DLO Homedock Deluxe
The iPod has a way of erasing all boundaries between itself and the rest of your life. Why shouldn't you be able to listen to it through your home theater system? After all, some people do use their iPods more than their whirring disc players--though as an audio snob, I'm obligated to point out that uncompressed CDs sound better than compressed file formats (and SACDs can sound better than CDs). To test the product, I found another use for it. Still, the iPod has become the way many people organize their music consumption, and the people's voice must be heard. That's why some surround receivers have optional iPod docks. And for those that don't, there's a veritable army of docking devices like DLO's Homedock Deluxe.
Homedock holds the iPod, charges it, and displays a redesigned version of the iPod control menu on a TV. The player then operates through the Homedock remote. The docking device measures one inch high by 5.75 wide by 3.75 deep. It's grey on the front and black on the top, with round corners that evoke the Mac Mini. Two slots on the top surface accommodate the iPod at left and the remote, when not in use, at right. On the back are volume-controlled stereo analog audio outputs and two video outs--composite and S-video--to allow access to video and stills on the iPod. There's also a USB output for software updates. DLO supplies a combo audio and composite video cable plus a video-less audio cable. Both are of surprisingly decent build, suggesting a quality product.
A key part of any docking device is--well, the dock. And a problem I have with many of them is that they don't provide the iPod with adequate back support. I have lost count of the number of times I've cracked the box on one of these things to be confronted with a litter of snap-in bases, which may or may not include the size that accommodates my first-generation nano. Even if you find one that fits, these bases are not tall enough to prevent in-dock use of the iPod controls from bending the docking connector. Apple says the interface is built to withstand moderate stress but any situation that imposes constant stress on the iPod and dock still worries me.
The Homedock neatly solves this problem by providing an angled metal back support piece that attaches to a screw behind the iPod. In lieu of a screw hole, the back support has a slot which enables it to slide forward and back. I popped my nano onto the dock, pushed the back support up against it, tightened the screw, and was more than pleased with the results. I was able to press the iPod controls without bending the docking connector. Bravo, DLO, for coming up with a solution I hadn't seen before.
DLO has made several upgrades to the product, as I discovered after briefly auditioning an old one that had languished in my slush pile for a year (apologies). When I got hold of the new one, I found some new wrinkles. Menu graphics have gone from four user-selected color schemes to a dozen choices, some of which mimic the newer nano colors. A recently added playlist feature allows you to assemble your own song selection without resorting to a computer link and iTunes. The grey strip running around the round-cornered form has brightened from charcoal grey to silver grey. The sturdy composite video and stereo audio cord is still included but an S-video cable has been added. And the remote's gloss-black finish is now matte black.
As someone who literally lives with thousands of CDs, SACDs, and LPs, I had no interest in patching the Homedock into my main system. Sorry. Just couldn't be bothered. Instead I used it to log a critical first. I connected it to my beloved 32-inch Sharp AQUOS HDTV--which had never before had a docking device attached to it.
Why the TV? Because commercials are boring! With the Homedock installed, I could navigate the treacherous waters of the 10 o'clock news--the only television program I watch daily without fail--without having to endure obnoxious ads for SUVs. Whenever an automotive barrage started, I would switch to the a/v input to where the Homedock was homedocked, and replace the urgent entreaties of General Motors with Julia Fischer playing Bach sonatas and partitas for solo violin (the SACD/CD hybrid disc ripped to MP3 at 192mbps). Let me tell you, this effected no small improvement in my mental health.
DLO's Homedock Deluxe is one of the better iPod docking devices, especially in its provision of real back support for the device. Updated menu graphics are a plus. Docks in general provide a better-quality audio connection through the iPod's docking connector than you'd get through its headphone output. And they charge the iPod without need to boot up a computer. Maybe it's time you bought something like this.
Prices: $149.99 from dlo.com. A stripped-down version without video or album-art display is $99.99 and available for both iPod and Zune.
Mark Fleischmann is the author of the annually updated book Practical Home Theater and tastemaster of Happy Pig's Hot 100 New York Restaurants.