Conran Audio Speaker Dock REVIEW

$699
4 stars

Not just an iPod dock, this design masterpiece is both functional and smart

Speaker docks for iPods are common as muck these days, and most of them sound like it. The majority are lacking in the rudiments of good aesthetics, and the audio, one suspects, is an afterthought.
Not so the Conran Audio Speaker Dock, a disarmingly simple device that does clever things while sitting pretty just about anywhere it’s placed.
There’s something old-world about its design, and that’s not surprising; the man behind it is septuagenarian Englishman Sir Terence Conran, who is something of a legend: he was responsible for the Habitat design chain, way back in the 1960s, and later, a celebrated architect, not to mention restaurateur. It’s that cool ‘60s influence that seeps out of every pore of the Conran dock – it could easily have been a prop in some stylish ‘60s show like The Avengers, had iPods existed back then.
The very nice – and rather unusual – design is definitely one compelling reason for purchase of the Conran, given its ability to enhance the style of any home (or work) environment. It comes in black or white, but the white model is much more impressive; you can easily see each detail, for starters, and that detail is one of the standout features of this wee beauty.
The actual dock is a circular feature, which provides plenty of support, and also allows swiveling for visuals. The usual attachment pieces are provided for connection to different types of iPods. That’s all very well, and practical, but nothing too exciting. But down the left-hand side, you’ll find the svelte remote control, perfectly snugly fitted – a great idea that means it’s much less likely to get lost between the cracks of cushions. Then there’s the wood-fascia at the bottom, which provides a gorgeous organic counterpoint to the metal and plastic. And just above the wooden strip is a sharp strip of lighting, which is not only practical but also aesthetically pleasing. The light-strip goes on when the device is activated, and gives visual cues when the user is choosing the EQ settings.
There’s nothing too exciting about those EQ options – just the usual choice of styles, some of which emphasise the bass or the treble, or both – and I’m a bit surprised they bothered, really. But I’ll get back to that.
On the right side you’ve got one ample button, which allows you to manually change the source or volume; but honestly, who needs it when you’ve got a remote. It looks great, though.
But what we really want to know is: does the sound blow? Actually, it’s one of the best-sounding iPod docks I’ve heard. There are docks with more (compressed) bass, but the sound quality is just shy of what you’d get from an entry-level hi-fi setup, and that’s something to right home about. The Conran sounds great on anything that’s well recorded, and allows you to hear real detail – just like a real hi-fi. It sounds less great on highly compressed recordings, which tend to emphasise the treble at the top, and it’s possibly less appropriate as a blurry background noise than some small sound systems because of that. But what it does have it astounding clarity for its speaker size, together with real detail, and just about any music I threw at it sounded good.
Okay, so the design is fabulous, and the sound quality is superior to just about anything of this size and price. What else does it have to throw at us? Well, the Conran’s other big point of difference is its ability to play music from any device that is Bluetooth enabled; that means you don’t need to dock an iPad or iPhone or Android cellphone if you’ve got music on the device and a Bluetooth connection. It can also play music from a laptop connected via USB, but that’s less exciting.
The Conran dock may be at the top end of the price schedule for something as diminutive as this, but compare it to any other iPod speaker dock and – as above – it becomes pretty clear pretty clearly that it’s a much more sophisticated device than just about any other on the market. If I were in the market for something like this, I wouldn’t hesitate. GARY STEEL

www.conranaudio.com

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