 feet or so, directly in front, which is average for an infrared remote; however, the remote worked better than most from the sides.
One quirk I discovered is that the remote’s Power button only turns the system off; to turn the i200 on from the remote, you must press the Play/Pause button. I found this to be confusing, especially when I first started using the system and assumed that the remote wasn’t working properly. (To be fair, Jamo calls this the Standby button rather than Power, but it’s labeled with the universal symbol for the latter.) I also found that the remote occasionally required me to press a button more than once before the system responded.
When I reviewed Klipsch’s similarly-sized and -priced iGroove SXT, I noted that it provided rich, full sound but lacked treble detail. The i200’s sonic signature is nearly the inverse: good detail but not much weight on the low end. As a result, the i200 doesn’t have the same kind of room-filling presence as the iGroove SXT, but it sounds clearer and reveals more of the details of classical and acoustic music. (I actually felt the i200’s treble was a tad too prominent.) Of course, like most one-piece systems, you don’t get much stereo separation, although the i200 does play fairly loud before distorting.
At street prices of $120 to $140, the i200 competes directly with the iGroove SXT and systems such as Griffin Technology’s Amplifi. Its biggest advantages over these systems are its sleek design, a wall-mounting option, and an emphasis on audio detail. On the other hand; some may not like the i200’s control buttons, the Amplifi provides audio that’s a bit more balanced, and, as I mentioned above, the iGroove SXT offers better low-end response. –Dan Frakes