It’s not quite in the same league as the Zeppelin, then, but it’s still a gorgeous piece of engineering. And it has a few more tricks up its sleeves than the B&W system too. In order to stand out, Roth Audio has not only included iPod connectivity, but also a slot-loading CD and DVD player, and an AM/FM tuner. At the rear you also have a 3.5mm input for non-iPod MP3 players, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and there’s even a clock alarm function that allows you to use any available music source – CD, iPod, AUX or the radio.
It’s a truly all-in-one device, then, so I wasn’t expecting sound quality to match the iPod-dedicated B&W system, and it isn’t as good. But with Roth Audio speakers inside coupled with the company’s experience in high end audio systems I was expecting more than the average iPod dock. I wasn’t disappointed. Though the 10W per stereo channel and 20W bass output doesn’t sound like much it’s can easily kick out enough volume to fill a medium-sized living room let alone a bedroom, and if you do find yourself pumping that volume right up to 11 there’s not a hint of distortion or break up.
A couple of quiet jazz numbers from Stacy Kent’s ”The Lyric” demonstrated that the Alfie is no slouch in terms of sound quality either. It’s a little on the warm side for my tastes, but clarity and even stereo imaging (surprising in such a one-box system) is pretty good. Close your eyes and you could convince yourself that the speakers were much further apart than a mere 30cm or so. Moving on, other sedate, acoustic music sounds just as good – a quick listen to Newton Faulkner’s ”Handbuilt By Robots”, and Sigur Ros’ ”Heim” reveal surprising cohesion.
Give it something a little more complicated to deal with – a touch of Metallica, perhaps, or a blast of big band courtesy of Georgie Fame – and weaknesses do begin to surface. Although instrument separation is actually pretty good, that bass driver can’t quite deliver the goods when it comes to punch, focus and control. The result is that music that should have aggression and attack begins to sound a little woolly and overblown. I found myself turning the bass down a notch or two from the default as it’s a little overbearing at first, and it also improves if you make sure the Alfie is sat on a solid surface. But it never reaches the level at which you could call it defined.