GEAR4's US$349.99 SoundOrb Aurora docking station (http://www.GEAR4.com) is a cool looking and decent sounding speaker system. But is it worth the manufacturer's suggested retail price of US$349.99?
The company claims the polar white SoundOrb is the first "made-for-iPod and works-with-iPhone" speaker system to feature a separate wireless sub-woofer, and I can't dispute that. It incorporates DSP (Digital Signal Processing) technology that has two psychoacoustic sound algorithms, allowing you to listen to your music and movies in Virtual Wide Stereo or Virtual Surround Sound modes.
The subwoofer component is made from translucent plastic and features EveryColor ambient light and the base/dock/main speaker (the SoundBar) is a cream colored plastic with black front. That's the cool looking part. Simultaneously producing sound and light from within the sub-woofer, it contains LED technology that provides ambient light remaining on the same color or light cycling through more than 16,000 different shades.
It uses a five-inch, down-firing driver for a bass that's relatively deep and solid, though not quite thumping. One very nice touch: the SoundOrb remote contains separate volume buttons for the dock and subwoofer.
You can have the subwoofer "scroll through" colors, glow at a color of your choice (or clean white light). Or you can just turn off the light. However, you can't control the light options with the remote.
The controls for the SoundOrb Aurora are easy to use. The SoundBar sports illuminated touch sensitive buttons. And you can switch between three different sound settings at the touch of a button.
Stereo is the standard audio setting that most speakers use. Sound from the left speaker is received by the left ear slightly before the right ear and vice versa, delivering stereo format audio.
The wide setting delivers sound that appears to be coming from a wider speaker system than in reality. This setting is good for listening to live tracks.
3D is the setting that achieves the perception of Virtual Surround Sound, with sound seeming to come from multiple speakers placed around the room. This setting is best for watching movies. It does a passable job of faux 3D sound. However, Bose's Companion 5 speakers are much better at this, and they only cost about 50 bucks more.
The subwoofer can be placed anywhere in a room, within 100 feet of the SoundBar. Power up the system, and the subwoofer is automatically paired with the main unit. The subwoofer communicates with the wireless speaker via the 2.4 GHz frequency band.
The SoundOrb Aurora can also be used as a compact home theatre sound system or to watch iPod content on your TV. You can connect SoundOrb Aurora to the audio outputs of your TV or DVD/Blu-ray Player for home theatre audio. Likewise, you can connect the video out from SoundOrb Aurora to your TV to show videos from your iPod.
We've mentioned the bass. What about the rest of the sound? The midrange is crisp enough, but the top-end is a bit thin and the treble rather weak. As for volume, you can crank these babies up pretty high.
As a dock/speaker system the SoundOrb Aurora works well, though it's a bit pricey. But if you want a speaker system/dock that doubles as a Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) generator, go for it.
Macsimum rating: 7 out of 10
-- Dennis Sellers