In terms of pure bang for your buck the £250 Monitor Audio i-deck 200 offers arguably the best dock audio experience on the market. Following comments on the back of this review, however, another contender was suggested: Audyssey's colourfully named South of Market. Having now put the dock through its paces it is clear you readers know your stuff.
On the surface, the South of Market dock is an intriguing concept. Unlike traditional docks, Audyssey has designed South of Market (named after a San Francisco neighbourhood) to be a multipurpose product doubling as both a dock and PC/laptop speakers. Given most docks have 3.5mm auxiliary outputs (the NAD Viso 1 excluded) this seems a weak boast, but South of Market also connects directly to a computer's USB port so docked devices can sync with iTunes. In addition its unusual shape makes it more practical to position alongside a monitor.
This shape is worthy of further discussion. Looking somewhat like a curvy version of the CoolerMaster CM 690 II PC case, it has dimensions of 23 x 28 x 13 cm (H x D x W) making for a narrow, but deep, form factor with a small footprint. At 4.1Kg it is also relatively light, though packs no internal battery or carry handle for easy portability. This is a dock designed to be have a permanent mooring position. On the plus side Audyssey has managed to squeeze the transformer inside the dock meaning there is no leaden power brick on the cable.
Beyond simple differentiation, however, the shape of the Audyssey South of Market dock is fundamental to its audio performance. Taking a leaf from the Arcam rCube, Audyssey has positioned its speakers at opposing angles on each side of the dock to create the widest possible stereo separation.
Separation is a near constant problem for docks. Their small dimensions mean speakers have to sit close together and this is compounded by positioning them in the same direction. In the worst examples this can create a near-mono experience. So does Audyssey's approach work? More later.
As for build quality, Audyssey has done a superb job. It ignores the fad for glossy piano black, a famed fingerprint magnet, and instead combines metal-grilled speakers with a tasteful matt grey finish which should keep the dust away. A touch sensitive play/pause button lights up when the dock is powered on with a volume rocker and mute button on the dock connector itself.
The connector is not spring loaded like that on the i-deck 200, Zeppelin Air or Logitech UE Air, but its design does mean it can comfortably fit any Apple device, including an iPad. Meanwhile volume is represented by a vertical white LED bar, which is again only visible when the device is switched on. This is a nice twist and a welcome feature since many docks have no volume indication whatsoever.