Dual Electronics is no stranger to taking risks with oddball gadgets that combine features in interesting ways (just take a look at its
The Dual XML8150, as the stereo head unit is called, is a mechless car audio receiver. By omitting the CD transport, Dual was left with a good deal of open space within the chassis of the single-DIN receiver, so the manufacturer decided to build an adjustable iPod cradle into the unit. Folding out from behind the XML8150's faceplate, the cradle connects to the chassis with a flexible arm and can be pivoted into a portrait or landscape orientation. At the base of the cradle is a 30-pin dock connector that interfaces with any iPhone or iPod (with the exception of the Shuffle), while at the top is a ratcheting arm that expands and collapses to accomodate and hold any iDevice from a Nano to an iPhone with a case.
The arm itself seemed a bit awkward to move into and out of the chassis, but we were only given a brief demo with a loose, unmounted receiver. Perhaps when anchored into a vehicle's dashboard, the articulating arm will be easier to position.
Once connected, users can control playback directly from the iPod itself, using the Dual receiver to manage volume and send audio to the vehicle's speakers. The unit also supports Bluetooth wireless connectivity for hands-free calling and A2DP/AVRCP audio streaming. For users who may be connecting an iPod and using a separate, the unit features dedicated buttons on its faceplate for answering and ending calls, as well as PBAP support for syncing phonebook contacts for retrieval via its control knob.
There's also USB connectivity and an analog-audio input with a pair of front facing ports, as well as an SD card reader, but if you've come this far and there's not an iPod in that cradle, you're doing it wrong.
The Dual XML8150 is not available just yet, but will be sometime later this month at an MSRP of $149.