Review Price £249.95
Further adding to the Monitor Audio i-deck 200's prowess is the inclusion of an in-built DAC (digital to analogue converter), something that only the upper echelons of the iPod dock competition include. This bypasses the circuitry of the iPhone/iPod/iPad (deemed substandard for audiophiles) and takes the digital signal directly, using its own 28/56 bit dual precision processing to do the heavy lifting.
Also, an innovative Automatic Position Correction (APC) system configures the output of the i-deck 200 depending on where it is positioned. In the rear of the i-deck 200 is a mic which produces three frequencies pulses (70, 85 and 100 hertz) and their reverberations help the dock determine if it is near a wall or corner. If the power button flashes once no correction is added, twice shows it is compensating for being placed near a wall and three times if placed near a corner. APC only kicks in if the i-deck 200 has been disconnected from the mains as this leads it to assume it has been moved.
All of which suggests Monitor Audio should have created a superb sounding premium dock, and thankfully it has.
In creating the i-deck 200 Monitor Audio has shot for a highly detailed, yet powerful dock with a very flat response. The outcome is just that. The role of the onboard DAC cannot be stressed enough as the i-deck 200 takes even low bitrate music and polishes it to produce outstanding results. Playback is precise yet powerful with the 2.2 configuration ensuring sound holds together even at its window shaking maximum volume. Feed the i-deck 200 320kbps or lossless audio and obviously results leap forward again. In particular acoustic and classical music spring to life, though it handles rock, dance and 'big beats' with equal ease.
Key to this is the APC, a godsend for casual audiophiles, as it does succeed in adjusting output no matter where we move the i-deck 200. From living room table to bedroom corner to bookshelf, we were unable to fool the APC and this will be a real boon for listeners who prefer to arrange their audio around their furniture than vice versa.
If there is a snag it is that the i-deck 200 uses a Bass Level Management (BLM) system to optimise sound balance at lower listening volumes. This can be slightly crude at times, essentially working like a bass boost system, but only the pickiest will notice - and most will appreciate that music still has oomph even when listening at low volume level. Happily Monitor Audio avoids the trap we spotted with the Soundfreaq 2.2 Sound Stack, which chased accuracy and control at the expense of emotion. The Sound Stack remains a fine dock, but the i-deck 200 will do an equally fine job of keeping its composure yet at the same time raise the hairs on the back of your neck.
The smaller i-deck 100 offers similar levels of detail and openness but falls down when it comes to bass delivery, making it sound a bit weedy for hard hitting music such as rock and dance. The i-deck 200, though, fills these gaps nicely, making it suitable for all music types.