Groping the Griffin Journi

Griffin Journi
Griffin’s new Journi portable iPod speaker is hands-down the hippest-looking iPod speaker I’ve seen yet: It’s about the size of a woman’s handbag, and it comes cradled in its built-in black leather fold-around case/stand, but it’s just 1.5 inches thick and just over 2 pounds. The sound isn’t much better than you’d expect from such a slim speaker — good for small offices, a den, or even an intimate picnic. Nice touches like a battery meter and a slot for storing the remote make this a good fit for the Prada set (or wannabe’s).

Full review after the jump.

A pretty face
The Journi’s black leather wraparound case is studded with painted silver dots, giving the 1.5 x 6.5 x 10.5-inch speaker a Euro-chic look. When you open the magnetic clasp, it folds back around to reveal the remote snugly in its slot and an adjuster wheel for the iPod dock. The speaker grilles and rubberized sides are silver, and the iPod dock sits front and center. You can fold the rigid case so that the tab at the end fits into the slot on the bottom rear of the speaker, making a handy stand.

On the left side, a soft plastic flap covers the standard iPod connector and eighth-inch stereo line input. Also set into the left side is a battery meter; when you press the battery icon, four green LEDs light up to show you how much longer you can blast your Freddie Mercury. On the other side are large power and volume buttons.

The Journi comes with a standard iPod cable and an AC-to-USB adapter — a very versatile combo and generous given the price. If you want to line-in a non-Apple MP3 player, you’ll have to supply your own eighth-inch stereo cable to connect it to the auxiliary input.

Smooth operator
With your iPod sitting in the dock on the front, you spin the wheel on the back until the rubberized spacer fits snugly against your iPod’s derriere. (That means no extra plastic dock adapters to wind up in your local landfill!) There’s nothing to prevent your iPod from moving forward, though it stores safely when the speaker’s cover is closed. The buttons on the sides are large and easy to press, and the infrared remote’s buttons are pretty idiot-proof.

The speaker’s built-in rechargeable battery lasts for around 8 to 10 hours per charge, depending on how much you press the buttons and how loud you crank it. The battery meter built-into the left side is a huge plus — I hate guessing how much juice is left.

Sounds like…?
The Journi’s two woofers and two tweeters don’t crank out big beefy sound; it tends to be shrill with lots of emphasis on the high end. Despite the built-in SRS WOW sound enhancer and bass booster, rock sounds harsh, while rap and R&B just comes out sounding anemic, but the overall clarity isn’t bad at low to moderate volume levels. Tone controls would have been nice, though you can always use the iPod’s treble reducer equalizer preset.

Big deal or fat chance?
The Journi isn’t going to win any Stereophile awards for sound, but there’s something undeniably sexy about the design, it has some unusually handy features, and it’s loud enough for small rooms. Not a bad buy–just watch the Corinthian leatha’… it scuffs easy!