Back in December of last year we explored the DAB-enabled world of iPod docks for the first time, with(and two months or so later with ). The RDI was budget oriented, but we liked it. And now it's got a fresh little brother called Fusion.
This is a £99 DAB/FM-enabled iPod dock for the bedside, with a built-in sub woofer and portable design. It'll be on sale from mid October. We've got our hands on an exclusive pre-production model, and a couple of features are still yet to be finalised, but let's look at what we think so far.
With its pseudo-oval shape, the Fusion is a little taller but a lot thinner and slimmer than its RDI brethren. But it retains the glossy black style and cute LCD display that gave the the last model its conventional but stylish charm.
The silver iPod dock is a nice touch, and there's ample room behind it for a hand, so it's usable in the same way as when it's in your hand. This is a simple but hugely effective design trait. However, with an iPod docked, we found that the infra red sensor that receives signals from the supplied remote control is blocked, meaning remote operation from the right-hand side is hit or miss. Apparently every silver lining has a cloud.
Still, that clear LCD display offers two lines of easy-to-read text, and is attractively backlit. This sits to the left of the iPod. To the right are all the system's controls -- eight buttons in total, all a little wobbly if we're honest, but well placed, responsive and easy to use.
Around the back sit all connectivity features, including USB for firmware updates, a composite video output, line-in and a headphone output. Also around here is the 51mm mini-sub woofer, accompanying the two 25mm (1-inch) stereo drivers located behind non-removable metal mesh on the front of the system. Combined they offer 25W of power, which we'll come to shortly.
When you're bored of the 30,000 songs on your iPod, flick over to DAB or FM with just one button. The Fusion automatically scans for available digital stations, and up to 16 favourites can be saved as presets -- eight for DAB, eight for FM.
Both old and new model iPods are compatible, and we tested it out with an and an iPhone 3G, both of which worked fine. As a radio and iPod dock, it's about as simple to use as it can be, with the possible exception of when you set alarms and radio presets, which isn't as in-your-face intuitive as on some Pure Digital systems, for example.
As for sound quality, it's pretty much on par with what we expect of an all-in-one system in this price bracket, particularly when DAB is included as well. It offers an okay performance for its size, with the rear-mounted sub just giving enough body to stop such a small system from sounding tinny.
Ideally it'll be used on a medium volume, in a bedroom, with casual Radio 1-esque pop, such as Rihanna, who sounded loud and clear in our tests. Anything particularly complex -- Dream Theater's heavy and complex progressive metal being just one such example -- is subject to loss of separation at higher volumes. Pushing the volume past the 80 per cent mark starts to introduce more distortion than enjoyable room-filling sound.
Still, it's important not to see the volume issue as a drawback, because no system of this ilk in the world has ever impressed us at high volume. They just don't exist.
Rather, it's simply a sign of what the Fusion isn't good for: explosive sound in a large room; and a sign of what it's ideal for: calmer music as you're getting dressed in the morning, or reading in bed at night. And for this, it's an attractive little system for the price.
Edited by Marian Smith