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The iPod doesn't have a radio, let alone DAB, so an iPod speaker system with a digital radio built in has to be a good idea. That's what we thought when we got a first look at Intempo's RDI docking system. It's priced at an appealing £130, making it only slightly more costly than alternatives from DAB specialists PURE Digital.
But competition in the iPod accessory sector is bursting with explosive energy and manufacturers need to get smart or get out. Can Intempo take on 'Podspeaker favourites Bose and DAB connoisseurs PURE, and come out on top?
With its glossy piano black finish, slick curves and an unusual sloping enclosure, the RDI is a little different from some of the more conventional speaker designs we've seen. Apart from a master power switch to the rear, all the controls are set into the front panel and are mirrored on the supplied remote control. Build quality's pretty decent, too -- it's solid, weighty and sits on some good old rubber feet.
Similar to the Bose SoundDock, the iPod sits vertically against the RDI's face, next to a little dot-matrix display. A retractable docking station pops out with a little push, though we felt it could be accidentally broken if pushed down upon too heavily when inserting an iPod, so the heavy-handed among you may want to be a little careful.
While the main speaker drivers are protected by a cloth-covered shield, the woofer to the rear is bare and open to the elements. Again, a little caution is needed, particularly when you're carrying the system around. You won't need to be too careful with the telescopic aerial though, because it's beefier than the most succulent piece of steak in a trendy London restaurant.
All iPod models are supported, from nano to shuffle, touch to iPhone. The players' menus can be navigated easily with a little button pressing on the remote. But the really interesting feature is DAB inclusion. It's one of the only iPod systems to integrate DAB and it does it pretty well. It'll store all available stations after a quick autoseeking session, and navigating through the list is a doddle. Plus there's room for eight presets to be filled with your favourite FM or DAB stations.
Behind the scenes is 30W of total power delivered through the aforementioned 15W woofer, a pair of mid-range drivers and two tweeters. There's a fair bit of power on offer, positioning it not as a bedside radio, but as a fully fledged system for a bedroom or kitchen. Bear in mind there's no headphone socket, so it's no good for nighttime listening as a partner snoozes next to you in bed. A shame.
Alarm features are built in, however, so there's no reason the system couldn't double up as an alarm clock, and you can choose to wake up to your iPod or the radio. A line-in socket opens the door for compatibility with other devices, too, as if 160GB of music and a plethora of digital radio stations wasn't enough musical choice.
General navigation of the system is fairly simple. We wouldn't recommend it for Granny over one of PURE's DAB-only offerings, as they've got simplicity nailed down to a fine art (and she probably doesn't have an iPod). But the Intempo's numerous buttons and dual dials aren't exactly a challenge to understand. Autoseeking DAB stations took less than a minute and found all our favourites. We occasionally get poor DAB reception in one of our labs, but the RDI performed better than we expected, probably due to its chunky aerial.
On the whole, sound quality's pretty good for the price. Although a little heavy in the high-end, audio is well-driven and volume booms up to a good level. A little acoustic rock from Dashboard Confessional highlighted the RDI's bright sound, but also that it offers enough oomph to give the floor a bit of a rumble.
Considering its neat integration with iPods and the nicely functioning DAB features, we felt we were getting good enough sound for £130. Vocal frequencies seemed favoured though, resulting in voices slightly overpowering instruments, but generally it's pretty good. And it'll charge your iPod, too.
Despite the odd minor issue with elements of sound quality, this is a terrific little setup. The neat integration of DAB is excellent and as an iPod speaker system it gets an enthusiastic thumbs up. Intempo has created a respectable system for a good price, and very few people will be disappointed overall.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide