The business end of the DS-A1, however, is at the rear. Take a look behind and you’ll find, instead of a USB cable sprouting out, a pair of gold-plated stereo phono outputs for connection to your amplifier, an S-video socket for viewing photos and videos on your telly, a jack for the power input (the dock charges your iPod while it’s connected) and another small 3.5mm jack labelled RI. This latter socket is for the remote interconnect – for those lucky enough to own a compatible Onkyo system it means that you can perform basic track, album and playlist navigation functions such as play, pause, and skip, using your main audio remote. A boon if you’re an inveterate track-shuffler like me, though disappointingly the feature isn’t available in video mode.
I was keen to put the DS-A1 through as much of a torture test as I could and hooked it straight up to my Primare A 30.1 stereo amp (£1500) with a set of Nordost Blue Heaven interconnects (£150) which is, in turn, connected to a pair of Sonus Faber Concertinos (£600).
While not the most demanding of reference systems this is a setup that should easily expose any weaknesses and, sure enough, in back-to-back tests with a Unison Research Unico CD player (£1200), music played back through the dock sounded thin, lacking in presence, atmosphere and bass grip. True depth and instrument separation was weak in comparison and while listening to KT Tunstall’s Eye to the Telescope, high notes and vocals took on a harshness that had me hankering after a swift return to my CD player after half an hour or so of testing.