i-Deck Compact

What sets this offering apart from other systems, including some of the more expensive ones, is the inclusion of a wider than normal range of connectivity options. There’s a line-in port for using speakers with other devices, including the iPod shuffle, and the system ships with an 85cm mini-jack-to-mini-jack cable to connect non-iPods.

There’s composite RCA and S-Video connections, so you can watch video from your iPod on the TV, while still enjoying the system’s crisp, full sound. There’s even a dock connector for syncing the music that’s on the iPod. The system ships with cradles for the different generations of iPod, and in a nice flourish, its AC power adaptor comes with a variety of plugs so you can use the system abroad.

We also like the infrared remote control – white with grey buttons, it’s slightly narrower than a credit card and about 7mm thick. Unlike many remote controls, this one lets users navigate through their playlists from across the room. There’s a dedicated Menu button that transports you to the next menu up, and up and down buttons for navigating within menus. Other remote features include song selection, shuffle and repeat.

The company claims the remote has a range of up to 10m, but like all infrared remotes you can’t expect any response if there are objects in the way. It’s a shame Monitor Audio didn’t opt to use RF technology, which offers a longer effective range, regardless of obstacles.

This smaller speaker system maintains the angular aesthetic of the three-piece i-Deck. There’s a power button on the lower right-hand side at the front, an iPod dock (compatible with all iPods with dock connectors) and two volume buttons just below the dock. A blue LED light glows to show the system is on, and will flash to show receipt of commands sent using the remote control. At the back you’ll find the other connections and a socket for the AC adaptor. There’s also a built-in grab handle so you can cart it around the home.

The system stands 15cm tall, is 13.7cm thick and 42cm wide at the back, tapering to 35cm at the front. It weighs just 3kg. These dimensions mean it should fit on bookshelves, and won’t take up too much space on a desktop or sideboard.

The internal stereo speakers feature 4in bass drivers, which have been optimised to deliver a punchy sound when playing digital music files. i-Deck Compact outputs 15W of sound per channel.

There have been some significant advances in iPod speaker systems: where the first generation of such solutions sounded tinny, today’s models integrate built-in digital audio amplifiers, and draw the music through the iPod’s dock connector, making sound output full-bodied and more accurate across different ranges. This system keeps up with those advances, so whatever musical style you listen to will sound excellent. All-in-one systems aren’t as capable as separates in creating a ‘sound space’ in a room, but this does a fairly good job, presumably because the twin speakers have been tweaked to create a pleasing room-filling effect. Most users will probably favour separate units for their primary music playback device.

It’s not yet clear how many iPod users actually connect their players to TV sets to play video. Experience shows that such playback on a big screen is perfectly adequate – the picture lacks the clarity of DVD, but competes happily with VHS. The experience is enhanced by using i-Deck Compact’s video out – you get to watch it on a big screen while listening to music through the powerful and punchy, digitally-enhanced speakers.

OUR VERDICT

i-Deck Compact is a powerful and attractive system that’s small enough to be used around the home and sufficiently versatile to be part of a multimedia entertainment system. It’s just a shame it can’t be battery operated, and it would be nice if it had an RF remote. It’s ideal as a secondary sound system for a bedroom or home office, but true audiophiles should consider a separates system, or a dock that integrates with their existing hi-fi.

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