Edifier is a brand that has been around for a few years, but it is most readily associated with computer speakers — its boxes can be seen stacked in a local PC store. But the company has started branching out with iPod docks and even stereo systems.
Design and features
The Breathe is pitched as a premium iPod dock, and the construction is certainly very sturdy for a device of this price, with an aluminium chassis and back panel. The unit features five drivers — two woofers, two tweeters and a down-facing subwoofer — and the total power output is rated at 48 Watts.
It's an imposing device, too, with a width of 420mm, a height of 257mm and a depth of 244mm. It also weighs in at a not-inconsiderable 4.8kg.
The only issue we could level at the device is on the design itself: it looks like a Pac-Man ghost in mourning. The front of the device is covered with acoustically transparent cloth, and beneath the dock at the top of the unit sits a rubber control panel featuring volume, play/pause and skip buttons. The keys themselves are a bit squishy, though, and at times simply unresponsive.
For a product that calls attention to its own design so readily, it's unusual that the back should actually look better than the front. The cradle at the top of the unit features a tiered design that tapers into the smooth, curved back of the unit. At the bottom, you'll find the power input and a 3.5mm aux input.
The dock comes with a remote-control puck that features a centrally radiating series of buttons and is fairly easy to use.
iPod docks: there's not much to do to get them working. You turn it on, plug your device in and press the Apple "Go" button. At first blush, we were struck with how "hi-fi" sounding this dock was. Well-recorded acoustic music such as Ben Harper's "Widow of a Living Man" was as impressive as any stereo system we've heard recently, and despite the addition of a subwoofer the speaker system didn't show any tendency to boom.
Switch to something with a bit more kick, such as dance music and the Edifier handles itself well with decent bass extension and an even hand across the frequency spectrum. Even Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" was impressively doomy, not "boomy". Give it something more complicated though and the sound begins to unravel.
When fed the prog-rock stylings of The Decemberists' "The Crane Wife" recording, a fizzing distortion began to creep into the leading edges of notes — particularly on vocals. Listening to the same source (an iPhone 4) with a pair of headphones didn't reveal the same problem. The same became of the complex Battles recording of "Atlas", with distortion occurring even at mid levels. It seemed to do this whenever the front speakers and the subwoofer were in competition — say when a bass part ran counter (or "contrapuntally" in musical terms) to a vocal part.
While we were initially impressed with the sound quality of the Breathe, its ugly-duckling looks and its inability to perform when the chips are down ensure it's not our first choice among the thousands of iPod docks out there. Its size means it's not something you'd put unobtrusively on a desk to provide background music either.