Review Round Up: iPod Docks Page 6

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Key Features
$299 Harmandardon.com
• Speakers: 4 high-frequency/midrange drivers, 1 woofer
• Amplifier: 2 x 15 watts, 1 x 30 watts (woofer)
• Remote control
• Connections: minijack line input, composite-video output; USB
• Dimensions 20 x 10 [1/4] x 8 [3/4] in
• Weight: 6 [3/4] lb

Harman Kardon Go + Play Micro
When I pulled the Go + Play Micro from its box, I thought to myself, "Wow! This will look swell in my rocket ship!" Actually, it would also look good in my office, and in any setting with a modern décor. The brushed stainless steel arch (acting as a super-sturdy handle) is a welcome departure from bland, business-as-usual plastic. Folks in St. Louis will like it, that's for sure.

The space-age styling extends to two metal rings around the front speakers and a trio of metal buttons used for power and volume. These buttons are placed on a cutout circle that seems like it should do something, but doesn't. Also, I was disappointed that volume changes were not shown on my docked iPod Touch's display. Because of the different thickness of the various iPod models, the dock's stability can sometimes be tenuous. Some docks provide plastic adapters, while others simply hope for the best. The Go + Play Micro has an ingenious knob that screws up and down to give just the right height. However, the side rails don't allow enough clearance to dock an iPod wearing a protective skin. A remote control adds features such as iPod menu display and navigation, track skip, and mute. The navigation function uses an awkward button arrangement; a simple joystick would have been better. In today's economy, I'm not going to assume that you have a spare quarter. But if you do, you can use it to unscrew two fasteners and remove a back panel, where you'll find slots to hold eight C-cell batteries. According to Harman Kardon, this allows the unit to run for up to 18 hours sans the supplied AC converter. But using C batteries seems a little boombox-esque; surely a built-in rechargeable battery pack would be more space age. Also around back are a composite-video output and a USB port that conveniently lets you sync a docked iPod to your computer.

The Micro has four front-firing speakers, and if you lift it, you'll see that most of the bottom has been carved out to make way for a monaural subwoofer concealed by a metal mesh grille. These transducers combine to produce sound quality that is good but not great. The tweeters provide crisp but sometimes crunchy-sounding highs, and the subwoofer provides sufficient, albeit somewhat boomy, bass. However, the all-important midrange lacks detail, suggesting that this particular transducer pairing isn't a match made in heaven. The unit would particularly benefit from higher-quality front-firing speakers with smoother midrange response. Amplifier power permits decent playback levels, but if you want to really rock out or are listening outdoors, you'll find yourself repeatedly pushing the volume button and wondering why it won't play louder.

Harman Kardon's Go + Play Micro will challenge your interior designer to dream up a décor scheme that is equally classy. The appearance of this dock, and its build quality, are top-notch. You pay a price for that here, literally, which means a subtraction from niceties such as features and sound quality. Still, depending on your priorities, the Micro might be perfect for your needs. I mean, damn, it sure looks good.

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