GEAR4 AlarmDock Halo iPod review: iPod dock around the clock

GEAR4 offered us the chance to spend a few nights with their new AlarmDock Halo speaker docking station. How could we say no?

The UK-based audio brand have release a relatively stylish little iPod dock that doubles up as an alarm clock. Small enough to fit on a bedside table the Halo has a little LCD clock just above your iPod and a big old fashioned snooze button just on top of that. The white plastic finish reminded me of iPods of yesteryear and the curved design goes beyond functional.

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The sound quality from the dock was decent. Whilst lacking in room-filling bass it managed to subtly boost audio to acceptable levels for what is a bedroom-based device. As a living room dock it would average, but for day and night time listening in the bedroom the Halo, which has a built in subwoofer, displayed a relatively robust performance. There is a supplied remote that deals with volume and song playback. It’s a nice and click but a little bit hard to read in the dark – a little frustrating as I spent a lot of time using the unit in the very late or very early hours.

As any reader of this site should know, decent iPod docks are in no short supply. What makes the Halo special is the alarm dock functionality they have included thanks to the SmartDock app that “unlocks” additional functionality – or provides a more appealing way to access it. Installing the app from the walled garden is simple, and syncing is easy – just plug your iDevice in. You can set alarms on the device or on your iPod and they will sync on connection.

The Halo comes with a built in FM radio and has a little aerial out the back for reception. The SmartDock app has an autoscan function that makes tuning easy, and there is a fine tune option if you have signal problems. You can also control iTunes from within the dock, which is nice if you want to set some music to fall asleep to – or indeed a play list to wake up with. If you set music to sleep mode the volume will slowly decrease until the unit switches itself off, which was handy for obvious reasons.

The £99.99 dock should be yours to buy in shops from November.

Edifier Breathe iPod dock review

A quick glance at my inbox will tell you that the iPod dock market is over saturated, with manufacturers pumping out different varieties of iAccessory faster than we can review them. Some choose to differentiate themselves by feature-set, others by design and some compete on price alone.

Edifier-Breathe

At £169 the Edifier Breathe is far from cheap. Weighing in at 5 kg, the unit has a certain amount of heft to it and feels solidly constructed. The sparse play-skip-volume button-set on the front makes it abundantly clear that this is a no-nonsense device, with a limited or focused feature set depending on your point of view.

The unique qualities of the Breathe therefore are its design and sound. Moving away from the classic boom-box style design of most iPod docks, the Breathe has, what pretty much every review I’ve seen, including this one, is calling an eggshell design. It looks a little odd … but strangely seemed to work on one of my living room tables and also in the kitchen. People would comment on this. Depending on your taste this is a good or bad thing.

The supplied remote is an odd puck-shaped device that is a little too basic for my liking. Navigation is done via the a menu button and arrow keys – in a style reminiscent of the iPod classic – but it’s almost impossible to navigate without looking directly at the screen of the iPod. It’s also directly line of sight – which can make it a touch fiddly. It’s also very easy to place your finger over the infra-red sensor, blocking remote signals.

Most importantly of course is the sound quality. Audiophiles will be disappointed, but disappointment is intrinsic to their existence so that’s not a massive criticism. The Breathe promises room-filling sound – and more or less delivers on this. For something that is relatively, small it has a pretty impressive bass punch and would be fine for a small room, student digs or a living room. It is also incredibly straight forward to use, with an almost idiot proof button set.

If the feature-packed trappings of other docks leave you cold – not everyone wishes to use DAB or stream over DLNA – then the Breathe’s combination of simplicity and reasonably impressive sound should be up your alley. Minor quibbles about the remote aside, if you like the look of the Edifier Breathe, then it is definitely worth taking a listen.

Intempo RDI-02 iPod dock: Apple rumble

Steve Jobs once stood up and said, “an iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator. These are not three separate devices. This is one device.” And in a single act of technological convergence, Apple changed the face of the mobile phone industry. The developers at Intempo also believe in uniting functionality, which is why they made the RDI iPhone dock with built-in DAB radio. And then, again like Apple, they made a newer version that blew the old one away – the RDI-02.

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The built-in DAB radio is the key difference between an Intempo RDI-02 and a normal iPod dock. Intempo has been pushing DAB technology from the very start, and its advanced digital radios have filled houses around the UK for years.

It also means that they’re experts at packing a lot of sound from a very small space, which is what they’ve improved on over the RDI-01. Despite retaining the same, compact form, the engineers at Intempo have managed to squeeze in speakers that produce a huge 50 watts. The output comes from two mid-range speakers, accompanied by a bass-boosting sub-woofer.
While no-one has had a chance to play with one yet, CNET’s review of the older model seems like a fair summary of the Intempo sound: “

On the whole, sound quality’s pretty good for the price. Although a little heavy in the high-end, audio is well-driven and volume booms up to a good level. A little acoustic rock from Dashboard Confessional highlighted the RDI’s bright sound, but also that it offers enough oomph to give the floor a bit of a rumble.”

