A series of new Apple AirPlay speakers might have taken the majority of the HiFi spotlight at IFA 2011 in Berlin, but in between all the streaming there are a few possible gems for the more traditional iPod speaker dock enthusiast out there.
Apple AirPlay and bluetooth streaming is high on the feature list for those looking at new compact sound systems at the moment, but as i pointed out in a recent post, the iPod speaker dock market is booming, as one of the few categories in the HiFi market that is seen strong growth. This fact has not gone manufacturers by, as we are still seeing new systems enter the market without direct support for streaming, or at least without the Apple only AirPlay feature, which tends to drive up cost of systems quite substantially.
Here are some of the new iPod speaker docks coming out of IFA 2011 that i have added to my ‘desirable shortlist’, and that should be in the market in plenty of time for Christmas.
1. Loewe SoundBox iPod system
Loewe might not be a household name in the iPod speaker dock market, but i expect that might change with the addition of the SoundBox and the Apple AirPlay friendly Loewe Air Speaker, both are sitting at the higher-end of the market with a strong focus of design and sound.
I like it when someone takes something as simple as a box and turns it into a HiFi system that visually looks great, and seems to be very adaptable in terms of interior design/setting. Loewe seems to have achieved this with their SoundBox, in addition to packing it with features like CD player (for that old school feel), FM radio, and alarm functionality, to go along with the docking station itself. Inside the SoundBox there are two 4-inch full range speakers and two digital stereo amplifiers, providing a reported 2 x 15W RMS.
My only possible issue with the Loewe SoundBox, and i will not know if that is a real issue until i get a chance to listen to it, but the price at around £450 seems a bit steep for a speaker dock that does not have AirPlay or DAB, considering there are some strong competitors in that market that packs more power than the SoundBox as well.
2. JBL OnBeat Xtreme
JBL also used IFA 2011 to announce some new products, including their new OnBeat Air AirPlay speaker, but also a more traditional speaker dock in the OnBeat Xtreme, which in addition to support docking of all iOS devices, including the iPad, also has built in support for bluetooth streaming, making it an option for owners of None-Apple devices.
Featuring a rotating docking station that allows you to have your iOS device in either landscape or portrait mode, the OnBeat Xtreme is definitely geared towards the iPad owners out there as an iPhone or iPod Touch can easily look a bit lost compared to the system. There is also an integrated speakerphone, allowing you to make and receive calls while your iOS device is docked with the system, and there is line-in for connecting other music sources and USB socket.
The JBL OnBeat Xtreme is set for an October release with a likely price tag around £500, putting it into a very competitive market.
3. Onkyo iOnly Play (ABX-100)
The Onkyo iOnly Play is part of a series of speaker docks that also will feature the iOnly Bass and iOnly Stream, the last one expected to be an AirPlay speaker, but that is yet to be confirmed.
Onkyo has definitely gone for the clean style factor with its iOnly Play iPod speaker dock, a system that is in black and brushed metal, including the sliding door at the top that reveals the docking station for your iPod / iPhone, and the solid metal foot that the system stands on. Based on the images i have seen you get the feel that this is a high class speaker dock and not just another standard speaker dock, which there are plenty off in the market already, so Onkyo have at least succeeded in grabbing my attention. The tree-mode underside illumination sounds like a nice feature as well, but will have to wait until i have tested the system before i can make any statements about it. Functions are found at the top next to the dock and are all touch based. In terms of audio performance the system features twin 6cm full range bass reflex speakers working alongside the Onkyo power amplifier, providing a total output of 20W (10W x 10W). Proper tone controls and an active bass should help ensure an optimized sound picture for the system.
The Onkyo iOnly Play should be available in October with a price point around £250 based on information currently available.
4. Revo K2 iOS radio dock
Scottish digial radio producer Revo has also been at IFA 2011 presenting their latest product in the Revo K2 digital radio dock.
Revo has this time gone for the tower approach , allowing support for all iOS devices to be docked from the motorized docking station at the bottom of the K2 tower. The K2 is however much more than just a standard iPod speaker dock, as it also features DAB/DAB+, FM RDS tuner, internet radio, and streaming from your home network through its built-in ethernet and Wi-Fi network connection. Inside the 33cm tall K2 tower they have also been able to fit twin Class D amplifiers with total of 40W output power, fueling the four 5.8cm square balanced HiWave mode radiator full range drivers with bass tuning via a reflex port at the back of the unit.
The Revo K2 is expected out in mid-October and will retail at around £299.
So even if these systems lack AirPlay streaming capabilities, they make for some interesting alternatives for those of us in the market for a new iPod speaker dock in the coming months.
I hope to be back with more details and hands-on reviews of these systems in the coming months, but in the meantime you can compare the details agains some of the best iPod speaker docks in the market currently.