Bose SoundDock 10 review: Bose SoundDock 10

For our Bluetooth tests, we used an iPhone 3GS, and the Bluetooth worked well. While Bluetooth streaming compresses the audio, we didn't notice a marked difference in sound quality (the degradation was only very slight). All in all, we really liked the option of using our iPhone as remote, but there's one serious drawback to the Bluetooth dock: if you have it plugged in, you can't charge your iPod or iPhone in the SoundDock 10. That's just unfortunate.

In terms of sound quality, the first thing you'll notice is that the SoundDock 10 plays loud and doesn't distort when you crank your tunes. Typically, most compact iPod audio systems just can't fill a large room with sound, but this model definitely plays much bigger than it looks.

We played an eclectic mix of music--everything from Bach to Dan Aurebach to Elvis Costello to Rihanna and Lady Gaga. The sound is rich, detailed, and well-balanced. That specially designed woofer delivers lots of bass. While it's not incredibly tight, it does have some good thump to it, and we agree with Bose that the SoundDock 10 has some party chops.

While some people might lament the lack of bass and treble controls, Bose tends to cater to an audience that isn't inclined to tweak their audio settings and just wants a system that's optimized out of the box. (Note: In some ways we prefer testing products that are optimized by the manufacture because it help eliminate a layer of subjectivity.)

So, does Bose deliver on its lofty sound goals? In large part, yes. For a compact speaker system, the SoundDock 10 sounds really good. If there's a weakness, it is that, like most iPod speakers that have their drivers placed right next to each other, you don't get much in the way of stereo separation. (Bose reps explained that its engineers designed the drivers to fire off at an angle rather than straight ahead, but you still don't get much stereo separation.) Despite that shortcoming, you'd be hard-pressed to find an iPod speaker system this compact that delivers better sound.

Of course, there's that little nagging issue of price. Six hundred bucks is a lot to spend on an iPod speaker and you can get home-theater-in-a-box systems that sound better for the same amount of money or even slightly less. You can also pick up something like the Altec LansingMix iMT800 iPod/iPhone boom box or the iHome iP1 for half the price of this model, but you're not going to get quite as good sound (the iMT800 is fairly close, however) or the upscale look of the Bose. B&W and Geneva also make iPod speakers in this price range that sound really good. However, their designs are more unique and may turn some people off.

Weighing the SoundDock 10's pluses and minuses, it's pretty easy to say that it's not for everyone. Its price is high and we wish Bose had integrated Bluetooth into the unit and not made it an extra feature that costs an additional $150. But if you're someone who's less concerned about price and really values the concept of a compact iPod/iPhone audio system that looks classy, plays loud (without distorting), and sounds really good for its size, we have no problem recommending the SoundDock 10. It's also worth noting that Bose does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can test it out yourself and return the thing for a full refund if you don't think it's worth $600.

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