Me Check Out Specs
Each of the drivers, both tweeters and bass cones, use a C-CAM metal design. This stands for Ceramic-Coated Aluminum/Magnesium – a big step up from the paper cones seen in budget iPod docks. C-CAM was originally designed for use within jet engines. The drivers also use their own class-D amplifiers in bi-amplification configuration to completely eliminate negative feedback. With this arrangement each amplifier operates over a restricted frequency range. This restricted range presents each amplifier with a much simpler job and each amplifier is less likely to injure the sound in some way resulting in a better sound.
The i-Deck 200 also employs Monitor Audio’s BLM technology (Bass Level Management), which aims to keep the low end nice and powerful even when you’re listening at low volumes. Something that is usually very difficult to do, and at times impossible, at very low volumes.
Fire the i-Deck 200 up for the first time, and it conducts an “automatic position correction” test, which uses an integrated microphone (which I can’t locate) to calibrate the right sound for the room. Three small booming noises ring out, and test the size of the room and the dock’s location in it. Or is it really? My evil mind wants to know for sure…. bwa ha ha ha!!!
So to check whether the automatic position correction actually do anything at all, I connected the i-Deck 200 to an uninterruptible power supply. This way, I can plug in the i-Deck 200 in location A and have it calibrate itself, then move it to location B with an extremely different acoustic signature then do a before and after calibration test. So using my Real Time Analyzer, I chose an area in my house where the bass is the weakest, plug in the i-Deck 200 to the power supply and let it calibrate itself and listen to a sweep tone. The result in the first location then I use it as a control. Bass frequencies seems to be boosted accordingly to compensate the lack of bass response in that area.
Then while having the i-Deck 200 still plugged in to the power supply, I brought the unit to an area in the house which bass response is bloated and uncontrollable. Playing the same sweep tone with the i-Deck 200 calibrated to location A, the bass response became ugly, fat, and uncontrollable. Sickening to my ears, to say the least. Now I proceed by unplugging the power completely, and plugged it back in to allow the calibration process to run once again. This time, the sweep tone test sounded back to normal. The bass is no longer uncontrollable.
I know I’m being tedious and rambling, but at least I know that the calibration process actually do something and not merely a marketing speak.
Safest amongst the mid to high range, there’s an appealing (and revealing) treble, with the sound carrying well around my house during the tests. The higher notes of any recording I threw at the i-Deck 200 sounded great, with clear vocals ringing out of the mix and deep sounding double-bass and slap bass sounds full and rounded while maintaining their respective sonic definition. Importantly, it sounds good at extremely low volume and medium volume, which most docks do struggle with.
Me Don’t Like
Not much actually. The use of audiophile-grade DAC of this unit makes me wanting to use the i-deck 200 more than just an docking station but also as a USB playback device and also as an outboard DAC for my CD playback. I can, of course, use my favourite Pioneer Elite PD-D9 reference CD player, but I definitely am not going to buy another $1,000 CD player if I can just buy a $100 CD player and use its digital output fed into the i-deck 200. However, I’m nitpicking here.
Me Buy This?
Having said all that, it’s important to remember the bottom line is the subjective listening experience and preference. For accuracy, I have yet to hear an objectively truly accurate sound from any portable device. However, this type of devices are not designed for accuracy but for a more pleasant, practical, and musical listening.
Furthermore, this unit is so far the most difficult for me review in my decade-plus of doing professional review. I ended up spending hours and hours of listening to all of my uncompressed music from my 64Gb iPod Touch from Jazz to classical, from ‘80s British Pop to Heavy Metal and gotten far too involved in the listening instead of doing the review. If I have to knock this unit is just its lack of digital input and USB input. What a waste of gorgeous DACs for people who don’t own something like a Pioneer Elite PD-D9 (my reference CD player with dual-differential WM-8740 DACs) or for people who just want to plug in their USB key into this amazing system. One thing for sure, however, the Monitor Audio i-deck 200 kills my own iPod docking station.