Some things were never made to be broken in half: laptops, Bruce Willis, hearts. Not true for Gear4's Duo, though -- this two-part iPod speaker system is designed to work both as a single 2.1 unit, or snapped in half and used as a portable pair of battery-powered stereo speakers.
It's an unusual magnetic design, sitting between the company's own
The Duo is essentially a large subwoofer, with a pair of mid-range drivers and tweeters mounted into a removable face plate. Gear4's thinking is that you'll leave the sub plugged in, but when you want your music to come with you, simply pick up the face plate and let it play from two user-replaceable lithium-ion batteries.
Build quality's what we've come to expect from Gear4: solid, but without the bells and whistles that add significant cost. The front speakers are held in place by two grooves at their base, and magnets at the top, meaning it slips in and out of place without clips or wires.
Batteries power the front speakers when not connected to the sub, and while they'll continue to work if the system has no mains power, the batteries won't power the sub too. In addition to the sub and main drivers, two tweeters push out high-frequency sound, giving the Duo some potential as an all-round star player in the league of iPod docks.
On the back of the detached front speakers and the sub are power input sockets for mains power and battery charging, and line-in sockets for hooking up other audio devices.
Notably missing is video output -- a big iPod feature these days. Neither can you connect the system to a PC via USB for syncing with iTunes.
In its full configuration, the Duo adequately fulfills its bedroom role. That is to say, it's no living room hi-fi alternative, but sound is clear, bass is present and it'll hit a reasonable volume. What you must bear in mind is that, while this is technically a 2.1 setup, it will not sound anything remotely like what you'd hear from even a middle-of-the-road 2.1 system in satellite/subwoofer configuration.