- Review Price: £99.99
Summer’s officially here, which means we should be getting ready to chill out in the garden, burnt hot dog in hand, watching the sun set on a balmy summer evening – though in reality most of us are sat inside, Pot Noodle in hand, watching the football while the rain beats against the window.
But should you be lucky enough to sneak in a quick barbeque during our usual few hours of summer sunshine, Grundig has launched the perfect gizmo to make your garden party go with a swing. The GUSBOM08WHT, or the much catchier Emanate, is a portable speaker system with a built-in universal iPod dock, which you can pick up, plonk in the garden and enjoy hours of music.
Unpacking the unit from the box, the first thing that strikes us is the incredibly sturdy build quality. This is no real surprise for a unit designed to withstand the rigours of a boozed-up barbeque, but the level of robustness that Grundig has achieved is hugely impressive. It’s also splash-resistant, which explains the sealed construction and use of rubber buttons and covers.
The design is striking, sporting a shape that resembles a bucket, particularly with the flip-up handle that arcs over the top. It’s available in black or white, but for our money the white review sample we looked at is the more stylish of the two and cleverly compliments Apple’s classic iPod styling.
All the way round the unit is the grille for the integrated full-range stereo speakers, and on top you’ll find a circular see-though plastic cover that twists off to reveal a compartment into which your iPod snuggles cosily. Within this pit is a comically large dial that alters the position of the connection pin depending on which type of iPod you want to attach – the unit accepts Touch, Classic, Nano and Mini. In the box are three Dock Adapters for the first, second and third generation Nanos and the Mini, which are styled to match the rest of the unit.
Surrounding the panel are rubber volume, power, playback and iPod menu controls, and on the rear is a small recessed area that houses a 3.5mm auxiliary input that enables you to play other MP3 players though the unit using the supplied cable. Alongside this is a matching output, reset button and the DC adapter socket.
You’ll need the latter socket either to run it off the mains or charge the built-in battery, which offers around eight hours of continuous playback (roughly the same amount of hot weather we’ll probably get this year) after charging for around five hours. When connected to the mains, the unit also charges your iPod as it sits in the dock.
Also in the box is a remote control that repeats the keys found on top of the unit (also made from chunky, robust rubber) and its pleasingly compact shape allows you to pop it in your pocket while you cremate the burgers.
Using the Emanate is as easy as it looks – scrolling through iPod menus using the top-mounted controls is a quick and responsive process, and the uncomplicated remote is a doddle to use. The iPod selection dial is strangely hard to turn but otherwise this is a really user-friendly system that won’t cause any undue headaches while you host your party.
So, inviting a few friends round for a ‘test barbeque’ we cranked up the Emanate in the back garden with an iPod in the driving seat and were very impressed by the results. First of all, it musters a lot more power than you might have imagined from such a small and compact unit. The sound produced by the 3in speakers (each offering 15W) is muscular and full-bodied, and bass handling is surprisingly competent, allowing the lower frequencies of the music (down to 60Hz) to be heard even over the hubbub of chattering voices and other outdoor ambience.
Occasionally the speakers’ limitations were revealed by some house music kick drums, which distorted a little when cranked up loud and required a quick adjustment of the digital volume control, but overall this unit is more than capable of getting your party started.
Elsewhere in the sonic frequency range, the Emanate conveys treble with admirable sharpness and the midrange sounds solid, giving the overall sound a smooth balance that you can listen to for hours without your ears feeling fatigued. Also impressive is how far it throws the sound – it remained audible at all times in various positions around the garden up to a 15m radius of the unit.
We also plugged a Cowon iAudio 7 into the 3.5mm minijack input and got pretty much the same sort of sound quality, with no negative effects resulting from the use of an analogue connection.
The best results come from loud, perky pop music, but scroll the wheel round to Miles Davis or Mozart and the sound quality stands up very well, making this a great option for lovers of any type of music.
The Emanate isn’t the first outdoor music system but it’s surely one of the most fun to use. Its cute splash-resistant design and terrific sound quality are likely to go down very well with kids and adults alike, whether using it outdoors or as an everyday hi-fi around the house. A built-in CD player would have extended its appeal to non-iPod owners, but otherwise it’s convenient, easy to use and the eight-hour battery life is perfect for parties, making it £100 well spent – provided the sun stays out, of course…
Score in detail
Sound Quality 7