Summary

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7/10

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Look at it one way, and you can see the success of the iPod and other digital audio players as the victory of style and convenience over pure audio quality. No wonder, then, that you can see the huge sales of iPod speaker docks in the same terms. Hi-Fi buffs might quibble over the audio characteristics of compressed music and compact speakers, but there's no getting around the fact that an iPod and dock gives you an easy way to enjoy music in the home.

There's no need to mess around with CDs or complex, expensive Hi-Fi separates, and no need to put up with big speakers or masses of cable. Instead, you just switch on the dock, plug in your iPod and play. Of course, you don't get Hi-Fi quality, but as a device for day-in, day-out listening, a compact, plug-and-play dock makes an awful lot of sense. Most of us will take style and convenience over sound quality every time.

Altec Lansing's Octive Air M812 takes these two selling points to a whole new level. Altec's twist on the regular iPod dock is that its system comprises two separate units; a small transmitter dock where your iPod sits and charges, and a large stereo speaker unit which connects wirelessly to it. The technology is apparently a variant on bog-standard 2.4GHz wireless, and it seems both robust and effective: Altec Lansing claims a range of 100 feet, and I can comfortably state that, in my tests, the speaker unit effortlessly hooked up and streamed audio from every location I tried it in within my average-sized, three-bedroom detached home.

One advantage of this setup is that there's no need to compromise between keeping your iPod accessible and placing the speaker wherever you want. You can leave the transmitter dock on your desk or living room shelf and place the speaker on the windowsill, the kitchen worktop or even mounted on the wall (though you'll need an optional wall-mounting kit to do so properly).

The only cable you need to worry about is the two meters connecting the speaker to a mains supply. This separation of sock and speaker help keep your music portable. Leaving the lounge to do the washing up? Just switch off the speaker unit, unplug it from the mains and you can carry on listening in the kitchen.

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