Tannoy's WWII-era PA systems are so famous that many people aren't aware it's a brand name, but the British company has been making high-end speakers for many years. As with other top-notch audio makers, it's bringing its knowhow to the masses with an iPod dock. The new i30 has an RRP of £229 but can be found online for between £100 and £200, potentially making it very good value indeed.
Being immediately impressed with packaging is an unusual experience, but from the moment we cracked open the thick black packaging of the i30 we knew we were going to see something special. True to its suggestive presentation, the i30 is indeed worth a look. Its solid and glossy black enclosure is not only astoundingly professional, but (at 3.6kg) monumentally heavy.
A bass-reflex port doubles up as a handle at the rear, above line-in, USB and composite video-out sockets, and screw holes for a wall-mounting bracket (sold separately). Non-removable speaker grilles are acceptable because they look lovely, complementing the jet-black enclosure with a dark, moody grey. They sit either side of the standard iPod dock, for which many adaptors are supplied.
Importantly, though, sound quality is impressive overall. It's not without its faults -- and we'll come to these shortly -- but we were impressed on several occasions, firstly with Porchrail by Jenny Owen Youngs. The funky acoustic guitar-driven folk rock exploded with warmth, and the clarity of her guitar strings were unrivalled in the world of iPod docks. Beneath them pumped a deep and beautifully reproduced double bass line, never distorting and powerful enough to shake the floor.
Ingrid Michaelson's beautiful album-opener Die Alone proved the i30 had excellent capabilities with separation, too -- a challenge for most iPod speaker systems, as the close proximity of each speaker driver results in the music sounding as though it came from a single speaker. But this song had guitars noticable in the left channel while subtle cymbals rang in the right. It makes a huge difference, resulting in sound more like a live performance.
Thanks to the i30's bass-heavy tendency, the pounding bass of dance and metal slightly distorted the overall sound at high volume. If all you listen to is very loud dance music, this system might not be the one for you.
There are no physical controls on the system itself, meaning you'll have to use the pathetic remote control to change volume and tracks, and it's very prone to not responding to your input. Also, would it have killed Tannoy to put a headphone socket somewhere? It's hardly a deal-breaker, but it would be handy if you wanted to listen quietly while charging your iPod.
We can't help but like the i30, because it sounds absolutely stunning, especially with acoustic tracks and mellow rock. That it can be bought online from about £100, if you shop carefully, doesn't hurt either.
If you're looking for clear audio in a small to medium-sized room for less than £150, we don't recommend any higher than the Tannoy i30. It really is a stunning set of iPod speakers, and the best alternative to the more expensive Bose SoundDock Portable and Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide