Available in black or white, this three-part system oozes build quality (the company promises its products will “last for many years”). Each device is manufactured from precision-moulded high-grade plastic – it’s clear they’ve been designed for frequent use. You can also buy a dedicated subwoofer, but we didn’t have a test unit.
The system ships with a pair of speaker cables, each of which have the ends stripped off to expose the cable for connection to the system components. Connectivity counts, so for the best possible audio output, the speakers connect to the dock using the cables, which are inserted into spring-loaded terminals housed on the back of both speakers and dock – a setup familiar to hi-fi enthusiasts, but less so to digital-music fans used to plug-and-play. That said, linking the devices up took just 13 minutes. You simply attach the positive and negative terminals to the back of the dock and plug in the power cable. There’s a separate line-out connector for the subwoofer.
The mains-powered iPod dock has a built-in digital amplifier to boost sound. It offers output power sufficient for two 15W speakers; you don’t need to use the company’s own speakers as the dock has the oomph to drive most sets. The dock will recharge your iPod when it’s connected, and ships with eight inserts to accommodate all iPod models, with the exception of first-generation models. There’s also an eight-function infrared remote control. This offers mute, power on/off, volume, forward, backward, play and repeat controls, but doesn’t let users navigate through disparate playlists.
The dock has two blue LED activity lights on its front, while at the back there’s a connection for the AC adaptor, a line-out jack to drive a subwoofer, and a pair of twin spring-loaded connectors to wire in the speakers. The terminals will also accept banana plugs, which are becoming increasingly popular in high-quality audio systems. Many contend they provide the most effective contact system for use with hi-fi equipment. Unfortunately, the dock doesn’t have a USB port for connecting it to a computer for synchronising the iPod’s music library. Finding docks designed for connection to home entertainment equipment that also carry USB ports is becoming increasingly infrequent. Given the iPod’s growing importance as a multimedia entertainment device, it’s also a shame that the system lacks built-in video output. It would’ve been nice to watch music videos on a big screen while benefiting from its excellent sound.
The two satellite speakers are compact (16 x 12.5 x 11.5cm). They can be wall-mounted – using separately available brackets – and ship with three removable feet. They contain a 19mm soft-dome tweeter for clarity of high-frequency sound, and carry a Kevlar bass driver with rubber surrounds. In use, this means they produce a clear, well-balanced sound, with excellent clarity across high, mid and low ranges. Because the dock boosts the iPod’s audio, you’ll hear elements in digital music you never knew existed, which is great.
Sound output is surprisingly good for speakers of this size – they compete with the similarly-priced iPod Hi-Fi and Klipsch Audio iFi systems, even without the subwoofer, offering a decent acoustic output.
Like most compact systems, it’s essential to ensure the speakers are well positioned – get it right and they’ll furnish you with a deep and extensive sound, effective for rock, reggae, hip hop and even classical music and opera. You’ll benefit from an excellent and immersive depth of field.
The remote control stands out as the one part of the package that would benefit from improvement. Credit card-sized, light and just a few millimetres thick, it doesn’t seem to offer the same quality as the rest of the system. It also has limited versatility, as it lets you navigate only those playlists that have been manually selected for the iPod.
The remote aside, this high-end iPod speaker system offers excellent, clear sound output and is a viable choice for anyone looking to replace his or her existing home hi-fi system with an all-digital setup. If sound matters to you, you won’t be disappointed. However, if you seek an integrated home entertainment system with video support, then you’ll need to look elsewhere.