“You may be thinking “another dock for the iPod/iPhone?” — this phrase perfectly describes the iPod/iPhone accessory market today. It is pretty filled up and competition is literally neck-to-neck between companies that would want to cash in on the gadget that we all know and love. So comes another company, Audyssey, known for their audio technologies used in theaters, enters the line of consumer electronics accessories with their Apple-compatible products. This time, we’re presenting the South of Market Edition Audio Dock. Named after the urban community along the San Francisco area where a paradox of artist lofts and graffiti, tech start-ups, good food and good music converge, this product promises to bring that atmosphere and spirit every time you hookup your favorite music player and pump the volume up. Does it live up to that promise? Find out in the following comprehensive review of the Audyssey South of Market Edition Audio Dock.
Unboxing & Presentation
The dock comes in a large packaging that’s complete with it’s own handle at the top — that would give you an idea that you’ll be carrying one heavy dock inside. It has the name of the product written on all sides with the accompanying promotional pictures that you’ve more or less seen elsewhere. Taking the back side, you’ll get a little explanation of what “South of Market” is and why it inspired this dock, as well as the product’s key features and accessories.
Opening the tabs at the top would reveal the dock itself enclosed with foam to protect it upon handling and a silver box labelled “Accessories” (it would be pretty obvious at this point as to what that little box contains). Removing the top foam will reveal the dock itself wrapped in protective plastic covering but you could clearly see the black silhouette that the dock makes.
Removing everything in their respective packaging, you should expect the dock itself, a remote control, a power cable and two 3.5mm audio cables. Let’s talk about the dock for a second here, despite being in a small package, this piece of hardware weighs heavier than it looks. And let’s not forget that the whole sides of this thing are comprised of the stereo speakers. How will that sound? Let’s find out in the review proper.
- Wireless Music – Undock your iPhone to text or email and the music never stops. The South of Market Audio Dock features Bluetooth® technology, so you can stream music wirelessly from any Bluetooth-enabled device.
- Compact Design – Most iPod docks are too wide and awkward to fit where you want them. But at just 5 inches wide and 9 inches deep, The South of Market Audio Dock is the perfect size for your desk, kitchen or bedside table.
- Part Speakerphone – Feel free to talk. Dual microphones and voice-processing algorithms improve voice pickup quality to ensure that calls are clear and echo-free, even if your phone is undocked. It even works with GoToMeeting or Skype.
- Part Computer Speaker – It’s the only dock that doubles as a desktop speaker. Charge your iPhone or iPod, sync to iTunes via USB, or use the audio input to play music and video from your computer.
Features – Unbelievable Sound
Yup, the sound has it’s own features section. Given that Audyssey has placed a lot of their audio technologies in this dock, you’ll be in for an unbelievable sound experience when you hook this up. You’ll get a better idea of what these technologies are in the specifications section. In the mean time, this is how they describe your listening experience.
- A smarter speaker – The South of Market Audio Dock is powered by DSP, a chip inside that runs our patented software to enhance and improve hardware performance. That means we can optimize the sound in ways that others simply can’t.
- Perfectly balanced tone – Audyssey EQ technology ensures rich and balanced sound so you can hear every musical detail: low bass, warm mids and crisp highs.
- Deeper bass – Most docks simply make certain bass frequencies louder. Our bass extension technology, BassXT, takes bass deeper. It redefines the approach to low frequencies, providing more accurate bass reproduction, deeper than anything else this size.
- Louder without distortion – Four separate amplifiers power our custom designed speakers for incredibly loud volume. Plus, our technologies intelligently improve performance, pushing speakers to the limit without compromising sound quality.
- Better for low listening – Turn it down without sacrificing sonic quality. Dynamic EQ technology maintains balanced sound at low volumes where other docks lose bass and clarity.
- Consistent Volume – No more ups and downs. Enable Dynamic Volume on the iPhone App and maintain consistent levels from song to song. Turn on the “Background Listening” mode for perfect dinner conversation music.
