Bose SoundDock II Reviewed

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Bose has made audio history with their clever, ergonomic and compact audio products, from its Wave and Acoustic Wave music systems to their Acoustimass Home Theater Systems. They successfully transformed themselves from a home loudspeaker provider - famous for the Bose 901 - to a contemporary, lifestyle audio provider, no small feat. However, many have argued that this has occurred more because of the company's world-class marketing than its audio design prowess (albeit backed by actual patents... also no small feat). However, from a scoreboard standpoint, Bose presents a pretty good argument for their formula, despite the insults often dished from the enthusiast and audiophile crowd. Following up on their successful SoundDock, one of the first portable audio systems specifically designed and marketed toward the iPod, Bose has recently introduced the $299 SoundDock II.

At 6.65 inches high, 11.91 inches wide and 6.48 inches deep, the Bose SoundDock II still offers a very small footprint. It provides volume controls on the top of its iPod dock and an auxiliary input on the back for external portable audio devices. It runs on a small AC adapter with a detachable AC cord. The unit provides a small, elegant remote control with Power, Volume, Play/Pause, Track Select and Playlist Select features.

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Despite its small size, the SoundDock II does not lend itself to portable applications. For that, Bose offers the "Portable" version, with rechargeable battery operation and a carrying handle. The SoundDock II provides compatibility with many of the current Apple iPod models, including the Nano, Touch and Mini, as well as the iPhone and iPhone 3G.

Simplicity sets the tone for the Bose SoundDock II. Set your iPod/iPhone to Play, adjust the volume, place it in the dock, and voila. The remote adjusts volume and track (additionally, there is volume adjustment on dock itself), and even lets you cycle between playlists, which is really a must, as it's the easiest way to personalize the unit without having to walk up and adjust the settings. The SoundDock II also allows you to charge your iPod while playing another device through its external standard-size mini-plug. Just press and hold the second unit's Play button a little longer, and the SoundDock II automatically re-configures to accept the second unit. Also nice is the flashing green LED on the front that indicates volume changes, as well as maximum and minimum volume. Connection and operation with the iPhone is just as simple, and employing the unit as an Internet Radio loudspeaker will work very nicely for many users.

Powered by its patented digital signal processing circuitry, the SoundDock II offers acceptable sound quality, with relatively smooth, detailed highs, a full midrange and somewhat exaggerated bass, within a pretty compact soundstage. In other words, it is certainly pleasing but not necessarily exciting or accurate. None of this is surprising. Bose doesn't (and in all fairness never did) focus its final designs on absolute neutrality and integrity in relation to the source material, which are the veritable foundation of high-end audio. Bose believes that the ends justify the means. So what if we tamper with the signal before it reaches the loudspeakers? It sounds good right out of the box, regardless of where you put it - no muss, no fuss. Sure, it could accommodate a subwoofer and probably sound better without any processing, but that would make it bigger, which trumps just about all sonic considerations. Could it include bass and treble controls? Sure, but that could increase price and make it appear geeky.

Like a Big Mac, Bose gets the job done and puts a smile on your face - and outsells all Kashi entrées combined. It fits the bill perfectly for what music is for most people: a harmless soundtrack for whatever you're really doing.

Read more about the high points and low points of the SoundDock II on Page 2.

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