The world's hip-hoppingest GP has lent his name to another Monster audio product -- the Beats by Dr Dre Beatbox. It's a rather massive speaker dock for the iPod and iPhone that promises to deliver the same floorboard-loosening bass as other Beats products. But, like everything else that carries the shiny red 'B' logo, the Beatbox comes at a premium price. Is it worth around £350?
The Beatbox doesn't look bad at all. It's not as ostentatious as the rest of the Beats line -- there are no chrome highlights or bright colours on show here. Instead, Monster's opted for a demure matte black across the speaker's body. The 'B' logo is visible beneath a fabric coating across the front of the Beatbox.
Your iPod or iPhone docks on the left side of the Beatbox. We like this unusual, asymmetric look. Over on the right, there's a rubbery little volume dial, and, in the middle, there's a whopping great hole, which, if you stick your mitt inside, lets you carry the Beatbox around.
Measuring 572 by 254 by 222mm and weighing 8kg, the Beatbox is portable but not massively so. You won't want to lug it around from room to room too often. Happily, there's only one cable to plug in, so setting the Beatbox up is really easy.
Playing it safe
Overall, we're in two minds about the design. It seems a little... safe. On the one hand, it's a good thing, bearing in mind that this dock will have to fit in with your other household furnishings. On the other hand, we really miss the in-your-face bling of the rest of the Beats line. Admittedly, that bling makes approximately half of the population throw up in their mouths -- the lame half that doesn't appreciate the subtle art of covering stuff in chrome. We just wish the Beatbox looked slightly crazier.
There are no music controls on the surface on the Beatbox itself, which means you'll have to faff about with the iPod or iPhone's touchscreen to change the choons. That's aggravating. While there are playback controls on the supplied remote, it's rather small, and you're only one house party away from losing it forever.
Plastic adaptors are included for a range of iDevices, but there isn't one that fits the iPhone 4. Our iPhone 4 worked fine without an adaptor, but it's an odd omission. For a list of all compatible devices, check this listing on the Apple Store website.
The Beatbox comes up rather empty-handed on the features front. There's a solitary line-in socket around the back, and space to plug in an upcoming wireless dongle called the Monster Streamcast Wireless System. Monster hasn't specified the price, availability or features of that forthcoming add-on, however.
Perhaps we've just been spoiled by speakers like the amazing Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air, which uses Apple's AirPlay technology, or the Libratone Beat, but it seems that wireless playback is becoming a feature on more and more docks. The Beatbox doesn't offer wireless playback at the moment, so bear that in mind.
As it's low on features, you've probably already guessed where the Beatbox's priorities lie -- firing merciless musical missiles into your sanity bunker.
Sonically, the Beatbox is cut from the same cloth as its bassy brethren. Listening to Are You In? by Incubus, we felt every kick drum hit like a punch to the pancreas, while the smooth, strong bassline quickly turned our other organs to raspberry jelly.
The punchy low end in Warren G's Regulate was rendered with a pervasive, room-filling buzz, but it didn't feel out of control, or obscure the rest of the mix. We could still hear the rattling hi-hats ringing away throughout the song. Indeed, mid-tones and the high end are strong, even if they play second fiddle to the boisterous bass.
During Kill the Director by The Wombats, the crunchy guitars and vocals sounded clear and smooth, even if it didn't sound like the song had started properly until the bassier chorus kicked in.
We were impressed that, as we dialled up the volume, the bass grew stronger and stronger, with hardly any distortion creeping into the mix. And the Beatbox is a very loud speaker -- crank it up to the maximum level and you'll soon have the neighbours on the phone to the council.
The Monster Beats by Dr Dre Beatbox doesn't offer the natural, rich and precise tones of its more sophisticated rivals but, just like its siblings, it excels when it comes to aggressive, loud audio. Acoustic tracks won't sound their best on the Beatbox, but rock, pop and hip-hop are fired out with such delirious enthusiasm that we couldn't help but dance around in our testing chamber -- and persuading us to dance is no mean feat.
If you want a speaker dock that offers a better all-round tone, take a look at the B&W Zeppelin Air instead.
Edited by Charles Kloet