Kogan's second stab at a combined DAB+ radio, iPod dock and internet radio streamer won't go on sale until 16 July, but we managed to nab an early production unit to review.
If there's a constant criticism we've had of much of Kogan's output over the past couple of years, it's that the build quality of most units has been on the poorer side. It's never easy to tell simply by looking at a picture of a Kogan unit, either, and as there's no retail presence save online for Kogan products, that's often not enough. The first combination Wi-Fi Digital Radio and iPod Dock offered a lot of functionality for its asking price, but did so in a cheap plastic box with a single mono speaker, which ruined its appeal.
Second time out, however, we reckon whichever Chinese factory actually pumps out Kogan's products has largely got it right. Significantly larger than the first generation dock, the Kogan Wi-Fi Digital Radio DAB with iPhone Docking Station Deluxe looks quite good for an iPod dock in this price range. It's not as snazzy as, say, the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Mini, but it's equally nowhere near as expensive. The one odd factor in the main unit's construction is that the two 30W speakers are side rather than front mounted, which could lead to some interesting echo effects if you were planning on popping it into a cabinet of any kind.
While we liked the simple aesthetic of the unit, we can't say the same for the remote control, which was of the flat, credit-card-sized variety. It's not terrible, but it is ordinary and a bit hard to always get working right.
It's not too often that the name of a product describes everything that it does. Does an iPod "pod"? Does Microsoft Word "word"? Does a Vaio do ... whatever it is Vaioing is? Probably not.
But the title alone of the Kogan Wi-Fi Digital Radio DAB with iPhone Docking Station Deluxe does cover most of its major features. If we wanted to be picky (which clearly we do, otherwise we wouldn't be writing this), we should point out that it should read "DAB+", but that's minor nitpicking. It's an iPod/iPhone dock, DAB+ radio and Wi-Fi music streamer from local UPnP sources and internet radio stations. If you have access to music in just about any format, you can play it through this. You're not limited to Wi-Fi only, either, as the unit comes with a standard Ethernet port at the back to connect up to your network. A good thing, too, as entering a network password from the unit's orange OLED display is a rather tiresome chore if you don't utilise WPS for a one-button set-up.
Audio performance was an area where Kogan's previous Wi-Fi dock did itself no favours at all. Like many budget DAB+ units, the inclusion of mono speakers left us wanting a whole lot more. We're not going to say that the Kogan Wi-Fi Digital Radio DAB with iPhone Docking Station Deluxe left us with a new appreciation for all of our music due to its crystal clear audio transmission, because that wouldn't be true. Equally, though, we weren't forced to run screaming from it with bleeding ears due to truly awful speakers. As a desk-based unit, we found it perfectly acceptable for audio playback from a connected iPod or iPhone. On the DAB+ front, the rather compressed and flat nature of most DAB+ broadcasts was rather painfully evident, but that's not this unit's fault. The inclusion of both local streaming from any connected and compliant source gives the Docking Station Deluxe nice flexibility, as does internet radio. Every time you feel like slapping, say, Kyle Sandilands in the face, instead of potentially putting yourself in jail, just relax with some cool Cajun jazz piped direct from New Orleans instead.
The only real problem we hit with the Docking Station Deluxe related to the remote control. Like most small remotes it's not terribly good. Button presses sometimes failed to be picked up, and we often just used the physical controls on the Docking Station Deluxe instead. It's also got the peculiar quirk that it clearly shares a lot of its remote codes with a number of other remote manufacturers. We inadvertently managed to variously switch the radio on and off with other remotes, as well as adjust volume and change channels while performing other tasks in the same area. That again isn't exactly the Docking Station Deluxe's fault, but it's worth keeping in mind if you're going to use it in an area where lots of other IR remote signals are pinging around.
Kogan's mantra has long been "Cheap before everything else", and that doesn't always equate to the same thing as "value for money". Thankfully, the Kogan Wi-Fi Digital Radio DAB with iPhone Docking Station Deluxe is value for money, and pretty good value for money at that. It's not a high-end audio solution for iPod, DAB or internet Radio, but as a combination unit at a very appealing price point, it offers a great deal.