Some people love rustic country cottage design, while others like cool, minimalist brushed metal. The Bayan 7 speaker from Bayan Audio offers neither of these, but instead caters to those people who are partial to big white sub-woofers with an enormous piece of acrylic stuck on it.
It packs five speakers designed to deliver a loud and clear sound, and features not one but two iPod docks, but is it worth £300?
The Bayan 7 isn't the sort of speaker to sit modestly on your bookshelf among the Penguin Classics, waiting for you to plug something into it. It would rather dominate the space inside a modern living room.
Most of the body is made up of a big square sub-woofer. On the front of it is a large piece of clear acrylic in which are set two tweeters on either side of the round sub-speaker. It's a very unusual design that divided opinion on the CNET UK team, with some claiming they liked the modern touch but others calling it "hideous" and "like a washing machine".
It's entirely subjective whether or not you like it, but we doubt it will appeal to those who like the 'country cottage' look in their house. However, if your living room is full of glass coffee tables and minimal chrome lines then the Bayan 7 will be more to your taste.
It's available in either white or black. We had the white model, which annoyingly looked as though it had been put through the wash with a stray red sock as it had a slight pinky tinge to it. It was only really noticeable in certain light, but there was an undeniable pink hue to some of the plastic fronts and on the white remote. It may not be an issue on all units, but we'd be pretty annoyed if we'd just spent £300 to find that the colours have run.
At just under 7kg, it's a hefty beast so we'd suggest finding a good spot for it and then never attempting to move it again. With that weight comes a sense that this thing is well built. The sub-woofer is encased in thick wood, which Bayan reckons offers a more natural sound. The speaker casings are all machined from metal.
It probably won't appreciate being repeatedly hurled to the ground, but if it does happen to take a tumble off your table, we reckon it would live to tell the tale.
Stuck on the front of that clear acrylic are not one, but a pair of iPod docks. Why would you need two? That's a good question. The simple -- and obvious -- answer is so you can have two iPods docked at once. Duh.
But why on Earth would you need to? Another good question. Say you're perpetually arguing with your partner/sibling/flatmate about what music you want on -- with the Bayan 7, you could dock both your music collections and use the remote to switch between them without having to get up.
While we appreciate the idea behind it, it's difficult to see when we'd actually want to use it. Changing over an iPod is hardly a challenge and if you can't agree on what music to put on, then the arguments are only going to extend to who has control over the remote. We asked around the office who might actually see themselves using this feature and very few thought they ever would.
Switching between iPods is at least an easy task of simply pressing a button on the remote control. The first iPod pauses when it shifts to the second so you can easily switch back to where you were in the song.
The remote also controls the volume, bass and treble so you can customise your sound. There's no way of seeing what level you've set the bass or treble to though, so it's mostly a case of guessing by ear. We generally find that 'max bass' is the best way.
The only controls you'll find on the back of the speaker are for the volume, so be aware that if you lose the remote, you won't be able to alter the sound or switch between your iPods. Given our tendency for losing remotes down sofas, we find this oversight particularly worrying.
There's also an auxillary port -- as well as a supplied 3.5mm jack to 3.5mm jack cable -- for hooking up any device that isn't an iPod or iPhone. You can whack in your iPad too and charge it using the USB port.
With a sub-woofer that big and prominent, you'd be right to expect enough sound to cause severe structural damage to your home. The audio was certainly loud, but it wasn't quite capable of disrupting nearby bird nesting sites. In our test room -- which is about the size of a large living room -- the sound was loud and filled the space well. The bass was warm but not hugely powerful. It dealt adequately with Skrillex's Kill Everybody, but didn't leave us with the 'brutally beaten eardrums' feeling we like so much.
When we cranked the volume up to the max, we did notice distortion starting to creep in. But we've heard worse and most people at your house party won't notice -- the ones that will clearly haven't drunk enough so send them to the kitchen for shots.
The speakers that handle the high and mid-range frequencies are powered by separate amplifiers from the sub-woofer. That should mean a cleaner sound as the high end isn't muddied by the powerful low end.
We were fairly pleased, if not blown away by the results. The vocals on Sunday Girl's cover of Where Is My Mind were clear and nicely reproduced and weren't distorted by the low purr of the cellos in the string section. The Bayan 7 deals well with this sort of music, but if you really want your tunes to sparkle, you might want to hunt further up the price range for the £500 Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Air.
It's not just about the pumping tunes though. If you want to cool things down with some podcasts or radio shows then you can set the speaker to voice mode. This cancels out a lot of the low end to make speech clearer. We're not sure if anyone would use this, but there's no harm in having it.
There are arguably more beautiful speaker docks on the market and the sound isn't going to keep the audio elitists truly happy, but the Bayan 7 has got enough guff to keep your living-room party going. The remote control will prove handy in those lazier moments, just make sure you don't lose it.