As we’ve said earlier, don’t let the compact size fool you. This is one beefed up dock. It has an overall matte-black finish that goes around the center spine area. This same area also has a single play/pause button that isn’t really button as there’s no physical protrusions that one would expect from such. Going to the front area, there’s a light-up volume indicator that changes whether you increase or decrease the volume. Going further down, there’s a little microphone that facilitate the docks capability to act as a speaker phone when you connect an iPhone to it. On the bottom section of the dock is the Apple connector that, you’ve guessed it, allows you to connect an iPhone/iPod to it. The connector piece also has the Audyssey logo embossed in red as well as the volume controls. Press the left side to decrease, the right hand side to increase it and to mute the dock, just press the center part.
As for the speaker setup itself, each side has a 4-inch subwoofer and a 3/4-inch tweeter. This is in turn enclosed in a black grill that compliments the overall look of the dock. Given that the speakers are placed literally at the sides of the dock, you must place it on a certain angle that would maximize the bi-directional nature of the outgoing sounds.
A little touch they’ve provided here is an iPhone support made of rubbery material that’s placed right below the microphone. Given the way that the device is connected to the dock, the connector piece may eventually undergo stress if it weren’t for the little support piece that they’ve placed there. Again, a very small piece, but a very nice touch for Audyssey’s part at the same time.
Taking a rear view will reveal some hints of the other functionalities that this dock has. First and foremost, you have an AC outlet plug — we can’t run without that one. Above it is a switch — we also can’t run without that one. Just beside the AC outlet is a mini USB port as well as an LED indicator above it. Then further upward, there are two jacks both for microphone and headphone input. Above the ports section is a button that seems to be like an interface between another device and a dock. Then going further above is another button that clearly has Bluetooth-related functionality as depicted by the logo beside it. More on these additional buttons in the review proper.
- Two 4-inch woofers
- Two .75-inch tweeters
- Four separate amplifiers
- Active crossovers with bi-amplification
- 30-pin dock connector
- Bluetooth® (A2DP)
- 3.5 mm line input
- 3.5 mm microphone output (VoIP)
- USB 2.0
- Width: 5 inches / 13 cm
- Depth: 9 inches / 23 cm
- Height: 9 inches / 23 cm
Given their experience in audio engineering and research, Audyssey has placed a few notable audio technologies onto this audio dock to provide the best experience you can get in a small package. Here are those technologies:
- Audyssey BassXT – The only technology that can extend the response of small speakers to reproduce the lowest frequencies. The result is extraordinarily deep bass you typically only expect from large subwoofers.
- Audyssey Dynamic Voice – Delivers clear, natural and intelligible voice communication. It uses microphone array processing to reduce background noise and echo cancellation to improve sound quality of phone calls.
- Audyssey EQ – Provides accurate musical balance, vocals and soundstage. Fine-tunes and calibrates the speakers for optimal sound.
- Audyssey Dynamic EQ – Maintains bass and rich sound at low volumes. Continuously monitors your content to make vocals intelligible and background detail clear at low volumes.
- Audyssey Dynamic Volume – Automatically controls the volume level so no content gets too loud or too soft. For movies, audio books and vocals it makes voices much more clear and understandable. For music listening, it maintains a consistent level, eliminating the need for constant volume adjustments.
- Audyssey Tilt – A convenient single control that allows you to tilt the balance to more highs or more lows. Audyssey developed this new technology and it makes its debut in the Audio Dock.
- Audyssey Fast Slope Tone – Allows you to adjust treble and bass using a newly developed method that minimizes interactions to give you better control over just the bass or just the treble.
Let’s start this review by tackling how the dock performs as it is marketed — as an iPod/iPhone 4 dock. As with other products of the same kind, you just simply plug your Apple device and you’re ready. Given the compatibility of this dock to most Apple products, this shouldn’t pose a problem whether you have an iPhone 4 or an iPod Touch or even an iPod Nano. It all goes down to the difference provided by Audyssey’s own custom app, but we’ll get to that later.
