Bayan is a new name in home audio - you've not heard of it because its first release wasn't all that long ago. It has arrived with a bang, though, offering a quintet of iPod and iPhone docks priced between £79.99 and £299.99. The Bayan 7 sits right at the top, and is the first we're wrapping our ears around.
At this level, the Bayan 7 has a whole lot of competition to fend off. The B&W Zeppelin Mini, Arcam rCube and Philips Fidelio DS9000 are all available for around the same outlay. And, boy, are they good.
The design of the Bayan 7 is very different from the competition, though. Although lounge-friendly, it doesn't strive to be small or wallflower-like, extending back almost 30cm. Why so big? Because this dock can be summed-up as a mid-size subwoofer and friends (said friends being the diddier drivers). No other docks at this price are quite so keen to show-off their bass credibility, and all five speakers are visible across its front.
You could go as far as to call the half-inch-thick transparent acrylic front a display board for the speakers. As an entry-level speaker, this design wouldn't be all that notable, but here in the iPod dock big leagues, manufacturers tend to try to hide anything as vulgar as a speaker cone. The Bayan 7 comes across as a bit brash and abrasive in its "look how big my bass driver is" styling. It will likely divide prospective buyers, just as it has the TrustedReviews team. Drop us your Gok Wan-esque criticism in the comments.
Plunging a knife right into the aesthetic jugular as it does, it's a little surprising to see quite how household-oriented the Bayan 7 is. There's symmetry to its fascia, supplied by its use of dual iOS docks. These will charge two iDevices at once and act as two sound sources for the unit.
This dual-dock style is most useful to those who live in a Steve Jobs-approved Apple-loving family iHome, as singletons are less likely to own enough devices to fill the thing - the iPhone-iPad ownership combo is common, but the dimensions of the dock space mean Apple's tablet won't fit here. There are movable rubber rests on the rear of each dock connection, though, letting them comfortably house any other iOS dock device without risk of damage.
Bayan Audio has catered for iPad owners elsewhere. A USB port on the back will charge one, and there's a standard 3.5mm audio input that'll connect with the headphone jack of virtually any tablet, MP3 player or smartphone. It's a nice touch, and something that we wished more devices included.
You switch between this trio of inputs using the supplied remote. Like the dock, it's chunky and not quite the height of stylish sophistication, but it is way above average for a lifestyle audio product. It offers discrete rubber buttons, decent functionality and excellent build quality. You can access your iPod's media library, change the EQ settings, and there are all the usual playback control gubbins. Very little of this can be controlled through the dock itself, just the volume - using a pair of little buttons on the back.
Next to most £200 iPod docks we've looked at recently, the Bayan 7 is very simple. It offers no internal radio and no wireless streaming - no Bluetooth and no Airplay. But this is something we rather like about its modus operandi. Simple is best is best. Simple as.
However, the Bayan 7's design leaves us ambivalent. It packs-in plenty of drivers and has a distinctive style, but we don't think it has the bold look to become the centre point of a room like the B&W Zeppelin Air, and it certainly doesn't offer the portability benefits of a Bose SoundDock or Zeppelin Mini. Weighing just under 7kg, and with an awkward design that makes it difficult to hold and easy to break - thanks to that exposed bass driver - this is only a device to consider if you're going to leave it in one place for most of the time.