With the RDI-02’s bigger output (up from the 30 watts of the previous model), that “bit of a rumble” is sure to be more far more earth-shaking than before.

The other major upgrade is on the controls. Gone are the buttons of yester-year (another thing Apple helped innovate away), replaced by a touch-panel. This not only makes the piano black device more attractive, but it also feels more futuristic.
There’s a remote control (with 23 buttons, so much touch-panel there), letting you remotely change even the most nitty-gritty settings like treble and bass. It also includes a menu key to access all of your iPod settings and playlists, as well as up to 16 radio presets.

Our personal favourite touch, however, is the alarm clock. You can choose to wake up to a traditional buzzer, the radio or, and this is the best part, your favourite tunes from your iPod. Personally, we recommend recording an MP3 of a loved one gently whispering in your ear, ala Cameron Diaz in Vanilla Sky.

The DAB and FM radio itself has all the functions you’d expect from a brand like Intempo. There’s a pretty decent autoscan, and a simple button for switching between DAB or FM – as well as the iPod speaker dock. If your iPod or iPhone is away on leave, you can tuck the pull-out dock away to leave an almost seamless-looking radio.

If you are an iPhone user, it’ll even let you answer your phone while rocking out, automatically cutting in to a song when you receive a call. And if you’re not an Apple user at all, there is also an AUX-IN port for plugging in other audio devices via the 3.5mm mini-jack.

Altec Lansing Octiv 202 iPod dock and Expressionist Ultra PC speakers

LatestGadgets were invited to see the best products Altec Lansing have to offer and they definitely delivered. Altec Lansing is known for their high quality audio products. They were the first to provide speakers for cinemas with ‘Voice of the Theatre’ and the first to release an iPod audio dock. So it is safe to say they know what they are talking about. Here’s the best of what they have to offer.

Altec-Lansing

Altec Lansing gave us a peek at the Octiv 202 which is a dual-dock iPod speaker system, ideal for multi iPod/iPhone households. It has a 3rd USB charging port for an extra device if you need it. What differentiates from the army of iPod docks out there is the Music Mix app which comes with it. The app allows you to shuffle through all your music from both devices. An interesting feature of the app is the ability to control the percentage of music played from each device. The Alarm Rock app allows you set an alarm and will wake you up to your music and customize it with themes. The magnetic remote will never get lost as it has storage it the back where it magnetically holds on. It is made to fit a corner as it has small footprint. If you are after a space-saving dual dock, the Octiv 202 should be on your list. Available now for £79.99 from PC World and all good retailers.

Looking at Altec’s PC speakers, we liked the flagship model, Expressionist Ultra. The 2.1 speaker system comprises two 3inch midrange speakers, two 1 inch high frequency neodymium drivers and a 6.5 inch long-throw subwoofer. The system pumps out a whopping 200 watts. The subwoofer is huge so not for people short of space. A useful addition is the desktop controller which can switch the system on and off and control the volume, bass and treble. It has a headphone jack when you want to play music without having your neighbours bang down your door. The system is for gaming and music audio but can easily be connected to your TV. Available from Amazon from £220 here.

For audio on the move, Altec revealed the Muzx Ultra earphones, part of the Muzx DNA range. The earphones feature balanced armature technology giving you high definition audio. An inline remote and mic allows control of your device. The Muzx Ultra earphones are made with the SnugFit design to ensure noise isolation and comfort. A 8-piece fit kit with silicone tips come in different sizes including small, medium, large and dual-flange to ensure a good fit for you. Available from selected retailers now. Check out a more in depth review here.

Pioneer XW-NAC3 review: Twice as nice

Latest Gadgets had a chance to test Pioneer’s latest addition to the KODO range, the Pioneer XW-NAC3. It packs a lot of nifty features in, which makes it stand out in a very, very crowded market. The most notable feature is the dual docks enabling you to charge an iPhone and an iPod at the same time. So for households with multiple iPhones this speaker dock will be useful. Using the shuffle feature you can playback music from both devices and share libraries – great for DJ-ing at parties.

Pioneer-Kodo-review

For all the music lovers, the sound quality is impressive with its full spectrum audio speakers and passive radiators. It offers powerful bass, almost enough to deafen your neighbours. You can connect using the built-in bluetooth so you have no need for an adaptor. What is also impressive is that it uses sound retriever AIR to restore sound quality after bluetooth transmission providing a full, deep sound.

