Editors' note: The Boston Acoustics Duo-i Plus is nearly identical to the Horizon Duo-i we reviewed a year ago. Not a lot has changed since then aside from the addition of full support for iPhone playback. While the Horizon Duo-i worked with the iPhone, the device had to be set to "airplane mode" to prevent interference.
Recently, we looked at two tabletop audio products from Boston Acoustics: the Horizon i-DS2 iPod speaker and the Horizon Solo clock radio. Both of them offered superior sound, but left us wanting more. That's where the Boston Acoustics Duo-i Plus comes in: it's essentially the two aforementioned products combined into one.
The Duo-i Plus is customizable via the Boston Acoustics "Personal Options Plan" available on the company's Web site. There you can choose from a number of colored grilles to personalize your device for around $15 a pop.
The Duo-i Plus is covered in a glossy plastic coating and is easy to carry and transport. It's a bit heavier than the previous Boston models, weighing 8.5 pounds. It also is a lot deeper, measuring 5.5 inches tall by 13 inches wide by 8 inches deep. It could still probably fit on a nightstand, but you may want to place it somewhere you can afford the extra real estate.
What separates the Duo-i Plus from its competitors is its incredible ease of use. We were happy to see the controls were laid out the same way as we found on the Horizon Solo. The three rubber knobs make it easy to customize your listening experience. Whether it's setting radio presets (10 FM, 5 AM) or adjusting alarms, the layout is logical and easy to use.
The Duo-i Plus allows you to set two separate alarms to either tone, radio, or iPod playback. When set, the alarms will gradually increase the volume of the source. A cool feature we enjoyed is the unit's silver rim that circles the periphery of the entire face--this is actually a touch-sensitive snooze button that worked perfectly in our testing.
We tested the Duo-i Plus with a number of iPods. The unit supports all fourth-generation and higher iPods with a dock connection and includes a series of adapters to fit each model. This Boston model also includes the iPod Touch and iPhone since now it's an officially certified device. You won't need to toggle the phone to airplane mode as there is built-in shielding to prevent interference. We were also glad to see a video output port on the unit's rear for those iPods capable of playing video files. We hooked the Duo-i Plus up to our TV via a composite wire with no problems. (Just make sure your iPod is set to TV-Out when using this mode.)
The Duo-i Plus offers additional connectivity options in the form of two aux-in ports. The first, located on the front of the unit, will take any 1/8-inch headphone adapter for use with something like another digital media device. The second port is located on the device's rear and uses standard RCA analog plugs (red and white). There's also a headphone jack next on the front panel. There's room to bring your own subwoofer via the RCA ports in back.
Included with the Duo-i Plus is a slim remote control. While you can't navigate through your iPod with it, you can control every function the device has to offer. Additionally, we liked the remote's magnetized bottom that attaches to the unit's metallic front grilles for easy storage when not in use.
In terms of overall sound quality, we were quite impressed with the oomph that the Duo-i Plus delivered. It handled every source we threw at it with ease. From Green Day to Amy Winehouse, Dr. Dre to The Police, the Duo-i Plus always packed a heavy punch and never sounded dull or flat; even radio reception sounded great. We should also note that we slightly tweaked the unit's bass and treble settings, which were very effective. We were even able to push the Duo-i Plus to the loudest it could physically go without our source music distorting--the dual 3.5-inch stereo speakers worked wonders, delivering a far better and meatier sound than you get from smaller, lighter iPod speakers. We could even see it being used on an outdoor patio or deck because of the sheer amount of sound it's able to output without distorting. (Of course, you'll need to be close to an electrical outlet since the Duo-i Plus doesn't have a battery option.)
Overall, we're glad Boston Acoustics decided to go with an all-in-one in terms of its iPod and AM/FM radio models. The Duo-i Plus combines the functionality of those models but is a bit pricey. Retailing for around $250 online, we'd love to see the entire package offered for below $200. That said, we'd recommend the Duo-i Plus over the iHome H9--its higher price will be worth it for listeners looking for better sound quality and more connectivity options. And if iPod playback isn't your thing, you can check out the Boston Acoustics Horizon Duo, which is essentially the Plus, but without the iPod dock.