Obviously, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that this Bluetooth functionality has had some of the gloss taken off it by the arrival of Apple’s more sophisticated AirPlay system. And some people will also be put off by the lack of Wi-Fi and any sort of built-in radio tuner. But personally we found the Conran Audio Speaker Dock’s provisions sufficient to cater for our needs. After all, it’s clearly designed - especially with its surprisingly affordable £249 price tag - to offer a simple and casual extension of your Apple computer or iThing audio functionality into a normal living space, rather than becoming some replacement for a dedicated, high spec multimedia streaming or hi-fi system.
For the record, connecting the Conran Speaker Dock to our resident Apple iMac and MacBook Pro was completely effortless. The devices paired together in seconds and we suffered no signal loss or distortion issues during our tests.
Before getting into how the Conran Audio Speaker Dock sounds, there are still a couple more things about its design we should mention - one cool, the other less so. The cool bit is the way you can turn your iThing around in the recessed circular dock compartment, so it can rest horizontally or vertically, to suit your tastes/practical preferences. The less elegant bit concerns the plasticky inserts you have to slot into the centre of the dock 'circle' to adapt it to your particular iDevice. For instance, our test sample had an iPod touch 'holder' slotted in, with iPhone 4 and iPhone alternatives included in the packaging. It’s handy that these inserts are all clearly labelled with the device they’re designed to hold, but as stated earlier, they feel a bit cheap and cheerful by the standards of the rest of unit’s design.
To be honest, initially we didn’t really expect a great deal from the Conran Audio Speaker Dock’s sound quality. Given the £249 price, we just thought you’d be paying mostly for the design, with the sound being an afterthought. But then, as we were doing a last check through the unit’s specs before switching it on, we clocked that the Dock had actually been built by innovative and well-respected loudspeaker company Q Acoustics.
And lo and behold, Q’s talent for getting startlingly good sound from very compact speaker enclosures is writ large all over the Conran Audio Speaker Dock’s performance.