Audyssey says it was inspired to name its first iPod/iPhone audio system after the South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood in San Francisco because of its "eclectic blend of energy and history." Well, we're not sure what that means, but the Audyssey Audio Dock "South of Market Edition" definitely is distinct-looking and has some interesting features along with very good sound--all of which goes a long way to justify its fairly high $400 price tag.
If the Audyssey brand is familiar, it's because they're the folks behind the autocalibration systems in a lot of AV receivers and home audio systems. The Audio Dock is the company's first standalone product, but the company does bring some audio chops to the table and it shows.
As you can see from the picture, this Audyssey has a bit of an odd shape to it--it looks like a jumbo wireless router or a networked storage device. Love it or hate it, the thing is built very solidly and weighs in at a hefty 8.9 pounds. It measures 9 inches tall by 5 inches wide by 9 inches deep, so it's fairly compact, especially from a width perspective.
Inside you'll find two 0.75-inch tweeters and two 4-inch woofers, so this does pack some punch. You have a couple of options for listening to music. You can either dock your iPhone /iPod as you would with any of these types of speakers--the system is GSM-shielded, so you don't need to toggle your iPhone to airplane mode--or you can wirelessly stream music to the speaker via Bluetooth using any Bluetooth-enabled device with A2DP, including a PC. Audyssey also points out that his feature comes in handy when you want to do e-mail or text message friends and have music playing while you tap away on your iPhone or perhaps even an iPad.
The speaker also has built-in speakerphone capabilities, but they only work via Bluetooth (when you dock your iPhone, the sound comes out of the iPhone's speaker, not the Audyssey's). When a call comes in, the music you're listening to will pause and go silent. When you hang up the call, the music comes back on.
In our initial tests using the speakerphone, we didn't have any trouble hearing callers, but they said they heard a distinct echo on their end. We moved the phone farther from the speaker in a subsequent call, and that seemed to alleviate the echo problem almost completely.
Aside from the Bluetooth, another nice extra is the USB syncing capabilities. There's a mini-USB port built into the back of the unit that allows you to sync your iPhone or iPod with iTunes on your computer (a USB cable is included for this purpose). That's good to have, especially if you plan on also using this as a computer speaker that sits near your computer. As we said, Bluetooth is an option, but you can also just connect the rear minijack auxiliary speaker input and microphone output to the corresponding ports on your PC (two minijack-to-minijack cables are included with the system).
A small remote comes with the system that controls the basic functions of your iPhone/iPod (fast-forward/back, volume control) and it also has buttons for muting the mic on the speakerphone and muting the speaker's sound. It can also be used to toggle into an incoming call.
To test the Audyssey's sound--and inspired by the South of Market neighborhood where this reviewer once had an apartment--we tested an eclectic mix of music with the speaker and came away pretty impressed. The Dirty Projectors' Bitte Orca album sounded rich and vibrant, and the speaker was able to handle the heavy bass of Dan Auerbach's "I Want Some More" track on his "Keep It Hid" album with relative gusto for a system this small. We fired up Tiesto's "Elements of Life (Airbase Remix)" and cranked the volume, which made our test room sound clublike. In this regard, the Audyssey shares some similar traits with the Bose SoundDock 10 ($600), which can also play loud and fill a fairly large room with sound. (The Bluetooth option for the SoundDock 10 costs an extra $150, so the Audyssey is clearly the better deal.)
Alas, at the time of this review, Audyssey hadn't released its iOS app that allows you to adjust bass and treble levels and set custom EQs (it arrives in November, when the Audio Dock goes on sale). But we got enough sense of what the speaker is capable of without fiddling around with EQ settings to know that this is one of the best-sounding iPhone/iPod speakers in its price class.
True, the SoMa Audio Dock doesn't measure up to PC speaker systems like the Audioengine 5s or even the Audioengine 2s, which cost less. But to be fair, those are separate speakers that offer better stereo separation and overall sound. However, they don't feature a docking system, Bluetooth, or a built-in speakerphone. Those extras along with the PC-synching option make the Audyssey an excellent option for those seeking a compact, versatile iPod/iPhone audio system that sounds very good for its size.