The KODO XW-NAC3 includes built-in internet radio and it is DLNA compliant to enable you to play music stored on your computer. It also has a composite video output enabling content to be played back on your TV. For convenience, it has a credit card sized remote control. You can change the playlist and album playing with a click on the button on the remote. The LCD display is bright and clear and will show the artist name and song name while playing. The display shows a LED clock with a wake-up and sleep function.

Comparing the Pioneer KODO XW-NAC3 to its competitors, it has some unique features. The only thing it is missing is Wi-Fi. For wireless streaming, you might consider the Revo IKON, although it only has a single dock.

The newest addition complements the KODO range and joins it sister dock, the wall-mounted Pioneer XW-NAW1. The Pioneer KODO XW-NAC3 is a high-end dock with lots of features to provide convenient access to your music library. It is available from Amazon from £294

TWIG: Green Screen Kit, Edifier iPod Dock, VHS MAGIX and the James Dyson Award

The Week in Gadgets

It’s becoming easier and easier to produce and share content online – good quality cameras cost a fraction of what they used to, decent editing packages can be had at low-to-no cost and you can distribute your masterpieces online for free. If you want to take your creative photos and videos to the next level you might want to take a look at Westcott’s Green Screen Kit. Green Screening is a visual FX technique for creating compositing effects. Basically you stand your subjects in front of a solid colour background and photo or film them. Then you remove the background and replace it with a background of your choosing – a Parisian café, an underwater kingdom or an explosion.

green-screen-box-kit

The Green Screen Kit provides you with a 5’ by 7’ green screen (and some wall hooks) so you can shoot your subject (little tip – keep them well lit if you can as this helps when pulling a clean key). The Green Screen is bundled with some PhotoKey Lite software, for one-click keys – no fussing about with garbage mattes and the like. The software works surprisingly well for a £69.99 bundled package. For someone used to working on high-end packages like Shake and fiddling with node based chroma keys, the software is a little on the simple side. However, it is amazingly easy to use and for people starting out with visual effects – or hoping to add a little something to their homemovies or YouTube videos there is a lot to like – including 100 pre-packaged digital backgrounds and the ability to add your own.

Edifer, makers of the Soundbar which we cast our watchful eye over here and the opera house-shaped Prisma which we reviewed here are back with the Breathe iF600. New iPod docks are a weekly happening in my inbox, so it’s a testament to the Edifier design team that I raised an eyebrow when I saw the Breathe’s dome like design, which literally caught my eye. Moving away from the classic boombox-style that most iPod docks seem to go for, the Breathe looks a little like the top half of an eggshell. Replete with control buttons, an Aux input (if you have a non iDevice PMP) and a Music Pause function that automatically detects when a call is incoming on your iPhone. On sale now at John Lewis for £169.

As someone old enough to remember and own VHS tapes, the MAGIX Rescue Your Videotapes system is a godsend. I have an old VCR kept in reserve just in case I ever want to watch some of my rare VHS-only films, TV shows I taped off air or home movies. MAGIX rescues my dusty tapes and puts them somewhere useful – my hard drive. An end-to-end solution, magic comes with all the cables you need to hook your VCR or old-fashioned camcorder into your PC. It also has digitization software that enables you to store the compressed files on your hard drive, burn them to DVD or share them to online sites such as YouTube or Vimeo, holding your hand through each step of the way. MAGIX Rescue Your Videotapes 3.0 is available from Amazon and PC world for £59.99

This Tuesday the international winner of the James Dyson Award will be announced. They received over 500 entries, which have been whittled down to 15. Dyson sent us this little video of the finalists and we thought you gadget fans might like to check it out. Our favourites include the Butterfly mobile, micro scooter, Move-it, a cardboard box to trolley convertor and Wanderest, a portable seat you can strap to lamp posts. Check it out.

Versatile and stylish – Pioneer’s KODO XW-NAW1 iPod wall mounted speaker system

As we mentioned in our feature on the best iPod docks due to high consumer demand, competition to produce the very highest of quality iPod speaker systems is hastily gathering speed. Born from this surge in spiritedness Pioneer GB has launched an exciting new addition to its KODO range of iPod speaker systems – the KODO XW-NAW1.

KODO-XW-NAW1

In the same way TV wall brackets deliver the luxury of being able to hang a flat screen television on the wall, the KODO XW-NAW1 is a wall-mounted iPod speaker system; ensuring quality sound can be pumped out in any room without requiring precious shelf space.

