- Created on 20 June 2010
The majority of small format speakers with iPod docking functionality tend to be either small with low power output or part of larger speaker systems, there haven't seemed to be any happy mediums with a reasonably powerful output coupled with small form factor - until now!
The latest addition to the View Quest catalogue, the Sonicdock iPod dock is something of an eye opener in more than one sense. The speaker uses a novel technology - Terfenol-D (first developed by the US Navy for use in sonar equipment), to turn any solid surface into an audio "vibrational" speaker. The Terfinaol-D material "is placed within an aluminium case and a coil wrapped around it. When electricity is passed through the coil the Terfinol expands slightly creating a massive force of 400 pounds. When it's attached to a flat surface it transmits electronic signals into mechanical energy causing the flat surface to vibrate and broadcast the sound" (or so the advertising states!) - pretty impressive stuff and certainly different to any speaker we have had the opportunity to review so far.
The physical speaker itself belies the capabilities of the device as a speaker, looking more like a simple iPod/iPhone docking stand than a speaker system. The dome shaped base measures only ~10cm in diameter with a strong hinged component that is attached to the dock itself: the hinge allows the attached mp3 player to be orientated in any number of ways to suit your viewing position. The whole device looks very stylish and perfectly complements the typical Apple minimalistic design of the iPod and iPhone series with a shiny white gloss finish and silver detailing.
The speaker either directly interacts with any docked iPod/iPhone through a standard interface (various swappable baseplates are included to accommodate all variants on the iPod/iPhone theme) which also allows charging of the connected device, and additionally other sound sources can be connected through the aux input at the rear of the unit using the supplied 3.5mm cable. There is a simple manual volume control located on the right of the domed base alongside a simple blue power LED.
Using the Sonicdock is really simple and since the unit so small it can be located on any firm flat surface where there is space. We tested the device on a series of surfaces ranging from cardboard boxes through to solid work surfaces and the device functioned on all of them. In our experience, though, the sound quality and definition improved with each progressive increase in the solidity of the surface, with the speaker functioning well on every table we used. The speaker is capable of 12W of output power, which is more than capable of filling a room with music. We heard little distortion on harder surfaces even at maximum volume, although since the sound is driven by vibrating the surface it is in contact with, the surfaces could be felt to vibrate quite significantly as well as any objects or surface in contact with them at higher volumes!
The sound quality (although being mono) is truely impressive given the footprint of the speaker and bass, mid and treble ranges were all well produced on the firmer surfaces brilliantly. Even on the less firm surfaces (cardboard boxes) the speaker gave a reasonable reproduction of any music we played, with thumping bass and clear treble in all tests. As we have mentioned, the speaker is mono, however, the majority of small format speakers are also mono, or if stereo, the distance between the speakers is so small so as to make very little difference on the resulting soundscape.
The View Quest Sonicdock has to be the most innovative iPod/iPhone dock speaker we have reviewed to date with excellent sound quality and a reasonable power output, all wrapped up in a small form. Retailing for between £40-50 (at the time of writing) it represents excellent value for money as well. We just wonder when we will see a portable version!
Amazon: View Quest SONICDOCK iPod Dock with Vibration Speaker