Most iPod docks are not renowned for offering a bold, expansive sound. Their small stature and necessarily close-packed speakers tend to limit the stereo image and amount of bass they can produce. The Altec Lansing Octiv 650 attempts to get around this by including a 4in downward-firing subwoofer driver as well as two full-range 3in drivers. A bass-led approach risks producing over-ripe sonic fruit though, especially when you're asking for Â£180.
The Altec Lansing Octiv 650's design is simple. Our review sample was the all-black model, although we've been told that a slate grey edition will be available later in the year. Front-on, all you see if the black grille, iPod/iPhone cradle and the small Altec Lansing badge. It's a lot more stylish than Altec Lansing's previous efforts - less brash than the inMotion Max, classier than the inMotion Classic and less ridiculous than the Altec Lansing Mix boombox. It'll look right at home in a modern lounge or kitchen.
There are things going on behind the grille apart from the vibrations of those speakers though. There's a set of blue LEDs that show you the state of various settings when the remote or physical control buttons of the Octiv 650 are pressed. The row of five LEDs tells you the bass level, treble level or volume - or if no controls have been pressed recently a single LED lights-up to show the dock's on. We'd have appreciated being able to dim this light, but otherwise it's a tasteful, clear and surprisingly intuitive way to relay information.
Controls for the bass, treble and volume, as well as basic playback and power buttons, sit on the top of the dock, while there's also a remote control that offers these options and more. With the remote you can also navigate through your iDevice's menu system and pick EQ presets, as well as choosing your own custom setting. It's useful, but it feels cheap. It's a slim, light rectangle of plastic powered by a watch-style battery, and displays none of the design nous of the main unit.
Thanks to its additional subwoofer, which uses a large 4in drive on the bottom of the unit, the Altec Lansing Octiv 650 extends a little further back than some other iPod docks. Take note if you're planning on placing an iPod dock on a slim mantelpiece.
On the back of the dock are component outputs for sending videos from your iPhone, or iPod Touch to a TV and a 3.5mm auxiliary input jack. These two features increase the versatility of the dock significantly, letting you use it as an upgrade for your TV's own most-likely limp speakers and a video station. The Octiv 650 could have improved its feature list with an optical audio out, but as this would be doing-down the built-in speaker array we can understand why it has been left out.