With the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin on the market for £400 and the Bose SoundDock selling for around £300, you couldn't be faulted for going googly-eyed over a 2.1 iPod speaker system for around £100. Gear4's new BassStation is just such an eye-opening system, with stylings akin to Apple's old iPod Hi-Fi.
Are you better off saving for something from a hi-fi specialist or is settling for a more affordable perfectly adequate?
At first glance, you're not getting B&W-class stylings. You'll find chunky plastic, enormous white rims and minimalist qualities in this system. Even though Apple made this look trendy, there's not much to see here. It's a weighty setup, but tapping the enclosure with your knuckles produces reverberations of budget build-quality. Considering this system's price range, it's not too surprising that it sounds hollow.
Volume and power buttons sit on top below the iPod docking station. Around the back is a headphone socket, stereo audio inputs and a power socket. The two front-mounted drivers sit behind a speaker grille that sadly can't be removed. There's also no reflex port for the subwoofer to breathe through. For a system with "bass" in its name, this is a huge disappointment: the reflex port could've added deeper tones and added bass oomph.
Any iPod with a docking connector is supported, including the iPod touch and the iPhone, or you can jack in any audio source via stereo cable. The unusually decent little remote control lets you browse through the iPod's menus and adjust volume, too.
What you won't be able to do, however, is output any video to a TV -- something you're able to do using Tannoy's i30, for example. You won't find a a USB port either, which could transform the BassStation into a glorified dock for iTunes. Again, not a crucial feature, but another sign of what you get for staying in sub-£100 territory.
You'll notice that the BassStation is more prominent in the mid-range, but lacks clarity in the high end. There's also no real separation between the left and right speakers, producing a pseudo-monaural soundstage. Also, hard metal with brutal distortion and pounding drum tracks is not the sort of thing you'll want to pump through these speakers. Material this complex is out of the system's reach.
That's enough negativity. The BassStation, despite lacking the ability to output tumultuous bass lines, can vibrate floors at high volume. When listening to Taio Cruz's Come On Girl, the powerful kick drum reverberated through our chair and through the walls around us. If you crank it up, you'll hear the bass causes distortion in the mid-range. Unless you're rocking out in your pyjamas or marigolds, it's perfectly fine for bedrooms and kitchens.
This system also proves its ability as an ideal party boombox, evidenced in our listening to Ingrid Michaelson's beautiful track Glass. True, the bright qualities of her unique voice were lost, and the crystalline tones of steel-string guitars weren't audible. Still, the song was delivered powerfully for an affordable set of speakers and we enjoyed the experience.
It's true that for £99, you're not getting audible hi-fi finesse. What you're getting is a convenient all-in-one, with good enough performance to hit some high volumes. If you're after more of an audiophile iPod setup and don't mind sacrificing power output, check out the Klipsch iGroove SXT.
If you're a teen who wants to hear the current top 10 and you don't care much about sonic accuracy, feast your eyes -- and ears -- on this affordable, bedroom-friendly boombox.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday