Now that the iPod dock connection has become a staple interface in the home audio universe, third-party accessory manufacturers are becoming increasingly ambitious in their designs and concepts for new, iPod-friendly devices. One of the latest iterations of that pursuit comes in the form of the Mint DMS300 from Mondo USA (the "DMS" ostensibly stands for "Digital Music Station"). The unit is an iPod speaker system that includes a wireless iPod base station that can broadcast your music at distances of up to 100 feet from the speaker's base station/amplifier (which also includes an iPod dock). The system retails for $350, and will be available on June 11, 2007.
Unlike many of the one-piece iPod speaker systems on the market, the Mint DMS300 is a separates-based system--two speakers plug into the Mint's main amplifier unit. About the size of a router, the amplifier module--which delivers 70 watts of power to each speaker--is a white plastic enclosure surrounded by a solid gray metal border. It includes the first iPod dock, as well as the only two other inputs--a mini-jack auxiliary line-in and a USB port. The USB port on the Mint's main amp module lets the unit function as a set of high-end PC speakers. A 1.5-meter USB cable is included, and most recent Windows and Mac computers should automatically configure once the cable is plugged in. Unfortunately, the DMS300 has no support for outputting photos or videos from iPods that are so equipped. Along with the iPod dock, the base unit's top side includes the system's input selectors and volume controls; a small remote is also included.
The two speakers are a big step up from what you usually find on an iPod speaker system--essentially, they're more like a satellite speaker you'd get with a better home-theater-in-a-box system. Measuring 9x5.5x7.5 inches and weighing in at a comparably hefty 5.9 pounds, they feature the same piano-white finish as the amp and dock components. The gray grilles can be removed to reveal the two-way design--a black 1-inch soft dome tweeter and 4-inch metal cone woofer. Mondo provides high-quality 1.5-meter speaker cables with banana plugs. If you need longer runs, you can string your own wire as well--the speakers and the amp both feature heavy-duty binding posts, rather than any annoying proprietary connections.
In addition to the three basic components--the two speakers and the main amplifier--the Mondo Mint DMS300 includes a unique fourth component: a standalone iPod dock transmitter. The tiny square dock wirelessly broadcasts the audio output of a docked iPod to the main amplifier, allowing you to hear your music within a radius of 100 feet. Both the wireless dock and the main iPod dock on the Mint support most iPod models with a dock connector--fourth- and fifth-generation models, plus Nanos and older iPod Minis. (Any other iPod models--or any other audio sources in general--can opt to use the line-in port on the main unit instead.) A number of fitted plastic dock adapters are included to ensure that whichever iPod you do have will sit comfortably in place.
The sound quality on the Mint DMS300 is clear and crisp, and easily filled our 15x22-foot listening room. The speakers give off a bass-driven richness that can handle an impressive range of deep sound, and the fact that they can be placed several feet apart--unlike the mere inches found on most single-unit iPod speaker systems--delivered far better stereo separation. Social Distortion's acoustic version of "Angel's Wings" sounded fantastic; the DMS300 was able to produce an extremely clear combination of guitar and vocals. For a system without a subwoofer, there was an abundance of bass; in fact, it was sometimes almost too much. For example, the chorus in Head Automatica's "Brooklyn is Burning" would occasionally slip into a pop-filled distortion, while Dr. Dre's "Still Dre" was handled flawlessly. So while we were very pleased overall with the sonics of the Mint, we regretted the absence of any sort of EQ settings that could smooth out the occasional rough edges on certain music.
The small remote control included with the system has eight buttons that mimic the ones found on top of the base unit. The remote performs as expected, although we wish that the volume increments were placed closer together--this was the case regardless of where we controlled the system's volume (unit, dock, or remote).
The system didn't miss a beat when we transferred the iPod from the main unit to the wireless dock. We didn't notice any appreciable difference to the sound quality, and the wireless system was free of any static or other interference. The dock controls are limited to volume and mute, but the bigger advantage is the ability to control your iPod without having to walk back to the speaker base station. However, it was tough to imagine a situation where the dock would come in handy because of the limitation of the power cord--so while it will recharge your iPod while playing, it doesn't offer the same "use your iPod as a remote control" convenience of the Belkin TuneStage 2. A more portable and rechargeable transmitter would go a long way toward fixing that.
Overall the DMS300 provides top-quality sound for your iPod, hearkening back to the Klipsch iFi. It's probably best-suited for a room where it can do triple duty--be connected to a PC and maybe a satellite radio tuner, in addition to an iPod. In terms of sound quality, it's a step up from the iHome iH52--but that iPod-based separates system is arguably more full-featured and available for less than $200. Still, if you prefer the improved sound quality and don't mind the larger size and extra cables (vs. all-in-one iPod speaker systems), the Mondo Mint DMS300 is certainly worthy of consideration. We just wish the wireless option was more fully realized.