Soundfreaq Sound Step Recharge
Pocket-lint took a look at the Soundfreaq Sound Platform last year and we liked what we saw, awarding the Bluetooth speaker the coveted Pocket-lint hot product tag. So we were keen to try out the Sound Platform's baby brother - the Soundfreaq Sound Step Recharge - that has just been announced, to see if it continued in the good family name.
The Sound Step clearly takes its design inspiration from its older brother, it looks just like the Platform albeit slimmed down. But this familiarity isn't a bad-thing. We described the original as having “brilliant contemporary/retro mishmash that oozes coolness” and the same description applies to the Step. Sure it's a bit plasticy, but the minimalist look combined with the sunk in input and control buttons, with Tron-like orange lighting, makes for a fantastic little standalone speaker system. Soundfreaq has done away with the silver EQ dials, but it's still fine-looking nevertheless.
But the Step isn't necessarily a step-down from the Platform, despite its diminutive demeanour. In fact, it offers a couple of nice features that last year's model didn't; such as a 2.1 speaker system thanks to the addition of a subwoofer, as well as an iPad docking option (complete with iPad charging). Also, there's a USB port now that sadly doesn't give you USB direct play, but will charge your non-Apple devices whilst you make use of the Bluetooth or Aux-in playback options.
Plus, as you've probably gauged from the name, the Step also features portability with a rechargeable battery that will give you 6 hours playback from a full-charge. When you consider that you'll no doubt be charging the unit most of the time that you're using it without actually intending too (through wired use) you don't need to worry too much about how long it takes to fully charge the battery, although we found that 3 hours of wired play, complete with iPad charging, gave us enough juice to playback from the batteries for over 5 hours. There's no charging available whilst on battery playback it must be noted.
The Step comes with a basic remote control (stored in a slot underneath), which does the job without any bells and whistles should you choose to dock rather than beam tunes via Bluetooth and, like the Platform, it also works in tandem with the Soundfreaq app (which it prompts you to download on first use). However, the app is very basic, with an awkward playlist setup (an update is coming later this year, we're assured) so you're probably better off just using your iDevice's iTunes app, Spotify or other music playback apps.
In terms of sound quality the Step certainly punches above its weight when it comes to room filling from such a small setup. With Soundfreaq's UQ3 technology turned on you get a great, smooth sound even at high levels - although it does struggle a touch with heavy bass tunes and perhaps isn't quite as loud (without being distorted) as the original. The speakers (2 x 10W) are positioned in a way (wide at the ends of the bar) so as that even when an iPad is docked, they are not muffled and this is clear during playback - the sound from the Step transports well.
When docking your iDevice there is also a removable rubber adapter and a rubber stopper to hold an iPad in place, or make room for an Apple device with a case on. Although these work well, they do feel a bit cheap, even if we do like the stickle-brick style stick on option.
Soundfreaq has come up with another great Apple-specialised speaker option that may not pack the full punch of its older sibling, but still doesn't disappoint when it comes to room filling sound. We wouldn't recommend it as a main living room speaker option for a serious audiophile but it does make for a decent bedroom, kitchen or study speaker and the portability option makes it even more attractive - especially for users with patios or gardens.
Its wealth of input features and ease of use are definitely its strong points. Although designed firmly with the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad in mind, the USB charge point makes Bluetooth playback with any device - without killing your battery life - a viable option. It looks nice, performs amicably, won't take up too much space and won't break the bank either.
If you're looking for a sub-£150 iPod dock option with extras, then the Soundfreaq Sound Step Recharge could be just what you're after.