You can start using the dock with a simple tap on the top portion that has the play icon. Once tapped it lights up, signifying that there’s a song playing (if you couldn’t hear the dock itself producing sound.) and you can always tap it again to pause the current track. As mentioned earlier, volume is adjusted through the button located at the embossed Audyssey logo at the front and another indicator lights up signifying that there’s a change in volume. Nothing too fancy but a nice touch nonetheless.
Let’s not forget that the dock also includes a remote control that has the basic functions like skipping to the next song, play, pause and the speaker phone controls among others. However, a remote like this is often lost due to some mishandling. Audyssey thought of a little trick to solve that — as the remote can stick to the speaker grills through magnets. That’s right, you can just hang the remote anywhere along the two speakers and you won’t lose them.
As for the sound itself, let’s take into consideration that it comes out of the sides of the dock, giving a great stereo environment. The speakers themselves are a pair of subwoofers and tweeters, with one of which at a side. Playing your selection of music will be a great experience with this dock as it provides the perfect mix of deep bass and clear highs. Whether you’re listening to a classical piece of something out of the clubbing scene, the dock clearly reproduces those beats that would keep you going, no problems there.
Now, you can further tweak the sound output of the dock through the custom app that Audyssey has as an available download from iTunes. The app basically has the options to control the following: “Dynamic Volume”, “Tone Controls” and “Custom EQ”. Dynamic Volume let’s you normalize the overall volume of the tracks so that there’s no piece that will suddenly get too loud or too soft, you’ll get a consistent volume level in what you’re playing. Tone Controls provide further changes of the sound output to your preference. It can control as to whether the dock will give emphasis on the highs and not on the lows and vice versa. You can even manually amplify the Bass/Treble levels per dB is you’d wish. Finally is the Custom EQ where you’re presented a frequency response curve to which you can place points where you can adjust how the dock will interpret sounds on those particular frequencies. From these controls alone, we can definitely see that this dock has it’s eyes targeted on the audiophile, as the usual user would have confusion on how these controls affect the sound quality.
This time around, let’s get to the other functions of the dock — first as an external speaker using the built-in 3.5mm jacks. With this connection, you can basically turn the dock into a fully working speaker. Whether you’re connecting it to your computer or any other source that uses a compatible connector, the dock will faithfully reproduce those sounds. And as an added bonus, the package comes with two 3.5mm connector cables that you can use to whatever connection you choose.
Looking at the back portion of the dock reveals a Bluetooth button on top. This is used to trigger the Bluetooth functionality that let’s you use the dock as a wireless speaker or as a wireless speaker phone. For use as a Bluetooth speaker, making the connection may be fiddly at first but once you get the process, it is easy. You just have to pair the dock with your device through Bluetooth (and setting the audio output of the device to the Bluetooth device) and you have a wireless dock right there. Consequently, once your device is paired to the dock, the device will default its call functionalities to the dock — making outgoing calls through the built-in microphones in the front and the rear and listening to the other party through the large speakers. If during the call you wanted to transfer the call to your phone, just phone button on the remote and your call is now on the phone. All of these are practical functionalities which are only limited by the allowable Bluetooth range, but nevertheless a great execution of a concept.
What more can we say? The South of Market Edition Audio Dock really brings in the environment it tries to mimic right in the comfort of your home. And don’t let the small package fool you as this dock packs a good punch both in the sound and functionality department. The sounds alone makes this one a good purchase. With regards to all the Bluetooth-related functionality, it’s all good as it delivers where it should. However, if you’re thinking of purchasing the South of Market Audio Dock simply because of that, you may want to think twice as there are many AirPlay devices out there that does more or less the same thing. But overall, if you’re an audiophile that would really want to get the bang out of our buck (and that’s $399 right there), then Audyssey’s dock isn’t a bad purchase to consider. With all the audio technology they’ve packed in to this package, that alone makes this one a worthy buy.