eWoo eFizz

Don't say "Gesundheit!" That wasn't a sneeze, but it is a mouthful. The company, eWoo, and their amazing not-so-little iPod doc, the eFizz, all twenty pounds of it, has been holding down my credenza at work for almost six months. Things got off to a grinding halt with this review as the remote control for the first unit became utterly crippled when I tried to up load the latest firmware version as recommended by eWoo's PR firm. Another victim of the Microsoft Vista system I think.

Since then, though, I've put the eFizz through its paces, both as an iPod dock, with a classic iPod and with my newer (lighter and sooo much more enjogable) sexy blue iPod nano, and with the Myine wireless internet radio I reviewed in my last blog posting in July (okay, I apologize - I found hitting the outdoors a little more interesting than hitting the blog this summer). The eFizz has a sweet two channel RCA connection so things like the Myine, a CD player or an FM tuner can be hooked in and powered by the eFizz. There's even a Toslink optical input if you have a fave CD transport.

Speaking of power, the rotund eFizz is outfitted with 70 watts of power to drive the Cabasse designed speaker system which features a gut thumping little downward firing dual-ported subwoofer. Sound is clear and loud. At very low levels, the tonal balance tends towards the warm side, lacking some of the air I heard in the Scandyna micropod system and, being a one piece unit, most of the stereo spread. At louder levels, the sound balance is flatter but still satisfyingly bass heavy. No anemic response here. This thing has no problem pumping out the decibels without distorting.

But what sets the eFizz apart from some other iPod docking systems is its amazing little remote. Via radio synchronization (2.4 GHz), the remote give you access to almost everything you get with the iPod in your hands via it's 1.8" TFT LCD display! Select playlists, artists, albums, songs, etc, just like you would normally with your iPod. There's even a circularly arranged array of four buttons and sensor that lets you swing your fingers around in that tickle-your-iPod motion we're all so familiar with! So go ahead, skip ahead a song, roll through your artist list, pause, menu-up, whatever (almost) you want.

Okay – I keep saying "almost" because, as good as the eFizz's remote is, it's got a few limitations. First of all, if you are an iTunes slave (as am I), you probably have a LOT of artists who are represented by only a few songs each. The wheel function in the remote isn't up to the task of scrolling through huge artist lists. Getting to "Snow Patrol" using the remote could take five minutes if you start in the A's. I don't have the patience (or the physical stamina in my index finger) to put up with that, so I pull the pod from its perch and do things old school before reinserting it in the eFizz. The software should detect motion acceleration and do the massive, letter-at-a-time jump aheads that the iPod does when it senses you want to move ahead by leaps and bounds, not artist by artist.

Another serious deficit – there is no shuffle feature on the main menu of the remote! To engage in shuffle play, you'll have to pull the iPod out of the dock and get it started manually, then reinsert the iPod and hit play. Not a huge ordeal, but, come on! It's modus operandi uno in the iPod playbook!

That's it for the griping though, because this thing is just outstanding in every other way! Okay, one more precautionary tale – there are times I wished the volume steps were smaller, especially between totally off and the first audible click. I've had to dive for the pause when answering a call because not everyone can tolerate NIN's reliance on the F-word as a creative tool.

I like the fact that unit has a warm, almost euphonic tonal balance, decent looks (if you collect medicine balls, it's a shoe-in) and is an excellent engineering effort overall. The remote (charge base is a few inches in front of the iPod dock) keeps a charge for almost a week, and being able to glance a few inches to the left of the keyboard to see what tune is playing is just awesome! Last I checked, the $499 was available for a considerable discount at Amazon too. Well worth the utility and sonics you get, even at list!