Looking for something a little bit different in an iPod speaker? Check out the Scandyna Dock Pack, which includes a self-powered iPod dock and a pair of Microposd SE speakers. Designed by Scandyna, a Danish speaker company, the tiny Micropod SEs have a uniquely modern design— resembling a miniature space ship or robot—and a surprisingly big, bright sound when powered by the amplified iPod dock.
Compared to the generic design of most iPod speakers, the Micropod SEs are a breath of fresh air and are sure to turn heads whether they are placed on your desktop, tucked away on a bookshelf, or mounted on a wall or ceiling. The speakers sport exposed mid-bass drivers whose diaphragms are made of gold-colored Kevlar, a light, stiff, durable material that’s ideal for the intended application and that adds some nice visual flair to the design. You can decide for yourself just how bold you want the Micropod SEs to look, choosing from the black, white, silver, blue, yellow, and red color options.
The Dock Pack also includes an iPod dock that has a built-in amplifier that puts out 15 watts per channel and incorporates a line-level stereo input plus a line-out jack for connecting an optional subwoofer. There are no buttons on the dock, so you control all the action using the remote, which has a pretty generic design and buttons for power, play/pause, skip, and mute.
If you want to stand the speakers on a bookshelf or table, use the included “sputnik spikes,” which raise them about an inch off the ground and create a stylish, modern look. Scandyna also offers some slick wall brackets (sold separately) that complement the Micropod SE design and allow for easy speaker adjustment even after they are mounted.
One thing that struck me about this system right out of the box is that it would make a great portable system for vacations or even tailgates and picnics, provided you have a power source. It’s that small.
The speaker technology used in the Micropod SEs was originally developed by the hi-fi gurus at Bowers & Wilkins, makers of the excellent and high performance Zeppelin iPod speaker (see Playback Issue 2). The Micropod SEs are two-way speakers that feature 3.25-inch long-throw mid-bass drivers, and 3/4-inch free-mounted high-frequency drivers.
I tested out the Micropod SEs with a wide range of music, and found that with rock and hip hop albums, the speakers generally sounded too thin to handle the heavy guitars, deep bass, and overall dynamics. So they can’t do justice to bands like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, or (really, don’t even try it) OutKast. However, with lighter, vocal-and-acoustic oriented music, the Micropod SEs shine at every turn and have a refined, natural sound that’s rare among iPod speaker systems. On Neko Case’s “Outro with Bees” [Blacklisted, Bloodshot Records], the singer’s bright, soulful voice is accompanied by only a piano, cello and a twangy acoustic guitar. Through the Micropod SEs, the cello really stood out in the mix, and I could hear excellent detail as the bow glided across the strings, producing a deep, natural tone. The piano and vocals sounded remarkably crisp and clear and had plenty of space to breathe on the wide soundstage. The speakers also produced strong, well-focused images, even when spaced only 3-4 feet apart.
On My Morning Jacket’s new album, Evil Urges [Ato Records], “Highly Suspicious” is a campy, synth-heavy pop track that features Jim James’s falsetto voice rising above the kick drums and fat, crunchy guitar lines. The Micropod SEs did an amazing job with the vocals and high-frequency guitar licks, but when the heavy synth and bass entered the mix, they sounded thin and slightly distorted. That said, the Micropod SEs generally could be cranked up to loud volumes without breaking up, as long as the low end wasn’t too prominent in the mix.
To be fair, though, Scandyna intends the Dock Pack/Micropod SE rig more for desktop use than as a full-fledged, room-filling hi-fi system. For those who wish to expand the system’s capabilities, Scandyna offers a range of sonically (and stylistically) compatible subwoofers, including the Ball ($599), the Minibass ($699), and the Bass Station ($799). While none of these subs was available for review at press time, our bet is that any of them should help give the Micropod SE system a more full-bodied, well-rounded sound.
Because of the speakers’ strong mid- and high-frequency performance, I kept coming back to jazz as the perfect music style for the Micropod SEs. The speakers’ ability to recreate the natural sound of wind instruments and acoustic bass is remarkable, and combined with the solid imaging, brings out a wonderful, vivid quality in the music.