The SoundDock is Bose’s attempt to impress iPod owners who are looking for a convenient docking solution without sacrificing style and sound. Among casual consumers, Bose represents assured quality without the need to know the technical tidbits behind the scenes. In a way, it’s the perfect match for the iPod: simplicity over customizing. To audiophiles, Bose is an overpriced alternative with comparatively mediocre sound. If you are an audiophile, chances are you use MP3s solely for the portability and convenience factors. But for those reasons, even audiophiles may want to give the SoundDock a try.
Since the iPod comfortably sits on the lion’s share of the hard drive based MP3 player market, manufacturers have been scrambling to offer the best custom add-ons for the popular audio player. While most compact audio shelf systems offer a sound input connector, the lure of custom, matching iPod-specific speakers and headphones has created a sub-industry between the iPod and traditional audio markets. Bose brings a familiar consumer name to the playing field with the SoundDock.
Features and Design
The SoundDock is designed around space-saving simplicity. The entire unit measures 6.5″ high by 12″ wide by 6.5″ deep. That means that it will fit on most coffee tables or shallow bookshelves. Out of the box, you get the SoundDock unit, remote, power cord, and dock inserts. When the iPod is not docked, the SoundDock looks like any other bookshelf speaker and blends seamlessly with the surroundings. The speaker system does not look like a speaker, which adds elegance for those among us who don’t want all of our gear to be immediately identifiable. The iPod is fitted in the top-holding slot in front of the speaker body, which is surrounded by one or two inserts, depending on your iPod model. The SoundDock is compatible with any dock connector iPod, including the iPod Photo and iPod Mini.
One strange note on the design: we wonder if it is a good idea to mount the iPod, with a spinning hard drive, in front of a speaker blasting out sound waves. Most other iPod speaker systems place the iPod between the speaker units, effectively dulling the vibration the iPod experiences. With the iPod in front of the speaker, we were able to feel the vibration with our hands at medium to high volumes. How this will impact the longevity of the hard drive is an issue.
Image Courtesy of Bose
Setup and Use
Operation is simple. Insert iPod, press “Play,” listen. Volume buttons are located on either side of the docking location. The rest of the functions are controlled from the credit card-sized slim remote. Like the iPod, excessive buttons are shunned in favor of a simple six button design. The correct playlist must be selected on the iPod itself, as the remote can only control “Track Forward/Back,” “Play/Pause,” “Volume +/-,” and “Power.”
The SoundDock cannot be used as a syncing dock, which is something that other docking options offer. Also, there is no sound input other than the iPod dock connector, which means the SoundDock can only be used with the iPod. While these two capabilities are not essential, it would be nice to see them as options. The cradle does charge the iPod, but that’s about all. The idea behind the SoundDock is to provide a simple playback stand that can be placed away from the computer, be it the kitchen, den, or bathroom.
The sound quality of the Bose SoundDock is very good. While not spectacular, it outperforms other lower-priced iPod dock options in both clarity and volume. We listened to a selection of jazz, synthpop, techno, industrial, and rock, as well as some spoken word. As expected in a unit of this size, the bass was a little lacking at higher volumes, but the spoken word and jazz were excellent. There is no trouble filling a medium-sized room with sound and the stereo effect was decent.
As with other Bose-based listening options, the tonal quality is somewhat flat, but there is almost never any distortion. Even at maximum volume, the sound was clear, with no shrieking at the highs and no crackling at the lows. Listening to any one characteristic sound, just as vocal frequencies, sounded very good. When music that spanned a broad spectrum was played, the sound was somewhat flat, blending the many frequencies. Most people accustomed to consumer-level audio devices will not notice the tonal deficits, and consider the sound quality excellent.
The Bose SoundDock is an excellent option if you are looking for a simple speaker dock away from your computer for your iPod or iPod Mini. While the unit lacks some of the features that the competition boasts, potential buyers should consider whether they will ever actually use those features. In the sound quality category, the SoundDock comes out on top. While it won’t replace a good stereo system, the simplicity is undeniably iPod-like, and makes the system what it is: a simple playback option for your iPod.
– Offers premium sound quality
– Compact design
– Charges the Apple iPod’s battery
– Comes with a sleek remote control
– Does not sync the Apple iPod
– The price is higher than competitive models