Boston Acoustics Horizon i-DS2
With iPod docks becoming more common in everything from PC speakers and TVs to home theater systems, it's becoming quite rare to find an iPod speaker system that just plays music from the iPod--no bells or whistles like a radio or alarm clock. And that, in a nutshell, is the Boston Acoustics Horizon i-DS2 (actually, the i-DS squared--but we're not into the whole superscript thing). The product is a throwback to the original Bose SoundDock--it plays the iPod's audio while recharging the music player, and doesn't do much else. As such, it's pretty much intended for those who prefer their tech simple and straightforward--the exact opposite of the "jack of all trades, master of none" school of product design.
The Horizon i-DS2 is available in either mist (silver) or midnight (black), but you can completely switch out the front-mounted speaker grille with one of nine interchangeable replacements--available for about $15 a pop on Boston Acoustics' Web site. Colors range from chili pepper red to olive green. It's the same sort of "Personal Options Plan" customization angle found on the Boston Acoustics MCS130 surround speakers as well as the company's Horizon Solo AM/FM radio.
We were happy to see that the body of the i-DS2 is composed of polished heavy-duty plastic, a welcome departure from some other iPod speakers we've seen. However, we'd imagine the black version of the i-DS2 to be quite the fingerprint magnet. The unit--about the size of a loaf of bread--is quite hefty, weighing 5.5 pounds, letting it fit nicely on a nightstand or shelf. It'll also stay in place with its rubber feet and strip that run along the bottom of the speaker.
The Horizon i-DS2 is graced with a simple, straightforward design. There are only three tactile buttons on the entire device: power, volume up, and volume down. The power button glows a smooth blue when turned on and flashes when the speaker is muted.
As mentioned above, the i-DS2's functionality is on the slim side. Other than iPod playback, the unit only offers an auxiliary input (a 2-foot 3.5mm patch cable is included, which will connect to nearly any device with a standard headphone jack) and the capability to play iPod video via the rear composite output. Lastly, the i-DS2 can act a USB dock for syncing your iPod with iTunes on a PC or Mac. (Unfortunately, it doesn't double as a USB speaker for your computer.)
Boston Acoustics provides several iPod dock adapters for almost every model that sports a dock connection. The device will also charge your iPod whenever it is attached. While the iPhone isn't included in the product's compatibility list, owners of the phone will be glad to know that it does in fact work with the i-DS2--the only caveat being that the calling feature will automatically turn off once docked. We should also note that we could not get our iPhone to properly sync with iTunes when using the i-DS2 as a USB dock, but were able to with all other iPod formats including an iPod Touch.
The i-DS2 comes with a small seven-button credit-card-size remote. You cannot use it to navigate through your iPod's music library, but you can use to skip tracks forward and backward along with the usual functionality of play/pause, mute, volume, and power. The remote is small and feels a bit cheap, but it gets the job done.
In our testing, iPod playback was solid. Considering its compact size, the i-DS2 was able to produce a heavy, rich bass-laden sound while maintaining audible mids and highs as well. It filled up our 15x22-foot testing room well, easily letting us recommend it for a dorm or smaller living room. When we pushed the unit the loudest it could go we were happy to hear a lack of distortion; however, the sound became a bit clouded and muddy. Of all the music selections we chose, we were most satisfied with various rock selections on the i-DS2. Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer performed especially well in our listening tests as did classic Green Day tracks like When I Come Around and Longview.
We had no problem hooking up the i-DS2 to a TV for iPod video playback. Quality was acceptable considering you're only given the option of using a composite connection. Just be sure to place your iPod in "TV Out" mode prior to playing.
It's also worth noting that the i-DS2 needs to be plugged in at all times. That's too bad, because the inclusion of an internal rechargeable battery--like the one found on the Bose SoundDock Portable--would've been a nice distinguishing characteristic.
Overall, the Horizon i-DS2 from Boston Acoustics is a solid-performing iPod speaker that offers a better, beefier sound than many competing models. Unfortunately, it does little else. Priced about $180, we'd really like to see the unit offer more bang for our buck. If you're looking for bit more functionality, check out the i-DS2's companion product, the Boston Acoustics Horizon Duo-i. That model is pretty much a combination of the i-DS2's iPod dock and the AM/FM clock radio found on the Horizon Solo--replete with the replaceable color grilles. And with the Duo-i available for as low as $141 online, you'll actually be getting more for your money.