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Review: Sound only so-so on these speaker docks

  • Story Highlights
  • Logitech's Pure-Fi Anytime is a good choice for a basic, iPod-friendly clock radio
  • It features an attractive, compact design and also works with iPhones
  • But sound quality is middling, especially on bass-heavy music
  • The affordable price tag -- it's less than $100 -- help make up for its sonic shortfalls
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By John P. Falcone
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CNET.com

(CNET) -- Logitech's line of Pure-Fi iPod speaker docks has swelled to seven, so you could be forgiven for mixing them up. The latest entry--the Pure-Fi Anytime--is basically a cheaper entry-level version of the Pure-Fi Dream.

It boasts the same dual alarm AM/FM clock radio and motion-activated backlit controls ("wave to snooze") as that model, but sports a smaller, less curvaceous frame.

And while the Pure-Fi Anytime doesn't make the Dream's claims of high-end sound, its $100 list price is exactly half that of its big brother. And we've already seen it selling online for as little as $80.

At 10.5 inches by 3.8 inches by 3.5 inches (HWD), the Pure-Fi Anytime is small enough to fit on nearly any nightstand or bookshelf. The black housing is angled back a bit, which adds a touch of design flair to the otherwise pedestrian rectangular design.

While many iPod docks have the Apple player protruding from the top like a Stonehenge monolith, the Pure-Fi Anytime's dock sits front and center, nestled between the left and right speaker. As a result, the main clock/radio display is pushed to the right side, just above the speaker.

The controls are found on the topside. If they're a bit hard to see at first--especially in a darkened bedroom--waving your hand over the unit (or just touching one of the buttons) fades in a soft amber backlight behind each key. The buttons are fine, but--as always--it would've been nice to have knobs for volume and tuning.

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Otherwise, you can use the included credit card remote. It handles all the standard functions, including basic iPod navigation (play/pause, track up/down). The Pure-Fi Anytime also has a caddy on its backside, so you'll always know where the little remote is.

The Pure-Fi Anytime is iPhone-certified, which means that it's shielded from the GSM interference that would otherwise be caused by the phone. As a result, you can dock your iPhone in without flipping it to airplane mode; in other words, you can still make and receive calls while the unit is docked.

Of course, the Anytime also works with nearly all other dock-equipped iPod models. It includes dock inserts for just four of the more popular sizes, but we found that the iPhone and second-generation iPod Nano both docked firmly without the need for the inserts at all.

Aside from iPods and iPhones, the Pure-Fi Anytime also includes an AM/FM radio. The attached FM string antenna delivered great reception, while you'll need to attach the included AM loop antenna to access that band.

There's no iPod video output, but the stereo line input will allow you to play any external device over the Pure-Fi Anytime's speakers, such as a CD player, satellite radio, or PC. There are only three presets per radio band, but you can also use them as playlist presets on the iPod; just create playlists named "1," "2," and "3."

The Anytime is, at heart, an alarm clock, and it has the sort of robust alarm functionality that we'd expect in a unit at this price point. Specifically, each of the two alarms can be set to wake to AM, FM, iPod, or a buzzer.

The alarm volume can also be specified, so you can fall asleep to music at a soft "5" but have the alarm rouse you out of bed at a sufficiently loud "12." If the alarm source is set to "iPod," the Pure-Fi will look for playlists called "Alarm 1" or "Alarm 2," respectively; otherwise, it'll just resume the most recent playlist in progress, or--lacking that--just start playing some random tunes.

Also, a 9-volt backup battery keeps time, alarm, and radio presets intact during power outages. The only thing missing in terms of alarm customization is the ability to set them for individual days of the week or weekday/weekends, as found on many iHome iPod clock radios.

Need to grab a few more minutes of sleep? If you don't want to grope for the snooze button, just wave your hand above the Anytime, and the motion detector should kick in. It worked for us most of the time, but we did have to go back for a second pass on occasion. (Snooze time can be customized from 1 to 15 minutes.)

If you want to fall asleep to music instead, the snooze button will act as a sleep timer, automatically shut off the Anytime anywhere from 5 to 180 minutes after starting its countdown.

In terms of sound quality, the Pure-Fi Anytime is squarely in the "sounds decent for the money" camp. Bass response is somewhere between thin and nonexistent, and it can't get very loud without distorting.

We put the Pure-Fi Anytime head-to-head with the Pure-Fi Elite, the Pure-Fi Dream, the Pure-Fi Express Plus, and the Altec Lansing InMotion Moondance Glow iM402. To our ears, the Anytime finished towards the bottom of the pack. The inclusion of bass and treble controls would've been a nice way to help

Put that in perspective with pricing, however: the Anytime can be had for less than $100, while all but one of those competing models skew more toward the $150 to $200 range. Likewise, one of the closest competitors, the iHome iP99, offers a nearly identical set (more flexible alarm options, no "wave to snooze" feature) but at a list price of 50 percent higher.

And that's pretty much the bottom line. If you're looking for anything beyond light listening duties, you'll want to trade up to a pricier model.

That said, the Logitech Pure-Fi Anytime's relatively strong feature set, attractive design, and affordable price tag go a long way to making up for its sonic shortfalls. It's a perfectly good iPod/iPhone clock radio, and a worthy competitor to most similarly priced options from iHome.

© 2009 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved. CNET, CNET.com and the CNET logo are registered trademarks of CBS Interactive Inc. Used by permission.

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