There are now 7 billion people in the world, and likely enough speaker docks for every last human to pick up two.
While the sea of audio accessories has grown deep enough to make the shelves at Best Buy look like the Bangladeshi lowlands, it is, remarkably, still a chore to find a speaker dock that delivers great sound at a good price and doesn’t gunk up your decor.
That’s why we’ve always liked Soundfreaq. The company makes speaker docks that look great, sound great, and, while on the expensive side, don’t push the limits when it comes to cost.
Soundfreaq’s newest release, the Sound Stack, is the company’s third major product and, at $400, its most costly. It’s also the most versatile and the most successful ‘Freaq yet.
The design is an austere black brick — far more Mies than Gehry. Capacitive controls run along a slim lip that juts out from the base, with an iOS dock-connector in the middle. The connector can charge any Apple mobile, including iPads. On the back, there’s a USB port for charging non-Apple devices, a mini-jack for plugging in your Sport Discman. There’s also an optical-in connection — a necessity, considering the crowd spending $400 on a speaker dock care deeply about such things.
Like all other Soundfreaq speaker docks, this one does Bluetooth — a wise choice, given the ubiquity of Bluetooth and the still-not-quite-there experience of Apple’s AirPlay.
Behind the layer of stoic black speaker cloth are dual 3-inch Kevlar drivers and dual 3-inch subwoofers. One bass speaker points to the back, and one points to the front, and they operate in a push-pull configuration.
The sound is simply great. The results are crisp and well defined with very little coloring. The highs are especially clear. The mids are sharp and rather forward, but not overbearing — you don’t get that nasal, honking tone found in speakers that pump up the mids. Just the right boost is applied to vocals, guitars, horns, pianos, and any sounds that live in the middle frequencies.
The Sound Stack does lack depth on the low end, especially compared to more powerful and more expensive systems like the B&W Zeppelin Air, which doles out bass waves like a bazooka. But what it loses in swagger, it makes up for in clarity. I could hear the punchiness and definition of Paul Jackson’s finger-style electric bass in Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” a nuance that was lost in the bottomless low end of the Zeppelin. And even though Chris Wood’s upright bass solo in Medeski, Martin and Wood’s “Latin Shuffle” didn’t have the massive, skull-rattling weight it does on the Zeppelin, I could hear the attack of every plucked note more clearly on the Sound Stack.
In addition to the $600 Zeppelin, I also compared it to the $200 Altec Lansing inMotion Air 725 and the new $300 Sony RDP-X500iP. As far as audio quality goes, the Sound Stack slots into place among those devices exactly where you’d expect it to, given the $400 price tag.