For video, there’s no HDMI port on the rear – you’re limited to S-Video and component – but this isn’t a big problem as component is perfectly capable of transmitting a top quality signal. And, as audio is built in, you don’t need the audio transport capabilities of HDMI. But even with a top-quality QED component cable hooked up, I found the quality to be no more than average. I popped Sigur Ros’ terrific ”Heim” DVD in and the picture on my 42in Samsung plasma was suitably atmospheric, but colours weren’t as punchy or bright and edges weren’t as crisp as they are on my standalone, upscaling Denon 1920. I’ve also seen better from sub-£100 upscalers from the likes of Toshiba and Samsung.
I also have some problems with the design and usability of the Alfie. That flat top, for instance, is the ideal place for a small LCD TV, yet if you were to take advantage of this, the telly would get in the way of that rear-mounted iPod dock. Stick Alfie in a rack underneath the telly and it’s going to be equally difficult to reach. Those touch-sensitive controls on the front edge aren’t the most responsive either – I often found myself wondering if a touch had registered or not – and I’d have liked to have seen a nicer remote control. Its blister buttons mean it’s not very nice to use, making it feel cheap and not in keeping with the rest of the system.
Having said all of that, there’s still a lot to like about Roth Audio’s Alfie. Though there are niggles with the practicality of the iPod docking system, it looks simply fantastic and is beautifully built as well. Audio quality can’t quite match that of the B&W Zeppelin, but it’s a cut above most iPod hi-fi systems, and though DVD output isn’t wonderful, there is compensation in the fact that you only need space in your system rack for one component. It’s not the ultimate in audio and DVD quality, but as a minimalist one-box system, for £350 this represents pretty good value for money.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 8