Boston Acoustics Horizon Duo-i
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 Horizon Duo-I comes in: it's essentially the two aforementioned products combined into one.
The Horizon Duo-i comes in two standard colors--midnight/gray and silver/mist--and is also 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 is covered in a rubberized coating, which makes it a lot easier to carry and transport. It's a bit heavier than the previous Boston models, weighing in at 8.5 pounds. It also is a lot deeper, measuring in at 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 from its competitors is its incredible ease-of-use. We were very happy to see that the controls were laid out the same way as we found on the Horizon Solo. The three rubber knobs make it very easy to customize your listening experience. Whether it's setting radio presets (10 FM, five AM) or adjusting alarms, the layout is logical and very easy to use.
The Duo-i 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 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 also includes the iPod Touch and iPhone, but--since it's not iPhone "certified"--you'll need to toggle the phone to airplane mode so that you don't get an irritating feedback interference with the Duo-i. 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 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 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.
Included with the Duo-i is also 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 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 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 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 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 combines the functionality of those models we've seen and has a very attractive price. Despite a $200 MSRP, as of September 2008, the Duo-i can be had for $130 online--that's even cheaper than the Horizon-iDS2, which has only half the functionality. We'd also recommend the Duo-i 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 Duo-I, but without the iPod dock.