We've never been disappointed with the sound quality coming from a Boston Acoustics iPod speaker as the company provides some of the best-sounding iPod devices out there. That said, these products still leave us wanting more. Unfortunately, the iDS3 is no exception. While it offers fantastic iPod sound, it doesn't include enough features to justify its steep price.
As with most Boston Acoustics products, the iDS3 is available in two base colors: black or white. Both units ship with a glossy high-quality plastic encasing. However, you can customize the grille color by visiting the company's Web site (http://www.bostonacoustics.com/POP) where you can choose from a variety of colors. These grilles usually cost about $15.
The overall design of the iDS3 is minimalistic. A row of buttons rest on top of the device, which include a power button, volume control, and a "wide stereo" button that turns on a special listening mode.
The iDS3 is practical in size--you shouldn't have a problem resting it on a bookshelf or end table. The system requires AC power and isn't portable, so that's something to keep in mind. Also, we don't recommend placing the wireless subwoofer too far away from the base. With the sub activated, you're going to use two electrical outlets with this system.
Both the base speaker and subwoofer have standby switches that will need to be flipped on to power them. Energy conservationists shouldn't be turned away here, as both devices have an auto-shutoff function. Basically, there's no need to ever turn the power switches off (unless they're unplugged) as there is only a negligible power draw when it is off.
Setting up the iDS3 is simple. In fact, our system synced up right out of the box. If for some reason you have a different experience, just make sure both wireless IDs (on the base and woofer) are set to the same number channel.
The iDS3 supports all iPods, fifth generation and higher. In addition, it fully supports the iPhone and iPod Touch. This means you won't need to put the iPhone into "airplane mode" to avoid interference. Even better, you'll be able to receive calls while using the phone with the iDS3. Boston Acoustics provides you with a handful of iPod dock adapters so your specific iPod will fit snuggly when attached.
The included remote is slim, about the size and girth of a few credit cards stacked on top of each other. There isn't too much functionality offered on it, but you'll be able to do the basic play/pause and skip track commands you'd expect. However, there are buttons for shuffle and repeat, something we don't usually see on an iPod speaker remote. All this aside, you'll still need to manually navigate through music directly on your music player.
On the rear of the iDS3 you'll find two video-out options. If your iPod is loaded up with video, you'll be able to output via S-Video or composite via the two interfaces. Just make sure you set your iPod to "TV-out" when doing so.
There's also room for a line-in auxiliary device. It's only an RCA analog audio connection, but getting most devices to play nicely with that interface isn't a problem. For most products (like those with headphone jacks), a simple 1/8 inch-to-RCA analog audio adapter is all you'll need.
During our testing, audio performance was well above average. The two-way main speaker base combined with the impressively powerful six-inch subwoofer provided us with a rich and clear sound and a large of amount of range. The subwoofer has noticeable oomph behind it and you can customize its power using the rear volume knob. During our test we were most satisfied with it turned up at about 65 percent.
The system also offers a "wide stereo" function. Boston Acoustics doesn't say much about what it actually does and we didn't notice any real difference in our listening experience during our testing with it. That said, it can be activated via the remote or the button on top of the base speaker's grille. It will light orange when activated.
There is not much to complain about with the iDS3. While it performs very well, we do wish it offered a few more features to sweeten the deal. The addition of an AM/FM radio would improve its appeal and barely affect the price. Boston Acoustics has the iDS3 retailing for a whopping $500 on the company's Web site but we found it for as low as $360 online.
While $360 is still a bit much to pay for a dedicated iPod speaker, it has impressive sound. If you're looking for more features and a wireless subwoofer isn't exactly what you're in the market for, check out the company's Horizon Duo-i systems. They cost as low as $130, offer great sound quality, and have an AM/FM radio.
Alternatively, you can opt for the previous Boston Acoustics "iDS" model, the iDS2. It features the same feature set as the iDS3 but without the wireless subwoofer. It offers great sound quality and is significantly cheaper--available for as low as $140 online.