Until recently, DAB radios never consorted with iPods -- they were two entities, two non-converging markets. But as the iPod still doesn't boast radio reception, it makes sense for these two parties to hook up and become greater than the sum of their respective parts. We saw it last with Intempo's £130 RDI system and now we're looking at the Chronos iDock -- a £90 offering from DAB aficionado PURE Digital.
PURE's traditional silver plastic buttons sit on the face of the iDock below a blue-ish LCD display and a big fat snooze button. Metallic mesh-covered speakers sit either side of said face, resulting in true stereo -- not a common feature of PURE's bedside contraptions. Headphone and line-in sockets sit conveniently below the collection of silver buttons.
Build quality is good, but there's a lack of weight to the system. Almost the whole of the iDock is free of glossy finishes, bar the front face. Matte finishes mean fingers don't leave prints all over your new toys and, thanks to an almost completely matte-finished body, very few prints should ever be seen on this triangular waker-upper.
iPods sit in a crevice on the system's top. A variety of dock adapters are included for more seamless integration with the whole iPod range.
iPod integration, as the product's name suggests, is a main feature. Sit your iPod in the dock and your tunes will be pumped through the stereo speakers. Sound is decoded by the iPod itself, so bunging some decent headphones into the system's headphone socket will give you iPod-quality sound, if that floats your MP3 or Apple Lossless boat.
As well as having multiple alarms wake you to DAB, FM, iPod or the standard annoying alarm clock screeching, the iDock lets you browse your iPod's library, hook up external audio sources with a stereo cable and it does it with the promise that it's being a good boy to Mother Earth -- PURE claims the iDock will only use 2.5W when in use, and a measly 0.7W on standby.
But as a DAB radio it's also very capable. It'll receive broadcasts up to the high-end 192kbps bit rate, and display any RDS information available when using FM. Two speakers sit on either side of the front panel, and make use of a 38mm driver. But as with all systems, the proof is in the
Using the iDock is extremely straight-forward and simple. For most people, looking at the instruction manual will be five minutes wasted. For technophobes or grandparents experiencing DAB for the first time, PURE's iDock won't offer any confusion. Buttons are clearly labelled and self-explanatory, and the chunky backlit screen is easy to read.
Sadly, while it's extremely easy to use, sound quality is very poor -- something we hardly ever say about a PURE product. Despite promising an exciting stereo performance for a clock radio, play anything other than voice or quiet music and you'll hear severe distortion. Anything with a bass line at medium to high volume gets extremely distorted and becomes practically unlistenable. It'll work perfectly in waking you up, but if you're a music fan you'll probably punch that snooze button harder than on any previous PURE system. A real disappointment.
In every other aspect of functionality, it performed well, though, such as setting alarms or plugging in external sound sources. Browsing the iPod's menus using the little infrared remote is a cute feature too, especially if you're lucky enough to have an emperor-size bed and the system's more than an arm's length away. You can browse through menus easily, select albums, adjust volume levels and skip through tracks and it'll work with the new iPod line-up too.
This DAB setup had so much promise, but it really let us down. It might be a delight to use, but when your favourite song comes on you'll want to switch it off. Still, features are implemented well, and as an alarm clock it can't be faulted. Just don't expect a lot from the audio performance side of things.
For far better sound quality and a less alarm clock-y form factor, check Intempo's RDI -- another iPod-docking DAB system. Should you not need the iPod functionality, check out any one of PURE's usually impressive line-up of products.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday