Innovations in the world of iPod/iPhone docks are many, but this month sees the arrival of a whole new category - the motorised dock. Panasonic’s SC-HC30 houses an iPod and automatically closes a door, but beating it to the punch is Intempo’s Perform, which takes a different approach to motor music.
After placing an iPod in a simple dock on the Perform’s top, the touch of a button lowers it into the unit and puts it on display behind glass, within the wrap-around speaker, just above a small blue-on-black LCD display.
All very eye-catching, but Perform is also easy on the ears; it starts to play music from an iPod while it’s lowering it into position, and a rounded sound it is. Boasting two 8W speakers, there are various audio options including MBass and five preset equaliser settings ("studio", the rather muffled-sounding "monitor", "flat", "club" and the most useful, "arena").
Generally sound quality is good, with a reasonably wide soundstage, though the sense of stereo is naturally confined by the Perform’s narrow size (it’s around 36cm across). A Mega Bass button on the credit card-sized remote introduces a dollop of low frequency. It all sounds rather false and indistinct unless you use the Perform at high volumes (which happily, doesn’t bring any distortion), but overall audio quality is decent enough for use in a small room.
Though control of an iPod’s internal menus is impressive (though hard to indulge in when an iPod is lowered inside the unit), elsewhere the Perform just about covers the basics. Its provision of a FM radio is disappointing - surely we should expect DAB as default now analogue radio is scheduled for switch-off in just 5 years. The Perform’s rear connections are also rather basic, with a simple, single stereo audio "auxiliary" input, which might prove useful for attaching an MP3 player, though non-iPod owners are not likely to buy the Perform. We would have liked to see some kind of provision for a Wi-Fi dongle, wired Ethernet LAN port or a Bluetooth module that would enable the streaming of music to the Perform from a PC or Mac - or perhaps an Internet radio function - though for now streaming seems to be a high-end feature on iPod docks.
Various cradles are available to enable the Perform to accept almost any model of iPod or iPhone, though the Shuffle won’t charge while in-situ (all other models do, even if the unit is playing radio).
Alarm options are decent, though you’d need a pretty big bedside table to accommodate the 365 x 170 x 145mm Perform. As well as a bleep, waking-up to a FM radio station or an iPod playlist are possible, while a sleep control means an iPod can play in 10-minute increments up to 90 minutes before switching off. Setting-up alarms is also a cinch thanks to some useful icons on the LCD display.
Although the remote is tiny, it’s fully featured, but what we like most about it is how it can be snugly placed into a recessed panel on the Perform’s top, effectively replacing that panel’s more basic unit controls. The Perform also sports two recessed carry handles on either side that makes it easier to lug around, though that’s needed partly because the speakers are covered in a rather cheap-looking fabric.
It’s some clever design flourishes - along with adequate sound quality - that lifts the Perform above the level of similar products, though in practice the motorised system can make choosing tracks on an iPod somewhat tricky. This is a budget, yet decent value, iPod speaker system, so don’t expect cutting-edge audio. Perfectly suitable for a small room, the Perform is probably too chunky for a bedside table despite it having an easy-to-use alarm and radio functions.