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Cambridge SoundWorks PlayDock PD200 review:

Cambridge SoundWorks PlayDock PD200

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The Good Great sound; integrates seamlessly with the Nomad Jukebox.

The Bad Doesn't work as well with other portable audio players.

The Bottom Line This product is almost a must if you already own a Nomad Jukebox.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall

Updated 6/21/02

Editors' note:
The rating and/or Editors' Choice designation for this product has been altered since the review's original publication. The reason for this is simply the general improvement of technology over time. In order to keep our ratings fair and accurate, it's sometimes necessary to downgrade the ratings of older products relative to those of newer products.

For Nomad Jukebox owners who are tired of headphones, the Cambridge SoundWorks PlayDock PD200 is the perfect accessory. This portable, amplified speaker system is designed specifically for use with the Creative Labs Nomad Jukebox portable music player. Sporting an elegant design and rich sound, the PlayDock's only shortcoming is that it doesn't work as well with other music sources. Updated 6/21/02

Editors' note:
The rating and/or Editors' Choice designation for this product has been altered since the review's original publication. The reason for this is simply the general improvement of technology over time. In order to keep our ratings fair and accurate, it's sometimes necessary to downgrade the ratings of older products relative to those of newer products.

For Nomad Jukebox owners who are tired of headphones, the Cambridge SoundWorks PlayDock PD200 is the perfect accessory. This portable, amplified speaker system is designed specifically for use with the Creative Labs Nomad Jukebox portable music player. Sporting an elegant design and rich sound, the PlayDock's only shortcoming is that it doesn't work as well with other music sources.

Compact and curvaceous
Visually, the PlayDock is a symphony of simple curves, but that's just styling. It's the various practical touches--such as the well-placed yet unobtrusive handles and the smooth integration with the Nomad player--that make this a very well-designed device. The Nomad nestles into a rubber "glove" that holds it firmly and in turn snaps securely onto the PlayDock. Two plugs connect the PlayDock's audio input and rechargeable battery to the Nomad Jukebox's audio output and power supply. The PlayDock's battery powers the combo for 8 hours to 12 hours, and its AC power supply recharges both units' batteries simultaneously.

The PlayDock's controls are simple: a power button rests on the side of the unit, and four larger buttons (volume up/down, Wide, and Mute) sit on top, next to the nest for the Nomad. Holes in the glove allow access to the Nomad's playback controls and its infrared window (presumably for a future remote control).

Even with its Wide mode deactivated, the PlayDock produces an acceptably full sound despite its mere 11-inch width. When the Wide mode is turned on, a blindfolded listener might think that a pair of normal stereo speakers was playing. We found the Wide setting generally preferable for listening at a distance, especially in an outdoor setting. When the system was on our desktop, less than a yard away, most music sounded a trifle more natural to us without Wide mode.

Superb sound
Imaging was not terribly sharp, but unless you're hooked on closing your eyes to imagine where each musician is located, that's a minor flaw. Frequency response was smooth, but it tilted a bit toward the bass. Voices sounded natural and slightly on the warm side. Cambridge SoundWorks is primarily a speaker company, a fact that's nicely demonstrated by the PlayDock's high-quality sound.

The only thing that we did not like was that the $230 PlayDock is hard to use with any sound source other than the Nomad. Portable CD players that we tried were too deep to fit in the PlayDock's glove; radios and small cassette players could sit in the glove but did not lock in as securely as the Nomad Jukebox. Other gloves designed to hold radios, tapes players, or portable CD players would make the PlayDock appeal to a larger group of people. But for Nomad Jukebox owners, we are hard-pressed to find a reason not to buy the PlayDock.

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