iPod/iPhone systems are proving to be one of the fastest-selling products in consumer electronics, but most are little more than docks attached to a rudimentary speaker. Not so Pioneer’s multi-coloured XW-NAS5, which - as its rather ambitious price suggests - is an attempt at producing a high-end sound system around Apple’s ubiquitous devices.
Wearing the "Made for iPod" logo, a small flap on atop the metallic red, black, silver or white XW-NAS5 hides the iPod/iPhone dock, and though it charges its guest’s battery, compatibility is not total. Only iPods made in 2006 or later can join in, and while any iPhone should work, they must be left in "airplane mode" - don’t engage that if you’re expecting a call.
In practice, first generation iPhones don’t work, either, and you must first disable the Wi-Fi on an iPod Touch before it’s accepted. It all proves a bit of a faff. Ditto the credit card-sized remote, which is surprisingly basic and can’t control the iPod or iPhone’s internal menus.
Elsewhere it’s big in both style and statement. The sleek 5kg XW-NAS5 measures 420 x 148 x 210mm - small enough to fit on a bookshelf yet large enough to produce some impressive sonics.
Two 15W front speakers (with a 2-way 5.2cm mid and tweeter) power its mini-soundbar look, though it’s the inclusion of a 10cm down-firing subwoofer (offering 30W power) that really ought to give MP3 files a kick.
And it is so; the XW-NAS5’s built-in Advanced Sound Retriever mode delivers an impressive soundstage that features a lot of detail in the mid-range alongside plenty of treble flourishes. And what it lacks in width it makes up for in bass - there’s some excellent bass response that snugly fits into the sound mix. Unfortunately its Auto Level Control, which should adjust the volume of MP3s up or down to keep the levels constant, didn’t always work in our test.
If you tire of music, there’s an FM tuner with 10 presets inside the XW-NAS5, and if you get fond of the wireless you can extend that idea, too, though at £100 the add-on Bluetooth adaptor (AS-BT100) that streams music in 2.4GHz between computers or phones, is a bit of a leap.
Still, it does make the XW-NAS5 a decent solution for a large office or living room since it can be paired with a laptop, desktop or phone with Bluetooth. The in-box instructions aren’t clear, but it’s a cinch to set-up - you just look set the XW-NAS5’s input source as BT-A, press pause, and then look for discoverable devices on your phone or computer - just as you would a pair of Bluetooth headphones. Though the quality of the music takes a dive, lacking the width and fullness of tunes from an iPod, it’s perfectly acceptable and worth considering if you’d rather use iTunes than an iPod.
Intriguingly, the XW-NAS5 isn’t just about sound. Alongside a Bluetooth adaptor port and analogue audio inputs on its rear panel are outputs for both Composite (basic) and Component (up to high-def quality) video, which does bring the possibility of playing your iPod’s movies on a TV, though in practice we couldn’t get the Composite video output to successfully feed video into a TV.
Centred on a red LED clock on the front, the XW-NAS5 can be used as a bedside alarm clock if you desire - snooze, wake-up and sleep functions make sure of that. Also aimed at relaxation are six Ambient soundscapes housed on the XW-NAS5’s 32MB flash memory; the sea, a busy city street, gentle waves, a forest, the crackles of a vinyl record and, of most interest, a stream with birdsong, though you’re not going to use any of these much.
Remember when a Bose SoundDock - one of the first iPod docks to go on sale - was a statement of wealth as well as style? Well, it was nothing compared to Pioneer’s XW-NAS5. Perfect for a permanent place on a living room bookshelf or as a portable device for parties, we’ve no complaint about sound quality or style - and so the high price seems reasonable - though one or two rough edges (the need to disable an iPhone) and the rudimentary remote control do take it down a notch or two.