Review: Scandyna The Dock Pack
With hundreds of different speakers now available for the iPod, sound quality for the dollar and industrial design are now the critical differentiators from one offering to the next. Bundling two of its Micropod SE speakers with an iPod-specific docking station called The Dock, Danish audio company Scandyna has released The Dock Pack ($300), an ultra-stylized audio system with nicely detailed sound for the price -- a combination that may be enough to win you over from systems that pack more features or horsepower.
Like JBL’s popular Creature, Encounter, and other alien-inspired 2-channel speaker systems, Scandyna’s Micropod SEs are as noteworthy for their exteriors as what’s inside. The company has created rounded plastic enclosures with black 3/4” tweeters on top and 3.2”, black-and-yellow eye-like midrange speakers at their centers. Though the 7” tall enclosures are sold in white, black, silver, blue, yellow, or red versions, the centers are always black and yellow; grille guards to tone down the yellow parts are sold separately. Whether you place them on a desk, counter, or a bookshelf, they’ll look like items that might have appeared in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and wouldn’t be out of place in a modern art gallery.
Basically, the idea here is that you’ll take the two Micropod SE units and mount them in your choice of locations: Scandyna includes six of what it describes as Sputnik spikes to table-mount the speakers, with three aluminum pins jutting out from each glossy plastic bottom to serve as a tripod. Alternately, you can attach a self-supplied screw-style mount to the metal center of the bottom plastic base. Then you connect The Dock to the speakers with banana post-style wires—they weren’t included in our kit, but are now included in the bundle—and hook up the included power supply to The Dock.
When connected to a power source, twin blue power lights glow on the front of The Dock, alongside an Infrared receiver for the included white and silver remote control. There isn’t much else going on with the base unit: other than rear-mounted banana posts for the speakers, it has a power port, a line-out port, and a top-mounted Dock Connector for your iPod. Scandyna also packs in a bunch of large black iPod inserts, which oddly enough can also be used with or without Apple’s newest Universal Dock Adapters; most companies these days just include the smaller Adapters. The remote includes the standard power, mute, volume, track skip, and play/pause buttons, along with a repeat button, and does a decent but not spectacular job of communicating with The Dock.
Depending on the type of music and speakers you’re accustomed to listening to, you’ll either be impressed by The Dock Pack’s clarity, or surprised by one of its omissions. Those most familiar with Bose’s $299 SoundDock will find Scandyna’s Micropod SE speakers to be comparatively impressive on detail: the tweeter and midrange driver combine to produce sound that’s very clean and generally impressive in the highs and mids. While not sounding “clinical,” The Dock Pack’s output is decidedly detail-oriented rather than powerful or warm, and generally presents music in what we’d describe as a neutral, sonically “correct” way. Your ability to move the speakers to your preferred locations, subject only to the length of the wires, gives you the opportunity to create a larger apparent soundstage, as well.
Bass performance is where The Dock Pack could use some work. When fed songs with really low notes, the Micropod SE speakers aren’t as proficient as the SoundDock, which revels in producing warm but less clear sound. The Dock Pack almost halts at these notes, waiting for a crossover to a subwoofer that’s not there. Similarly, when heard next to a properly calibrated, $300 Logitech AudioStation, you’ll notice that the MicroPods can’t reproduce the lowest sounds AudioStation delivers, and certain songs just seem to be missing something. This effect is even more pronounced when the system is compared against units with dedicated subwoofers and less desire to control their low end.
Though some users may initially prefer the company’s more accurate approach, those who appreciate the need for low-end sound reproduction will want a subwoofer, and others will hunger merely for the added warmth that user-adjustable bass or treble controls can provide. Alas, The Dock doesn’t include such controls, and the Microsub II subwoofer Scandyna once offered has been discontinued; we haven’t yet heard about the replacement, but regardless, it will add cost to this package. Many other systems at this price include a subwoofer in the box.
For those familiar with our reviews, it goes without saying that there are quite a few $300 or less expensive speakers out there that deliver more in the sound department; here are just some of the options. Those looking for superior sound and more features, including AM/FM radio tuning and a clock, should skip straight to the AudioStation review, which delivers as much at the $300 price point as we’ve yet seen. From a big picture standpoint, Scandyna’s major contribution to the genre is combining higher style and good sonic detail with a user-positionable, multi-component design at a decent price.
All in all, The Dock Pack is a nice speaker and docking system that’s a little too expensive for what it delivers sonically, mostly in the low end, but to the extent that its looks appeal to you and the prospect of adding a subwoofer strikes you as either unnecessary or reasonable based on your budget or listening preferences, we wouldn’t dissuade you from giving Scandyna’s least expensive system a shot. If you like the company’s styling and price isn’t an object, you may find that its more expensive and better-equipped models are a better match for your sonic needs.