Docks this size have a tendency to make the most powerful music sound like it’s being played by a rodent four-piece in a baked bean tin. The Soundfreaq Sound Step Recharge dodges that pitfall and looks pretty tidy with it, so we decided to investigate further.
The mouse that woofed
What we have is a rechargeable dock that could in theory go for up to six hours on a single charge, although that’s going take a dive if you listen at any substantial volume. And it does do substantial volume. It even makes a stab at reproducing bass, although it’s not quite sure what to do with it – some tracks will sound quite meaty but with others you’ll find the bottom end just isn’t there. Not that you’d expect a whole lot of bass from something that’s only a bit longer than a ruler (and don’t pretend you don’t know how long a ruler is).
At lower volumes there’s enough control to deliver most types of music with clarity, although it’s only when you turn on the “U-Cubed” effect that things come to life. This widens the stereo image and adds brightness, but also muddles up a touch and introduces some hotspots in the midrange and upper frequencies.
Rock but don’t dock
So it won’t blow your earwax away but as a casual listening companion the Soundfreaq has the tools for the job. It’s Made For iPhone with a dock for Apple gear, although iPad users are limited to portrait orientation.
However, the supplied remote is one of those horrible flat blister types, so in most situations you’ll be better off using it wirelessly via Bluetooth. A free iOS app can be used to control the Soundfreaq’s input selector and volume controls, as well as choosing tracks, but again you’d be better off just using the far superior iTunes app.
Bluetooth for all
Non-Apple gear can be paired with Bluetooth and sounds just about as good as a docked iThing. There’s also a 3.5mm input, a handy USB port for charging other gadgets when it’s plugged into the mains, and a composite video output for watching iThing videos on a TV.
Gardener’s podcast time
Imagine this in your kitchen, the shed or out in the garden while you deadhead the dahlias and it makes sense. You could save some money and get a smaller dock but you’re likely to be disappointed by the sound of most sub-£100 options.
We’re not talking about a main system for an expansive loft apartment here, so let’s not get too hung up on those sonic imperfections. It sounds fine, looks smart and has just about all the features you’d ask of a portable dock, and while it’s no bargain it ain’t bad for the money