What the sub does is add decent warmth to the bright sound generated by the mid-range drivers and the two tweeters. When you take the front speakers away for use on their own, however, you lose that warmth. But the convenience of this kind of setup makes up for this, and you could easily take the front speakers away with you on holiday.
Playing Dashboard Confessional's emotional track Stolen, we heard decent overall performance. Yes, the audiophiles will scoff at the Duo's harsh high-end and its lack of stereo separation. But it does offer decent enough sound quality for anyone who just likes casually listening to their MP3s, with the convenience of being able to take their music in the bathroom.
And we loved this feature. We actually found this most useful when we were listening to a lengthy podcast. 15 minutes into the show and we needed to eat. We simply picked up the front speakers, popped out the kick stand and carried on listening in the kitchen. Brilliant. True, we had another audio setup in the kitchen already, but for those that haven't, it's darn handy.
Our main problem is that it doesn't match the sound quality offered by other docks. At maximum volume, the sub can't match the ferociousness of the main drivers, meaning you'll hear slightly grating highs, and fairly hollow bass drums. And you'll also lose some definition, meaning guitars sound as though they're blending together, and cymbals are harder to isolate behind other instrumentation and vocals.
This all leads us to believe the Gear4 Duo is perfectly fine for casual bedroom listeners, and a joyous addition to a kitchen. Plus the advantage of being able to take podcasts to the bath, or lug old Madonna into the garden -- all without wires -- is just lovely.
If you want to sacrifice convenience for better audio quality, check out the Klipsch iGroove SXT or the terrific -- the SXT is far less harsh in the high-end, but the i30 will give you raw power you never thought an iPod was capable of. Or, if you're craving bass, Logic3's JiveBox is worth a punt.
Edited by Nick Hide