Developer: Griffin Technology
Requirements: Apple Pro Speakers; computer, iPod, or other device with FireWire and 1/8" audio output (headphone) jack.
In recent years, Apple has included the Apple Pro Speakers with iMacs. These unobtrusive and compact speakers deliver clear sound, and because of their size make a great portable audio solution. Unfortunately, they require a special amplified port that can only be found on iMacs.
Griffin Technology has solved the problem with the iFire Apple Pro Speaker adapter. This device allows for iBook, PowerBook, and iPod users to use the Apple Pro Speakers with their devices. The iFire works by taking the audio from the headphone port and amplifying it using power from FireWire.
Griffin includes the necessary cable that goes between the computer (or iPod) and the iFire, and the iFire itself is a compact package smaller than the Apple Pro Mouse. I had no problems setting up the iFire, and it requires no drivers or special software for use. Setup took less than a minute, including reading the three-step instruction sheet.
The iFire worked seamlessly with an iBook, and it was compact and easy to setup. The difference between the iBook’s built-in speakers and the Apple Pro Speakers was remarkable, making the iBook more suitable as a stand-alone media system. The advantages are immediately obvious for those who need greater impact for presentations or a decent portable media solution. It should be noted that as with any FireWire-powered device, using the iFire with an iBook or PowerBook that is running off the battery drains the battery more quickly.
A concern for some might be how the iFire’s quality compares to the iMac’s built-in amplification. To compare the output quality between the two, I played a CD through the Apple Pro Speakers using the iMac’s built-in port, and then played the same tracks through the same iMac using the iFire to power the speakers. While this is an unscientific comparison, any major changes in distortion and frequency range should have been audible. A Miles Davis CD was used for the comparison because the CD offered uncompressed audio and the selection of music offered a wide frequency range with marked changes of instrumental emphasis and volume. There was no significant difference between the iFire and the iMac’s built-in Apple Pro Speaker output. The speakers sounded identical at the same volume levels (neither louder nor quieter with one or the other) and there was no noticeable difference in audio quality using the iFire.
Exactly as it is advertised, the iFire is an ideal solution for those who want to use their Apple Pro Speakers with other Macs or iPods. This makes the iFire and Apple Pro Speakers a good alternative for college students and those on the go who have space and portability considerations. For those who shelved their Apple Pro Speakers to use other speakers with their iMac, the iFire gives a reason to bring the unused equipment back into service.