Believe it or not, iPod speakers were once rare objects--and Bose's SoundDock was one of the first to hit the market back in 2004. Since then, the company has followed up with the SoundDock II ($299) and the SoundDock Portable ($399), even as the iPod speaker category has become completely commoditized (nowadays, there are plenty of sub-$100 clock radios with built-in iPod docks). For the 2009-2010 buying season, Bose has gone back to the drawing board and produced the SoundDock 10.
Bose says it worked for several years on this new speaker system for the iPod and iPhone, with the lofty goal of building a product that can deliver "audio performance previously unattainable from a one-piece speaker system for iPod." The SoundDock 10 is bigger and more expensive (costing a whopping $599) than previous SoundDock models, but it's still relatively compact, measuring 17 inches wide by 9 inches high by 10 inches deep, and has a nice clean, understated design that gives the whole system a classy look.
We really liked the design, though it's worth noting that since there are no buttons on the unit itself, you have to use the included remote to control playback. Lose the remote and you'll have a problem, especially when it comes to adjusting volume. (The remote controls your iPod's basic functions, and, while the system does have a video output, Apple doesn't allow the iPod menus to be displayed on a TV or other video source, which would make it much easier to navigate the device from afar.)
The centerpiece of the unit is a hefty, custom woofer, bracketed by two Bose Twiddler transducers (no, that's not a new social-networking site; it's a combination of a high-frequency transducer and midrange driver). The woofer alone adds a lot of weight to the unit, and while the speaker can be moved around the house easily enough, the SoundDock 10 weighs a beefy 18.9 pounds (that's three times as much as the aforementioned SoundDock Series II and SoundDock Portable). Held in hand, this model feels quite substantial and well built.
As far as extra features go, you don't get a whole lot. There's no radio or clock, but you do get an audio input for other audio devices and a composite-video output for showing iPod/iPhone images or videos when connected to a TV. While Bose is known for its sound and not its video, we wish it had incorporated a component-video connection because composite video really offers a mediocre picture. Particularly at this price point, if you're going to include video, you might as well make it decent.
Bose also has equipped the SoundDock 10 with a proprietary interchangeable docking architecture, which it says is designed to "future-proof" the system and make it compatible with any hot media players or smartphones that might come along (around back, there's a USB port for uploading any future firmware updates). For instance, if Microsoft's Zune really took off, it could add a dock for that, but right now it's only offering an optional Bluetooth dock that costs an additional $149. For 600 bucks, you'd have hoped Bose would have integrated Bluetooth into the unit, but it didn't.
As you might imagine, that Bluetooth dock allows you to stream music wirelessly from your iPod Touch or iPhone to the SoundDock 10 using your Apple device as a source and a remote. When you move too far away from the device--we got about 40 feet away--or run into some interference issues (i.e., microwaves or other Bluetooth devices), a light starts blinking on the dock, which alerts you that the quality of stream may be affected. If the light blinks faster, you're more likely to have a problem.