Denon's new S-301 is a 2.1 home-theater systemin addition to its combination DVD player and audio amplifier, it has just two speakers and a subwoofer. It's compact, but packs a wallop, with special Dolby technology built in to ensure vivid surround sound on DVD movies. One of its key features is its iPod connection.
Plug it in and you see, on your TV screen, a simulated iPod screen with all of your songs, and the familiar Playlists/Artists/Albums menu structure. Scroll through and play whatever you want, whether you bought it from iTunes or ripped it from CDs. The reason the Denon can play iTunes purchases is that it takes the analog audio straight from your iPod, unlike the Xbox 360, for instance, which digitally accesses your musical content.
Here are some other products I tested that play well with iPods:
Pioneer Elite VSX-72TXV Receiver (pioneerelectronics.com; $1,200): This mammoth audio-video surround-sound receiver takes all different types of video, from DVDs, VCRs, cable boxes you name itand routes them through one wire to your high-definition TV. It's compatible with XM satellite radio's new "Connect and Play" technology: you plug in the special XM antenna and, as long as you've got a subscription, you get all of the XM stations listed right on the receiver's display, and on the TV. In fact, this receiver has so many bells and whistles, it's easy to forget that it's also got a direct iPod connection. Snap in your iPod, and, like the Denon, you can navigate through all of your content. You can't play iPod videos through the system, and scrolling through songs can be sluggish, but iPod connectivity is a great additional perk to this powerhouse controller for home theater.
Tivoli Audio iSongBook (www.tivoliaudio.com; $330): Given its compact size, this systemís clear sound quality and adequate midrange and low end took me by surprise. Like the Tivoli Audio iPAL, it has a rechargeable battery for mobile fun, but unlike its predecessor, it comes with two speakers, one being detachable for a better stereo spread. Also, it has a hidden iPod dock, which charges the iPod and allows it to be commandeered by an included remote control. The remote has cool features, like the ability to jump from one album to the next, or one playlist to the next. The iSongBook picks up every tap of the remote's buttons, even if your aim is off. The only trouble is that the remote is small, and easily lost.
Digital Lifestyle Outfitters HomeDock www.dlo.com; $100): Our last pick also has a small remote, but the dock itself has a slot for it, making it a little less easy to misplace. The dock is for people who already have an audio or home-theater setup they like, and just want a way to patch in their iPod. It connects to a receiver or TV using standard audio and video plugs; the video connector not only plays slideshows of pictures you have stored up, but even delivers brand new iTunes video content (if you have the newest iPod).It's also got a USB 2.0 connection so you can use it as your computer's iPod dock.