The selection of iPod docks on sale continues to grow with gathering pace and products range from cheap pieces of tat to high-end affairs such as Arcam's rCube - yours for just £500. Thankfully for those that are not feeling particulalry flush, there's a sizeable smattering of mid-range options that offer a good sound at a reasonable price, such as the KitSound BoomDock. The Memorex PartyCube looks like it could be one of these affordable, but decent speaker docks so we got one in for a closer look.
The Memorex PartyCube can't exactly been described as small, but its square design with a handle that fits neatly around the back, means that it's certainly compact. Measuring 250 x 52 x 63mm, it's a good size for packing away in a corner before grabbing to play back some impromptu tunes.
The dock itself is located in a recess on the front of the device, so your iPod or iPhone won't be protuding from the top of the box and ruining the aesthetics, as is usually the case. This also gives your iDevice a little bit of extra protection from the dangers of drunken party guests as it's not sitting - exposed and vulnerable - on the top of the box, just waiting for someone to trip and knock it from its perch. There are also a few small plastic convertors to make sure that you can fit various types and generations of iPod. Behind the dock, you'll find the radio dial, and underneath it is where the display is located. The orange-on-black, backlit LED panel includes a battery life indicator and also tells you which source you're listening to, along with radio station info, the time or a second counter to tell you how far through each track you are.
The top of the device houses a basic selection of controls including a power button that sports an orange light, a source button for switching between iPod, radio and the line in and buttons numbers one to six for for accessing your radio presets. You'll also find "hard" buttons for controlling your iPod or iPhone including play/pause, skip forwards and backwards, shuffle and loop. There's also a button for changing between FM and AM radio. Lastly there's a rather flimsy volume dial that smacks of cheapness. There are no markings on or around the dial, so it's hard to tell how loud the volume is turned up until you actually begin to play any music - which could potentially prove hazardous to your ears or to your neighbours' patience if you accidentally blast your tunes out at top volume when first switching on. The dial moves around and gets stuck so much in the casing, you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for a clickwheel or a multi-directional button when it is fact just a dial.
Located on the back of the PartyCube, connections include a power socket, a 3.5mm jack for hooking up non-Apple products and ports for plugging in the supplied AM and FM radio aerials. We found that the FM radio worked well even before the these were plugged in, but we couldn't get any signal from the AM tuner no matter how hard we tried.
The handle makes carrying the PartyCube around a piece of cake and even includes a slightly rubberised finish on the underside to give you some extra grip. The same rubberised material can also be found on the base of the unit, along with four non-slip feet. The recessed docking point means that your iPod is reasonably secure even when the unit is being ferried around. What's more, the fact that your iDevice leans against the radio dial means that it won't fall over backwards when you try to exert any pressure on the touchscreen, as is the case with some other docks that we've had in for review.
As well as playing tunes from iDevices, the PartyCube will simultaneously charge them, while the box's rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides 6 hours of continuous playback time. Alternatively you can hook the unit up to the mains if there's a plug point within reach of the power cable.
The multi-direction speaker covers almost three entire sides of the PartyCube and also wraps round onto the edges of the rear face. This means that the audio quality sounds the same from most directions and only drops off slightly when listening from behind the unit. As a result, the PartyCube does a surprisingly good job of filling the room with music - it probably wouldn't work on a warehoused-sized space, but for most reasonably sized houses, it should do the job nicely.
Overall, the audio quality is pretty good for a device in this price range and provides a surprisingly meaty sound from a reasonably small unit. Bass performance isn't bad at all but it is slightly lacking when it comes to the most bass-laden of tracks. Pumping up the volume provides good results up to a point. There's certainly enough scope for filling a room with sufficient volume levels for a loud party, but if you push the speakers too far then they'll inevitably begin to suffer from a slightly tinny sound.
While it doesn't have the oustanding audio credentials of some of the higher-end models on sale, the Memorex PartyCube does offer an affordable alternative. The compact design, portability, decent audio quality and near-360 degree sound make it good option, although the poor volume control is a little disappointing. However, unless that or the unreliable AM radio are deal-breakers for you, then this is a good choice if you're after a compact, portable way to amplify your iPod tunes.