For some reason the term iPod dock has become synonymous with compact all-in-one sound systems. Whereas, of course, a dock is simply the bit your phone or mp3 player sits in, and the rest can be any and all manner of sound making machinery. So, while the Pure Contour, B&W Zeppelin and Arcam rCube may offer a lot for their compact size, if you've got a bit of space and are looking for a more all encompassing sound then the Onkyo CS-545UK should be right up your street.
This very conventional looking mini Hi-Fi system may seem unassuming but it packs a CD player, FM and DAB radios, an iPod dock, and USB playback into its body and comes bundled with a good quality set of stereo speakers so is both feature packed and ready to go right out the box.
The central unit, which is available in either silver or black, measures 300 x 215 x 90mm so should easily fit into most TV cabinets and Hi-Fi shelves, or alongside your TV. It is a bit deep to simply nestle on a window sill or book shelf but one should probably aim to give such a system a better home than that anyway.
The main chassis is all metal with a high quality paint finish in the case of the black model, and a brushed aluminium for the silver. It all feels very well put together, and its fairly hefty weight of 4.2Kg only adds to this sense. The hole for the USB port on the front fascia does catch the eye somewhat but it's not enough to concern. Plug a USB stick into this port and you can playback mp3 files thereon.
Also on the front, from top left to bottom right, are buttons for power, input, tone/balance, eject, track skip/preset skip, stop and play/pause along with dials for adjusting the tone/balance and volume. All are machined from aluminium to match the chassis and, in the case of the black version, given an anodised coating. They all feel securely mounted and exhibit a light but defined click in the case of the button. The tone/balance dial is a notched infinite spin affair that is wonderfully accurate while the large volume knob has a stiff but smooth infinite spin action.
Hidden behind a chunky plastic flap on the top is the iPod dock that, unlike the ingenious universal docks on the B&W Zeppelin and Fatman iTube ValveDock, uses the standard Apple dock inserts for fitting different iPod types. A selection of black ones are included in the box but as we've become accustomed to, none seem to fit the latest iPods and iPhones so you'll have to source the right dock adapters yourself – and an iPad won't fit at all. It's fully compatible with iPhones and we noticed no squeals and beeps when a phone was docked.
Other connectivity is very limited with just a headphone jack on the front and Line In, Video Out, Antenna, Subwoofer Pre Out, and Speaker connections (both banana clip and bare wire is compatible) on offer. The video output is for piping videos from your iPod to your TV but because it's only a composite connector, quality is going to be so poor as to not be worth bothering with. So while this system is ideal for a living room sound system, by virtue of it being easy to setup the speakers either side of your TV and it having most basic sound sources on offer, you'll have to rely on other means to manage all your AV connections from such sources as Blu-ray players and Sky boxes (one solution is to hook the Onkyo to the stereo audio output from your TV and leave the TV to manage the rest).