The Monster Beats by Dr Dre Beatbox iPod Dock is a high-end dock that's best suited to lovers of urban grooves — and best disregarded by the rest.
If there's one thing guaranteed to elicit name calling and biting of thumbs amongst the audio community, it's the topic of audio cables. For years, high-end manufacturers, such as Monster, have been accused on forums of peddling "snake oil" with their well-made but expensive audio and video cables.
But that's for audiophiles to bicker about. Monster has moved on in other areas, crafting products designed to appeal to a youth-oriented market. It has formed an alliance with Dr Dre and the head of Interscope Records Jimmy Iovine to produce prosumer headphones in the Monster Beats range.
The BeatBox is the range's first iPod dock, and it seems to take its cues from Apple's first and only dock, the Apple iPod Hi-Fi. Both feature a stereo configuration in a single, similarly sized box, and come with an integrated carry handle. But the BeatBox is no doppelganger; it sits apart from Apple's creation by offering a soft-touch coating, a rubberised volume knob and a dock (iPod/iPhone only) set off to the side. The Monster also features a steel grille to protect the dual 130mm long throw bass drivers and two 50mm concave tweeters. The grille itself isn't particularly rigid, though, and it flexes easily when pressed. While the carry handle is comfortable and makes moving the Beatbox around easy, we wonder where you'll be carrying it to, as the unit is AC power only.
The Beatbox comes with a small, rudimentary remote, which enables transport controls like Play and Skip, in addition to Volume, but sadly no Menu button. Monster anticipates that you'll use the iDevice itself to change artists.
As this is a dock aimed at the dance and hip-hop crowd, it's no surprise that the sound profile is suited to this type of music with boosted highs and lows. If you like your doof-doof loud, then the Beatbox will do you well. Bass is punchy, and the treble is nicely pointy without becoming splashy. The dock has plenty of power in reserve, and can go loud enough to entertain a room full of people, but you may find that the bass can lose its footing and become sloppy.
Other bassy music, such as emo and metal, also sound good — but as the mids are very recessed, guitars and complicated arrangements can sound thin. The speaker has a definite presence boost, which does boost intelligibility of vocals a little, but a lower-than-usual crossover means that most of the midrange energy comes out of the tweeters. This affects stereo imaging directly, as the tweeters are spaced at opposite ends of the dock, and voices can sound like a little other-wordly.
If you like acoustic or jazz, and have gotten this far in the review, then you can probably guess that this dock isn't for you. While the midrange sounds fine, cymbals, in particular, jump out unnaturally.
While the dock is supposed to start softly, and then ramp up to the volume on the iPhone, we found that the volume knob didn't always work properly as a result, and the volume would revert back to that of the iPhone's.
If you're looking for a party machine, they don't come as sharply focused as the Beatbox. The brand trades on its street cred mostly successfully, and it will play very loudly. While it fits quite well into its chosen market, it certainly won't quell the cries of the audiophiles.