Another bump in the road is the aforementioned choice of Bluetooth. Soundfreaq has pulled out all the stops with both A2DP and lossless AAC streaming support, but over time it sounds hollow in comparison to natively docking devices or the lossless streaming of AirPlay and Kleer. Yes you do benefit if all your music is encoded in AAC (these files are sent directly to the dock and decoded there), but this only benefits a single codec and when shuffling through music only serves to make the sound quality between it and other codecs more jarring.
Despite these caveats the Sound Stack is too good a dock to end on a negative and Soundfreaq does serve up a number of notable pluses. Firstly its angular shape will happily hold and power an iPad, an important consideration given the weak and/or iPhone-size sunken connectors on most docks). Secondly it is far more friendly to non-Apple devices than most with an auxiliary input augmented by a universal USB-charging port so your Galaxy Nexus or Nokia Lumia 800 won’t run flat as with most docks. Furthermore the simple Sound Stack remote neatly clips magnetically to the back of the dock and Soundfreaq offers a free iOS and Android app for controlling the dock remotely. This includes access to the Sound Stack’s FM radio, though we can’t see this being used much with web radio now so popular. An optical input also allows the Sound Stack to be used as a soundbar for DVD/Blu-ray players, TVs and multimedia players like Apple TV. Furthermore while Bluetooth may have its limitations it does assist in achieving arguably the Sound Stack’s most appealing feature: price.
Soundfreaq says UK pricing will be between £250 and £300 when it launches early next year. Given this places the Sound Stack in the same price range as the £299 Geneva Sound Model S and Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Mini, yet it competes with full size Zeppelin and Geneva Sound’s own £550 Model M it is bursting through established industry price points. The trouble for the Sound Stack is should it fall closer to £300 Arcam has recently cut the £500 rCube to £350. With the rCube still having the overall audio edge, sporting Kleer lossless and being truly wireless (it has an inbuilt battery good for eight hours of audio playback, the Sound Stack has none) it is hard to see past splashing out another £50.
Soundfreaq has announced itself in fine style. Despite the misleading brand name, the manufacturer excels at detailed, accurate sound quality and the Sound Stack packs both great punch and razor sharp precision – particularly at high volumes. The 2.2 ‘DubSub’ dual drivers, dual bass combination has immense promise and we will await future generations with great interest. In addition, the dock comes with bags of functionality and is arguably the most iPad and Android/non-Apple friendly dock on the market.
What hampers the Sound Stack are marmite looks, a slightly cold sound signature and the fact one of the best £500 docks of the year is now on sale for just £350. That said the Sound Stack blows the current sub-£300 market out of the water and if pricing is finalised nearer to £250 it will prove a real bargain. Either way Soundfreaq is a new name to watch very closely indeed.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 9