Sharp DK-A1 iElegance Music System review: Sharp DK-A1 iElegance Music System

If the design of the iElegance has a weak spot, it's with the unit's controls. Volume, iPod, clock, and audio source buttons are conveniently located on the center top, directly in front of the iPod dock. However, some of the controls--such as radio tuning, alarm setting, the display dimmer, and the sleep timer--are available only on the small credit-card-style remote. So if you lose the remote, you lose access to some key functions--and that's not good.

So, does the iElegance sound as good as it looks? In a word, no. To many listeners--those who can't tell the difference between MP3s and CDs--the iElegance may not sound appreciably different from the myriad other iPod speakers. But that's damning it with faint praise, as the iPod speaker product category isn't exactly known for its notable sound quality. It sounds OK at low volumes, but things begin to fall apart when you crank it up. The highs on Green Day's "Long View" were sounding sibilant and harsh as soon as the guitars kicked in; the bass, while palpable, was muddy and distorted. Returning the volume to a lower level helped, but a discerning listener will still be able to make out the rough edges, at least with certain music selections.

Engaging the Esound mode didn't help; Sharp claims that it "corrects sound deterioration that results from compression by enhancing the sound frequency spectrum as well as increasing the sound pressure." In reality, it just seemed to amplify the cloudiness of the sound. That's little surprise: every similarly touted sound-enhancement mode, even on $1,000-plus AV receivers, seems to have the same ill effect.

With plenty of other $200 iPod speakers available, there's no reason to settle for the iElegance DK-A1's sonic shortcomings. For the same price, the iLuv i199 offers more features (a CD player and Bluetooth audio option), while the Klipsch iGroove delivers far better sound. Hopefully, Sharp will offer an iElegance follow-up with improved sonics at some point; in the meantime, the DK-A1 is best suited to those who are truly in love with the design but have a forgiving ear.

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