The main unit is a simple, stripped back little soundbar, with a black, fabric cover protecting the speakers and a curvy, white gloss plastic shell to match the sub. It’s attractive, understated and the sort of thing that – unlike many rival iPod docks – won’t scar refined living spaces. Instead of unsightly buttons we get illuminated touch controls for volume, plus an on/off control and another for switching between the unit’s three sound modes: straight stereo, wide stereo and 3D surround.
I found these controls a little unresponsive at times, but generally they worked pretty well. The SoundOrb Aurora isn’t particularly clever when it comes to supporting different models of iPod either. Where other manufacturers are playing with sprung supports or similar mechanisms, here you just get your bog-standard white plastic inserts. On the plus side, it’s compatible with a wide range of models, including the iPod classic, iPod video, G3 to G5 iPod nanos, regular, 3G and 3GS iPhones, and 1G to 3G iPod touches.
Gear4 also recommends the SoundOrb Aurora for TV use, providing stereo phono inputs for your Blu-ray/DVD player, Sky/Freeview box or games console, and a component video output for those wanting to output video from their iPod onto their TV. Sound quality aside (I’ll get to that in a second) it all works exactly as advertised. Meanwhile, a credit card-sized remote gives you control over volume, sound mode and basic iPod functions, though not the ambient lighting system.
Ah, sound quality. Well, the best thing I can say about the SoundOrb Aurora is that it doesn’t sound bad given the size of the main unit. There’s warmth of tone that you won’t find in many small speaker systems, and the 5in down-firing subwoofer does a fine job of adding low-end body. What’s more, the sub isn’t overpowered or boomy unless you whack its volume level right up; points to Gear4 for allowing you to set this independently.
However, there are some real concerns. Firstly, while the subwoofer provides bass, it’s not a particularly well-defined or articulate bass; in tracks, for instance the Bill Evans Trio’s recording of One Day My Prince Will Come, where I expect to hear a clear, well-separated bassline the SoundOrb Aurora falls flat. There’s just no precision or detail.