The Soundfreaq Sound Platform ($199) is one cool speaker. Chalk it up to being the new kid on the block with something to prove, but this little iPhone- and iPod-compatible speaker dock system includes tons of little extras and details that established brands such as Sony, Logitech, Philips, and Creative just don't deliver in a comparable all-in-one product.
The Sound Platform's blocky, lunchboxlike design is something you'll either love or hate. Admittedly, it's a little chunky compared with many of the slim systems we're seeing from Altec Lansing and Logitech. Still, to us, it feels retro in an appealing midcentury modern sort of way. With the tiny EQ knobs, magnetic remote control, flat top, and secret side compartment, you get the sense that there are just one or two inspired product designers responsible for it.
To the left of the iPhone/iPod dock, you'll find three tightly spaced knobs--two for EQ (bass/treble) and one for activating a sound enhancement preset that artificially widens the stereo field for a pleasant effect. On the other side of the dock, you have concave buttons for power, track skip, audio source, volume, and Bluetooth pairing. The source button takes you through Bluetooth, iPod dock, FM radio, and aux input, and you can see them cycle through on the little display. The display is pretty dim, and isn't helped by the slim font that's used, but it comes in handy for tuning the radio.
Our favorite design feature by far is the hidden compartment on the side of the Sound Platform. It opens with a push, and keeps your remote control out of the way with a magnetic backing. The remote is your standard IR type, with buttons for volume, power, track skip, play/pause, and EQ. It won't get you farther than your average 15 feet, but it's another one of those extras we're glad to have.
Also included with the SFQ-1 is the power adapter, an FM radio antenna wire for improved reception, and three dock inserts--one for the iPhone 3G, one for most iPods or the iPhone 4, and a flat insert if you plan on just using Bluetooth and don't want the dock calling attention to itself.
It's rare for us to mention it, but the back of the speaker looks surprisingly cool. Soundfreaq flaunts the rear-ported speaker design with an inset of silver-colored plastic framed by glossy black vents. Running across the bottom, you have a place to plug in the power adapter, as well as an aux input and a socket for the radio antenna. If you're looking for a speaker that can be placed at the center of a room and look good from every angle, the SFQ-1's design can stand up to the scrutiny.