Review: Pure i-20 and Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital

We can bemoan the demise of audio quality all we want, but the truth is that good quality audio has always been at our fingertips. If our digital files have sounded bad, it's because we (and we're talking consumers and manufacturers) have been too stingy with our storage capacities. Wanting to cram as much music onto our devices as possible, regardless of how badly the signal had to be degraded to get it all in there, we ended up accepting things like 128 kbps MP3 files as passable. But our beloved iPods and iPhones have had the ability to store lossless and high bit-rate audio from the very beginning, as purists have known all along. You just need a way to get your high-quality files out of those little boxes.

Apple's built-in digital-to-analog converters (DACs) and headphone amps have always been surprisingly good. But should you want to use your mobile device as part of your home listening system, things get even better when you can couple it to a dock that sports a high-quality DAC - or use that dock as a digital transport to stream your bits digitally to the DAC of your choice. For audiophiles in particular (who've certainly begun to accept Apple devices as digital sources), such a device may well make more sense than a standalone do-it-all unit.

Let's take a look at two such docks, specifically designed to work with the 30-pin connectors on Apple products and to appeal to those who prefer to supply their own amplification and speaker system: Pure's i-20 and Pro-Ject's newly revised Dock Box S.