Never content to leave well enough alone, we’ve spent a lot of time looking for an audio system that could topple B&W’s mighty Zeppelin off its perch as our favorite iPod sound system. And now we've finally found it -- in Focal-JMlab’s Focal XS Multimedia Sound System.
The Focal XS is the logical follow-up to Focal’s awesome iCub powered subwoofer, which had a 2.1-channel amplifier but didn’t come with satellite speakers. The new system includes not only a pair of excellent near-field satellites, but also an integrated iPod dock and a USB interface so you can sync your iPod to iTunes, and convert digital audio from your PC’s USB port.
To be entirely fair to the Zeppelin, these two devices are really designed for different applications: Where the Zeppelin system is designed to fill a room with sound, the Focal XS is more of a near-field system that’s best enjoyed when you’re sitting in close proximity to it. And that probably explains why, unlike the Zeppelin, the Focal XS does not have an analog video output that would allow you to watch movies stored on your iPod on your big-screen TV.
For many, the initials B&W will conjure images of Ansel Adams photographs and Hollywood classics; the thoughts of audiophiles, however, will turn fondly to the legendary speakers of Bowers & Wilkins. The idea of B&W turning its thoughts to the iPod will blanch the cheeks of many a blue blood, but we’re damn happy the Zeppelin has landed.
Only the best-sounding speakers ever earn our highest praise. Griffin’s Evolve wireless iPod quite speakers don’t reach that height, but their wireless capabilities are almost remarkable enough to overcome their middle-of-the-road sound.