One thing the world doesn't need any more of are iPod docks, with what seems like every man, woman and their particularly talented dog having a go at bashing a unit out. Saying that, owning one certainly makes all the difference in terms of enjoying your music on your Apple-made device - the problem is choosing the right one.
So when we received the Equaliser Sound Bar speaker we hoped it might offer up something that we hadn't seen before, and if not, at least prove itself worthy of a place in your home.
In the box you'll get the basics, which includes a 3.5mm audio cable for playing tunes other than from you iPod, an AC/DC adaptor, and a remote as well as the main unit. An instruction manual is, apparently, included although we didn't get one ourselves, however features are sparse and controls are basic so we don't think you'll need to refer to them much.
In terms of looks, the unit is rectangular with a front mounted VFD display, whilst the touch sensitive controls along with the dock sit on top. The side firing speakers, flush with the body, are situated at either end of the unit making for a neat if somewhat minimalist look. Mostly made out of hard plastic the top of the Sound Bar is in fact aluminium which gives a solid feel, but does pick up prints relatively easily.
Around the back and it's basic fare with just a line in and antenna out to keep the on/off switch and DC in company.
Dimensions for the dock are around 32 x 9.7 x 11cm, so as well as being relatively compact its rectangular block shape means that it's pretty efficient in the space it does take up. As such the unit will just about fit on a standard bedside table.
Set-up of the Equaliser Sound Bar was straight forward enough, though using the unit's interface initially was a bit of a chore as the device's touch controls did not seem as responsive as they might have been. As ever with these things technique was honed and we were skipping through menus easily enough, although it still retained that hit and miss feel. Access to your iPod is fair with the whole of the touchscreen real estate being available with only the Home button partially covered. However, due to the wide berth in which it nestles, there wasn't as much support as we would have liked and touching the screen moved the iPod on its connector.
The menu options consist of iPod, AUX, Radio, Clock, SRS, VFD (allowing you to change graphic equaliser style) and Temp - with SRS (Sound Retrieval System) being the key audio feature here, widening the the area in which the music can be heard at its best. More on whether it does this effectively later.
As mentioned the controls were a bit of a faff, something which made the remote an absolute essential, and even though we got better results with the remote - every press producing a response - the user experience is blighted by the fact that individual presses are required, as opposed to being able to simply hold down the button. This is a minor detail when increasing/decreasing the volume but when attempting to tune the radio it became very arduous indeed. Whatever you do don't lose the tiny remote or RSI is assured.
So, we come to the burning question on whether the sound is actually any good. We tested a variety of music on its two 12-Watt speakers and came to the conclusion that on the whole the Sound Bar does the job in the tunes department. It's certainly loud enough, and a faint crackling only started to come in at the high end of the scale, if you have neighbours then this will certainly get them banging on the wall. There was a marked difference in sound when activating the SRS system, giving definition to the music and an altogether bigger bang - best results were produced at a medium volume with SRS on.
What you get here then is an iPod speaker costing around the £100 mark which is compact and has a beefy sound, along with decent audio quality. Where the Equaliser Sound Bar lets itself down, however, is in the user experience, which is on the whole a bit clumsy, and yes it may look swish and modern with its touch interface, but for us that comes second.
Features are sparse and all a bit basic, there's no built-in alarm for instance so if you do decide to slot this in your bedroom you'll have to use whatever your iPod has to
If you want something to bang out the tunes - pure and simple - then this is certainly worth a look, its small size and big sound making it an attractive proposition, however for a more refined experience you might want to go elsewhere.