When we reviewed Logitech’s $300 AudioStation back in June 2007, it impressed us with its sound quality, design, and features; it quickly became one of our favorite iPod speaker systems, and it earned one of our 2007 Plays Of The Year awards. Logitech has since replaced the AudioStation with the $300 Pure-Fi Elite, a system that picks up where the AudioStation left off, differing only slightly in appearance and including several minor feature changes. Because the systems are so similar, I recommend reading our AudioStation review for detailed information. In this review, I focus on the differences.
Almost exactly the same size and shape as the AudioStation, the Pure-Fi Elite’s most-obvious differences are physical. Instead of fabric speaker covers, the Elite protects its speaker drivers behind black-metal mesh grilles. (Like those on the AudioStation, the Elite’s grilles can be removed for a different look.) Although the Universal-style iPod-dock and LCD display are essentially identical to those on its predecessor, the Elite’s controls, just below the screen, are tactile buttons that I found to be more-responsive and easier to use than the touch-sensitive versions on the AudioStation.
The Elite offers the same features, options, and controls as the AudioStation, including an AM/FM tuner, a digital clock, bass and treble adjustments, variable screen brightness, and sleep mode. It’s also missing the same features; for example, an alarm–an omission that’s no less puzzling today than it was on the AudioStation a year ago.
Perhaps the biggest functional change from the AudioStation is the Elite’s remote control, which is far superior to the previous version. The overall design, with its curved edges and sculpted shape, feels better in the hand; the buttons provide better tactile response and are arranged more logically; you get new Shuffle and Repeat buttons, along with six preset buttons for radio stations and iPod playlists; and all buttons are amber-backlit for better visibility. The only step backwards is that the new remote is missing a Mute button. The Elite also includes a plastic remote holder that attaches to the back of the system. It’s very basic–just a plastic cup with some foam padding inside–but it’s a convenient place to store the remote control when not in use.
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, AM/FM performance was comparable between the two units. The AudioStation was able to receive some stations a bit more clearly; the Elite received others slightly better.
Similarly, sound quality was nearly identical between the AudioStation and Pure-Fi Elite. With bass, treble, and volume set at equivalent levels, I was able to hear minor differences here and there, but none were significant enough to make me recommend one system over the other, nor would I have been likely to notice those differences if I hadn’t been testing the two systems side-by-side. Or, to put it another way, the differences between the two are much smaller than the differences between either of the two and a competing speaker system.
What this all means is that the Pure-Fi Elite has earned the same high rating as its predecessor. Even better, while both systems carry the same $300 MSRP, the newer Pure-Fi Elite regularly sells at street prices of $150, and we’ve even seen it for under $100–a simply amazing deal for one of the best desktop iPod speaker systems out there.