Tannoy i30 iPod Docking System
Sometimes it makes me nervous to lift an iPod-compatible compact audio system out of the box. There are plenty of them out there and I want to review only the exceptional ones. From time to time I pull off the wrapping and know I'm looking at a loser before the iPod even touches the docking connector. Flimsy construction usually leads to flimsy sound. On the other hand, some systems also make a fine first impression. The Tannoy i30 is a case in point. It was packed better than most of the surround receivers I reviewed, in charcoal-colored non-disintegrating foam. At a solid eight pounds, it felt good in my hands.
The unit comes packed with adapters for both generations of iPod nano plus the 5G video and 1G mini hard-drive players (iPhone and 3G nano adapters are imminent). They're listed on the carton itself and neatly slotted into a box within the box labeled "the bits." There's also an instruction manual on three-inch CD and a couple of free Tannoy Union Jack badges. I'd never wear them but I appreciate the gesture. Scratch me and you'll find an Anglophile (and I'll scratch you back).
Based on looks alone, the i30 is quite unremarkable, just a nicely streamlined version of a boombox shape. There's a port on top that doubles as a handle. The speakers are tilted slightly upward, not a bad thing if the i30's going to live on a desktop or table. Interestingly, there are two threaded inserts on the back, so you might even wall mount it using an optional bracket. The back panel also includes a USB jack (the squarish B type), composite video jack, auxiliary input for non-iPod infidel sources, and of course the connection for the detachable power cord--which sports a space-saving L-shaped plug. You can use the USB connection to sync the iPod with your computer while it sits in the dock recharging.
Drivers include a one-inch aluminum dome tweeter mounted inside a four-inch woofer (times two) using Tannoy's patented Inductive Coupling Technology (iCT). This is how the company describes the driver array: "The iCT utilizes a wireless electromagnetic tweeter that does not require a crossover and cannot be burned out from heavy or abusive use. The one-inch aluminum high frequency dome has a deep drawn skirt which sits on the inside of the low frequency voice coil in the same magnetic gap. Like a single shorted turn, it is induced with high frequency information generated by the low frequency voice coil, which is fed a full bandwidth signal."
Tannoy rates the system down to 60Hz, which is reasonable for a device of this size, though it omits some of the lower range of a bass guitar. The 50-watt-total BASH amp is a digital type that Tannoy's website says "gives [the] efficiency of Class D, and sound quality of analog Class AB." It powers the output devices only when there's a signal, wasting less power in the form of heat, and using less power when at rest.
The remote control is smaller than a credit card. It includes power, mute, volume up/down, track forward/reverse, and play/pause controls but no menu command to step back through iPod menus.
What's good about the sound--as I discovered within seconds of starting the Every Breath You Take compilation by the Police--is the solidity of the rhythm section. The lower swoops of the bass may not be there but the drums sound pretty good. In a loose test of volume capability, the unit clocked more than 100dB with music three feet away and didn't seem to distort noticeably. You can probably use it by the pool. Not in the pool, but near the pool. Treble is a trifle soft-edged but that's the right way for a portable device to err.
The price is a little high for a product of this description and size, but not outlandish. For a product with this kind of performance and thoughtful design, it is right on target.
Mark Fleischmann is the author of the annually updated book Practical Home Theater and tastemaster of Happy Pig's Hot 100 New York Restaurants.