Being just 83mm thick, black and elegant, by either mounting the KODO XW-NAW1 to the wall or transporting it with you and resting it on its own stand, it the will add a touch of glamour to wherever this speaker system is positioned. In keeping with its attractive exterior, the KODO XW-NAW1 is controlled by several blue illuminated touch sensors. Although if having to wearily reach up to crank the volume up a notch or two sounds like too much of a burden, an infra red remote is provided so users can control their digital music collection at their leisure.

Analogous to its elegant appearance, the quality of the sound the KODO XW-NAW1 produces will not disappoint – according to Pioneer. With a two-way 30W stereo speaker with neodymium tweetermagnets, Pioneer claim its latest iPod speaker system delivers “rich, powerful and outstanding” sound. For the less audio-technological-terminology-minded among us, we ask ourselves what the hell are neodymium tweetermagnets? After a few minutes research on Google, I learn that neodymium tweetermagnets are compact high efficiency dome tweeters with extended frequency response. Although this sheds little light and I am still a little confused of their function, I am later informed there is nothing new or revolutionary about neodymium technology and it is a common material for producing magnets.

Despite the fact the impressive techno terminology Pioneer uses to describe its new product is slated by some for being unoriginal and incapable of ‘razing a building’, I am reassured that neodymium tweetermagnets and the KODO XW-NAW1 produces high-quality sound. Although producing premium sounding music is not the only trait of this speaker system. A component video output is also at hand for outputting video from an iPod or iPhone to a television. An additional asset of the XW-NAW1 is that can charge any docked iPhone or iPod.

From September onwards you’ll be able to see whether this versatile and stylish iPod docking device, which uses neodymium tweetermagnets and can conveniently accommodate any living space, is worth its hefty £199 price tag.

Pump up the volume with the best iPod docks around

As ghetto blasters and stereo players are being rapidly ditched for iPods and iPhones, with their aesthetical attributes and sound clarity, iPod docks are becoming quite competitive in the world of gadgets. Latest Gadgets looks at five of the best of these musical pedestals, which have become an important fixture in many a home.

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Philips Fidelio DS900
Built out of natural wood and with a back curved for better sound, Philips Fidelio DS900 is a striking looking iPod dock, which produces equally as striking sound. Compared to conventional analogue audio processing technology, the Fidelio DS900 uses Advanced PureDigital sound, which provides for a vastly superior sound. Its smooth edges and precisely tuned bass pipes produce an authentic and quality sound reproduction. Possessing a proximity sensor to activate backlit control panel and with a Fidelio iPhone/iPod app available to ‘tweak’ the sound, the Phillips Fidelio DS900 can only be described as the crème-de-la-crème of iPod docks. Although at £399, it is likely only the more ‘well heeled’ of music lovers will be able to enjoy the many qualities this top-notch device has to offer.

Intempo Arena iPod Speaker Dock
Whilst it might not be quite as visually stunning as the Fidelio DS900, the Arena iPod Speaker Dock has a much more realistic price tag of £69.99 and comes fully equipped with innovative features and technology. Touch screen technology has now moved into the realms of iPod docks, as the Arena has a fabulous touch screen. With powerful, 12 watt speakers, FM radio with digital tuner, a fully functional remote control, contained within a sleek and compact design, the Intempo Arena iPod Speaker Dock is a realistic and well-relished accompaniment for any party.

iLuv iMM190 Alarm Dock
A small circular dock, large enough to accommodate your iPhone in landscape or portrait orientation, the best feature of the iLuv dock is the free Alarm Clock app that comes with it, transforming your phone into an old school clock display with additional weather information. And of course you can run your regular apps, even routing the mic through the one built-in to the dock for VoIP apps such as Skype. It’s also pretty reasonably priced at approximately £70.

Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere 2
Priced at a mid of the range £137 (approximately), the Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere 2 (pictured) certainly lives up to its name, as perhaps its greatest asset, is that being highly compact, you can take this iPod speaker dock quite literally anywhere. Combining 5.1 cm and 7.6cm pressure drivers, the Pure-Fi Anywhere 2 creates crystal-clear sound and a surprisingly deep bass.

Fidek iBigBoy 2
A million miles from the graceful and elegant qualities of most modern music docking systems, the Fidek iBigBoy 2 will not slot neatly beside the television and, as the name suggests, means business. This sizeable unit weighs over 24 kg and has a maximum power of 500W. Like many of its smaller counterparts, the Fidek iBigBoy 2 really delivers on sound quality. Although despite its hefty size and weight and a volume reaching heights that could potentially cause the neighbourhood to come to blows, its light, touch sensitive buttons, polished piano black finish and black wood front facia finish, means the Fidek iBigBoy 2 is much more attractive than it first sounds. Although for those serious about purchasing the iBigBoy 2, volume, not aesthetics, is likely to be the main attraction. This big boy will however set you back a hefty £399.