- Solid sound quality and amplitude
- Cool if not different design
- iPod dock, Bluetooth connectivity and FM radio options
- Horrible iPhone app is almost useless
- Design won’t appeal to all
- Buttons and knobs are a bit fiddley
Tell me there is Kevlar inside something and I’m pretty much sold. The technology made the jump from bullet proof vests to speakers sometime in the 90s and now has found its way into the Sound Freaq Sound Platform, a dock that takes on a minimalist design with big sound for $200.
Upon unpacking the device I was a bit surprised to find that it was a bit more boxy than the press release pictures lead me to believe. Much like the Tango TRX it’s an all black affair with orange accents, though it’s replete with a glossy finish and accent lighting, which serves no practical function, though one could argue the dock’s light guides you as to where you should insert your iPod or iPhone.
The front of the box is composed of an all mesh grill which hides a set of custom-engineered and Kevlar-reinforced balanced drivers – Sound Freaq doesn’t say the size or how many there are. Three machined metal knobs located to the left of the dock control the bass, treble and their proprietary DSP system called UQ3. To the right of the dock are a set of touch controls that include source select, track fwd/bkwd, play/pause, mute, volume +/-, Bluetooth pair button and power. Just above these buttons are a small and some what dim orange backlit display which conveys source, volume, etc. Hidden on the right side of the Sound Platform is a closet which keeps the remote securely stored away thanks to a set of magnets – a nice touch. The top of the box is finished in a glossy finish, which attracted a few scratches and a fair amount of fingerprints within days of setting up the device – not for the faint hearted or clean freak. On the rear is an AUX port, AC plug, antenna plug and a set of sound ports for those moments of explosive bass.
The build quality of the Sound Platform, while solid for the most part I did have a few gripes. The treble, bass and UQ3 knobs were a bit tightly spaced together making them a bit fiddly to adjust. Fortunately, once you have your bass/treble dialed in, or in my case the UQ3 DSP engaged you probably won’t touch them again. The buttons are touch sensitive, which adds to the slickness of the device, though I found myself pushing the track forward button by mistake when in fact I wanted the play button – this was a result of all the buttons, with the exception of the source and power button, being the same size. Nonetheless, the buttons were very sensitive and reacted to every touch without any delay. As alluded to in the previous paragraph, the display is a bit dim, but since more often than not you’ll blindly adjust the volume using the remote and largely leave it in ‘iPod mode’ it’s really a non-issue.
Pairing the Sound Platform to my iPhone was simple as pie and required no pass code to do so. Without jumping too far ahead, sound quality over Bluetooth was significantly diminished when compared to my docked iPhone. I felt like the difference was greater than other docks recently reviewed, such as the iHome iA100 and the Xtrememac Tango TRX.
Sound Freaq’s iPhone application is almost useless thanks to a poor UI and annoying, or lack there of feature set. First off, every time you dock your iPhone or iPod Touch it will display a pop up notice that you don’t have the app installed. As you can imagine this is incredibly annoying so eventually I just conceded. Once installed you’ll be relegated to playlist hell; you can’t just choose a band or play your iPhone’s entire library in shuffle. When connected over Bluetooth the Sound Platform fails to communicate the volume accordingly to the app. The app can reach max volume, which is 30/30, while the actual device will be stuck at 17/30 – unless you physically push the volume button on the Sound Platform it won’t get any louder. On a positive note, you can power toggle the device on via Bluetooth, though I’m not sure how long the Bluetooth stays engaged while the Sound Platform is turned off (this has to make the device less green friendly). You can also adjust the bass, treble and UQ3 option.
Sound Freaq’s Sound Platform stood up well to other comparably priced iPod/iPhone docks. Without anything playing I did notice a significant amount of ‘hiss’ through the speakers, which was more apparent during Bluetooth playback. From a sonic standpoint the Sound Platform can achieve a solid high volume with no distortion present. The UQ3, which effectively automatically dials in the bass and treble for you, could be a bit shrill at times since it tends to increase the treble portion of the music, but overall I preferred the sound output with this feature engaged than not. Overall, Sound Freaq’s sound quality is on par with most $200 docks and its amplitude, given it’s rather small size, is impressive.
Sound Freaq’s Sound Platform provides solid sound quality and a head turning design that may not appeal to the masses, but certainly separates it from the pact. I’m just confused as to why the accompanying iPhone app is so out of place since its UI doesn’t mirror the same care and devotion that has gone into the Sound Platform’s design.
You can purchase the Sound Platform from Amazon for $199.99.