With the iPod dock market more overcrowded than the Northern line at rush hour, Gear4 has sensibly made its latest contender, the Duo, stand out from the crowd. Its special talent is simple – it’s not one iPod dock, but two. Pull the fascia away from the actual dock and you have a slimline, portable dock with a rechargeable battery.
Perhaps as a result of this invention the Duo finds itself somewhere between sub-£100 portable iPod speaker docks and the more expensive, sonically superior, B&W Zeppelins of this world.
In terms of build quality and design, it’s fair to say the Duo has the most in common with the budget iPod docks. As one unit it’s fairly bulky and the sub unit feels heavy on plastic and light on style. The front half of the Duo also sits fairly loosely attached to the unit – the actual dock in which your iPod sits always feels rather precarious.
This is all a touch underwhelming for the £150 asking price. In terms of specification the Gear4 has the all-important fully functional remote control, capable of controlling all your iPod’s menus. Inside the box the rear sub unit is packing some 20 watts of power, while another 18 watts of power are split across the stereo speakers. There’s also an aux line-in input for other MP3 players.
In ‘large’ form, with both units attached, the Duo is a mains-powered, bulky proposition, but the most noticeable facet of the sound is the bright treble. Cymbals and snares won’t quite have you wincing, but it’s certainly an edgy listen that quickly becomes tiring with time.
This had us worried – if it sounds like this with the sub attached, how will it cope in ‘portable’ mode? Having detached the dock unit and propped the slab up on its stand we found that, surprisingly, the portable version of the Duo doesn’t sound as bright and edgy as we had feared.
It’s clearly lacking in bass and general solidity to the sound, but it’s not quite a wasp in jar. Sadly, while it is more portable than the Gear4 Duo as a whole, it won’t exactly fit in your pocket – it’s more of a manbag-dweller.
This leaves the Gear4 stranded in no man’s land. Held back by both its price and sound quality, it’s neither impressive enough sonically to warrant the extra cash, or cheap enough to have us turn a blind eye to the sound failing. While innovative and certainly a useful option for some, the Duo may struggle to find one home, let alone two.
A genuinely innovative approach to the iPod dock, but let down by its price and sonic performance