Sharp isn't the first company you'd think of when it comes to iPod docks. Fortunately, with the DK-AP8P, they haven't just stuck their name on a set of tinny speakers, they've done a little lateral thinking and come up with something a little different.
The DK-AP8P is a compact and portable iPod dock, measuring 208 x 83 x 70mm, with the dock on the top for your any-generation iPod or iPhone as long as it has a dock connector. The docking bay can be covered with a plastic lid to keep everything tidy when you do decide to take it on the move. You can power it off 4 AA batteries to make it totally portable and it even comes with two cloth bags - one for the unit itself, and one for the power pack.
The thing that really sets the DK-AP8P apart is the pull-off front. This is held in place magnetically on the front of the unit and when in place fits neatly into the simple but elegant design. The entire unit is constructed from gloss "piano black" plastic, so is prone to finger printing, but it looks smart enough.
Flip off the front and it will reveal the twin 1.2W speakers and the port for the 2W subwoofer. The front panel itself is a remote control unit, presenting three touch areas covering all the major controls. It's an innovative solution and has a much greater impact than those cheap credit card remote controls that you get with most iPod docks.
The remote control has three touch areas which offer playback controls, menu navigation and the main power and "Esound" toggle, which serves to improve the output quality of the DK-AP8P and widen the soundstage noticeably. The touch response is good, making it relatively easy to control your tunes without having to touch the hard button controls on the dock itself.
We say relatively, because there was an opportunity here for Sharp to mimic the clickwheel control of the iPod on this remote, however they have chosen to mix it up a little and make it altogether different. The left-hand circle covers power and track skipping, the centre handles menu, TV display (it has a TV out on the rear for your iPod movies) and menu control, the right-hand circle covers play and volume.
The problem we have with this is that the menu "up" and "down" are set on the horizontal, rather than vertical; ditto the volume. It would have been more friendly, we think, to align them vertically so the up control was at the top, the down at the bottom. You also can't skip up and down menus by pressing and holding the menu nav buttons, so it means a lot of pressing if you have a long list to get through, so it can be a little slow.
Still, the remote works well enough and it means you can sit on the sofa and control your tunes without a cheap-looking remote that you'll lose. It does require two-handed operation most of the time, which will be a disadvantage for some. The remote goes to sleep when it is not in use to preserve the battery too.
You can play music with the remote in place on the front, but as it covers the speakers, it muffles the music terribly, so we wouldn't advise it. Around the back of the unit you connect the power, there is the TV out and a 3.5mm audio input. There is no headphone jack.
The audio quality is surprisingly good considering the size of the DK-AP8P. The stereo speakers are well supported by the bass port that adds depth often missing from iPod docks of this ilk. It won't survive higher volumes and as you get towards the top of the volume range you'll find that distortion creeps in and the bass drops out, but kept in the middle of the volume range, it's nicely balanced sound, perfect for smaller rooms.
In standby the DK-AP8P does consume 0.6W power, so it will slowly drain the batteries if you leave them in place, or pull from the mains when you are not using it. It does charge your iPod or iPhone whilst it is docked, however.
That remote does come with some drawbacks, such as not being able to have it attached to the unit whilst music is playing (not if you want it to sound good) and the size means it needs two-handed operation. However, if you are in the market for a small iPod dock, it is worth investigating, as the quality look of the remote outweighs some of those negatives.
Overall we were impressed with the DK-AP8P. Many portable iPod docks suffer because the sound quality is poor and Sharp have got it right with this model. The sound quality is good, the design is good and the detachable remote front has a touch of class to it that is often missing on a sub-£100 unit.