Using the Emanate is as easy as it looks - scrolling through iPod menus using the top-mounted controls is a quick and responsive process, and the uncomplicated remote is a doddle to use. The iPod selection dial is strangely hard to turn but otherwise this is a really user-friendly system that won't cause any undue headaches while you host your party.
So, inviting a few friends round for a ‘test barbeque' we cranked up the Emanate in the back garden with an iPod in the driving seat and were very impressed by the results. First of all, it musters a lot more power than you might have imagined from such a small and compact unit. The sound produced by the 3in speakers (each offering 15W) is muscular and full-bodied, and bass handling is surprisingly competent, allowing the lower frequencies of the music (down to 60Hz) to be heard even over the hubbub of chattering voices and other outdoor ambience.
Occasionally the speakers' limitations were revealed by some house music kick drums, which distorted a little when cranked up loud and required a quick adjustment of the digital volume control, but overall this unit is more than capable of getting your party started.
Elsewhere in the sonic frequency range, the Emanate conveys treble with admirable sharpness and the midrange sounds solid, giving the overall sound a smooth balance that you can listen to for hours without your ears feeling fatigued. Also impressive is how far it throws the sound - it remained audible at all times in various positions around the garden up to a 15m radius of the unit.
We also plugged a Cowon iAudio 7 into the 3.5mm minijack input and got pretty much the same sort of sound quality, with no negative effects resulting from the use of an analogue connection.
The best results come from loud, perky pop music, but scroll the wheel round to Miles Davis or Mozart and the sound quality stands up very well, making this a great option for lovers of any type of music.
The Emanate isn't the first outdoor music system but it's surely one of the most fun to use. Its cute splash-resistant design and terrific sound quality are likely to go down very well with kids and adults alike, whether using it outdoors or as an everyday hi-fi around the house. A built-in CD player would have extended its appeal to non-iPod owners, but otherwise it's convenient, easy to use and the eight-hour battery life is perfect for parties, making it £100 well spent - provided the sun stays out, of course…