When you think about clock radios, style is usually the last thing to come to mind. Let’s face it: The category has been dominated by cheap plastic boxes sold at your local Walgreens store. iLuv is the first company to thrive in the clock radio space, but even after forking out more than $100, you’re still left with a plastic box; albeit something with a little design element to it. Luckily for the audio purists out there, there are a few options to be had– if you are willing to spend a few extra bucks to get something unique.
Vers Audio, an Earth-friendly company specializing in using recyclable materials and natural wood, has a clock-radio iPod dock that sounds great and is pleasing on the eyes. Priced at $199 MSRP, the Vers 1.5R is living in the no-man’s-land of the clock radio space – priced higher than your typical iLuv hotel clock radio, yet considerably cheaper than audiophile brands like Tivoli, Yamaha and Geneva.
Features and design
The Vers 1.5R comes available in four unique finishes: cherry, walnut, dark walnut and bamboo. Vers charges an extra $19 for the dark walnut model for some reason, so keep that in mind. Included in the package is an external AM and FM antenna, power cord, IR remote control and four iPod and iPhone dock adapters to ensure a nice snug fit. Batteries are not included for the radio backup, so make sure you pick up a couple double AA’s.
The Vers 1.5R has a very minimalistic look to it. There is a small LCD backlit display with a double jog dial located underneath. A large grey foam speaker cover hides the 3-inch, 15-watt driver to give the front of the 1.5R a nice, clean look. The rear of the unit is where you will find a 2-inch port which helps give the speaker surprisingly deep bass for its size. What’s a little odd about the 1.5R is that all of the inputs and outputs are located underneath it: antenna connections, 3.5 mm aux inputs and outputs, and the battery backup compartment. The feet of the 1.5R give you a little clearance, but you will need to spread the cables out evenly to make sure they fit underneath them.
On top of the 1.5R is where you can plug in your Apple iPod or iPhone. There are also controls for two separate alarms, volume control, screen brightness, music mode, favorites, clock set and the snooze bar.
The included remote control goes above and beyond what you would expect from a typical remote. In addition to the regular controls (volume, play, pause etc.) you also get controls for adjusting the bass and treble of the 1.5R. For some reason there are iPod dock manufacturers out there that feel it’s not necessary to include controls for your iPod on the remote. Thankfully, Vers has menu and playlist buttons so you can navigate your iPod without having to push the button on the iPod itself – what a novel idea, eh? The look and design of the remote control is very basic, and not nearly as nice looking as the 1.5R dock itself. Too much grey and plastic, in our opinion.
Testing and use
Getting the Vers 1.5R setup and ready to use is a straightforward approach. Pick the iPod adapter that fits your iPod and put it into the dock first, then connect your iPod. If you will be connecting multiple Apple devices, we recommend leaving the dock adapter out of the mix altogether. Programming the clock is simple; hold down the clock set button until the clock flashes then use the volume controls on the unit itself to adjust the time. Same approach for the alarms.
The jog dials on the front of the 1.5R look nice, but feel extremely cheap when being used. In fact, you can easily remove them just by pulling them off the front – Vers needs to make this part feel more high quality! The included remote control works well, has decent range, and registered all of our commands without issue. Being able to control the bass and treble using the remote is a nice touch, and we definitely got spoiled by it.
For our tests, we used the internal antenna for AM/FM listening, an Apple iPhone 4 with iOS 4.3.3 installed and a third-generation Apple iPod Nano. The internal antenna worked just fine for 90 percent of the FM stations in the Portland area, so we did not feel compelled to add the external antenna to the unit. If you are an AM listener, we would recommend setting up the included loop antenna to get better reception.
We had no issues using our iPod Nano, the system recognized it and we were up and running in no time. Navigating the tiny screen on the Nano is a pain, but that’s not the fault of the 1.5R. When we plugged in our Apple iPhone 4, a message popped up on the screen of the iPhone saying that the Vers 1.5R is not a fully compatible dock and that we might get cellular interference and a decrease in cell strength. Vers assured us this was only because it was a review unit, and that units found in stores won’t have this issue. Sure enough, once the message went away, verything worked as it should.
We broke the 1.5R in for about 10 hours before our music tests. For a product as small as the 1.5R, we are impressed with its sound quality. By default, everything is very flat and cardboard sounding, but after adjusting the bass and treble to our desired levels, we were happy campers. Adjusting the treble really has little effect though; it just seemed to move the positioning forward, more for vocals and background instruments. With the bass cranked up all the way, we only experienced distortion at the top 95 percent of the volume limit – not bad. Overall, sound is fairly warm and filling for a clock radio in this price range. You have to be realistic when it comes to sound quality on a product this small; remember, it’s sitting on your bed stand, not in your home theater room.
When it comes right down to it, the Vers 1.5R is a great product for its $199 price tag. In fact, we could only find a few other iPod dock brands in this range, the Yamaha TSX-70 which is very similar in features, but has more of an industrial look to it, and some plastic docks from hotel resident iLuv. If it were up to us, we would take the Vers 1.5R hands down over both other docks. Audiophiles willing to spend extra money for better sound might want to look at products from Tivoli and Geneva, although in our mind, you are spending a lot more money for incremental improvements in sound. For those looking for a stylish iPod compatible clock radio, the Vers 1.5R should fit the bill; it has everything you would want, and then some.
- Stylish design
- Separate bass and treble controls
- Reasonably priced
- Large, warm sound
- Cheap looking remote
- Poor quality front jog dials