Portable Audio

Earthquake Sound iQuake IQ-52B iPod Dock

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

I imagine even Steve Jobs didn't realize the amount of success that his iPod would enjoy. Not only have tens of millions of them been sold, there is an entire world of accessories out there being marketed by other companies.

One of these accessories is the iPod Dock. In some cases this just means a junction box that you place your iPod into, and the box connects to your stereo system. In other cases, there is a complete sound system,with amplifier and speakers, and the iPod slot is mounted directly into the system. The new Earthquake Sound iQuake IQ-52B (the B is for black, and there is an IQ-52W which is white), falls into the latter category.

Over the past year or so, there has been an explosion of the docks that are complete audio systems. I surveyed more than a dozen, and they range in price from about $200 to $600. Obviously, in this price range you can't expect huge sound . . . or can't you? Most of the ones I surveyed had one or more problems, typically very poor bass response. Secondly, the feature set is limited because its primary function is to connect your iPod and play your MP3s using speakers instead of earphones.

The iQuake seems to be almost in a category by itself as you will see.

Specifications

  • Design: Table Top iPod Dock with Amplified Speakers
  • Drivers: One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, One 5" Carbon Fiber Woofer (in each speaker)
  • Power: 100 Watts per Channel
  • Input Impedance: 10 kOhms
  • Inputs: iPod Universal Dock, Stereo Pair RCA Analog, 1/8" Stereo Analog Phone Jack (Aux), Connector for Wireless Module for Transmission of Music from your PC to the iQuake
  • Outputs: Subwoofer RCA, USB (for connection to your PC for sync with the iPod), S-Video (for playing iPod video)
  • Dimensions: 10" H x 6.5" W x 8" D (Each Speaker)
  • Weight: 22 Pounds
  • MSRP: $475 USA
  • Earthquake Sound

The Design

The iQuake consists of two speakers, one of which has an iPod connector on top (see photo above). There are no grille covers.

The rear panel has lots of connections for flexibility (photos below).

Besides the iPod input slot on top, there is a pair of RCA analog input jacks and a 1/8" stereo phone jack. Since the iQuake has a volume control, you can connect the stereo analog ouputs from a CD player, a TV, or whatever other source you have. The Input Selector button is used to select which set of input jacks you are using. There is a volume control knob, but 99% of the time, you will be using the remote control for that purpose. Note that the remote controls the volume in the iQuake directly, it does not adjust the volume setting on the iPod.

The iPod connects to the iQuake with a digital bitstream, and there is a DAC inside the iQuake for decoding into analog.

i-quake-rear-panel-both-units.jpg

i-quake-rear-panel-main-unit.jpg

The iQuake has two 100 watt power amplifiers (Class D) inside, so there is plenty of power. In fact, because of their size and power, you could useseveral sets of these speakers connected to a surround sound processor for home theater use (connected with the RCA jacks). The cable that connects the two speakers is quite long, so you would have no problem extending the speakers to either side of a large HDTV. This cable is basically a speaker cable as both power amplifiers are in the main speaker enclosure.

The woofer is 5" and made from carbon fiber. This is a very high tech material that is increasingly used in speakers. However, notwithstanding the high tech woofercone material, you still need a subwoofer if youwant deep bass. You can use the subwoofer output jack on the rear panel of the iQuake, or if in a surround system, just use the sub-out on your processor.

If you have a Video iPod, the S-Video output jack on the rear panel will send the videosignal to your TV.

The USBjack lets you connect the iQuake to your computer for sync with your music in your iTunes library, so if you add music to the library, it will automatically upload to your iPod as it sits in the dock. TheiQuake also recharges the iPod while it is in the dock. (Various sets of cables come with the package for the various connections discussed.)

The AuxAC outlet is for a wireless accessory module (optional) that will allow you to connectto your network and play music from your PC into the iQuake.

The included remote control operates from 32 feet away and gives you complete control of the audio system, and also control of the iPod itself (although you might have a little trouble reading the iPod screen from across the room!)

i-quake-remote-control.jpg

So, now you see what I mean about the feature set distinguishing this product from most of the others out there. It's not the cheapest iPod dock, but what is the point of exchanging listening through good earphones to listening through a cheap speaker that has audible distortion?


The Sound

Ah, now here is where the iQuake puts its money where its mouth is.

The speakers are bookshelf size, and that makes a huge difference in the sound. It also helps to have two 100 watt amplifiers in there.

I tested it with my iPod, which has classical and pop music stored in Apple Lossless (no compression) format.

The sound quality just simply blew me away. No, there wasn't a lot of bass, but there was more than I expected. Because I put the system on a buffet (a serving table) in my living room, there was a bit of boominess due to the sound bouncing off the top of the buffet in front of the speakers. But, a simple adjustment of the bass output from the remote control completely solved that problem.

The silk dome tweeter delivered terrific highs, without being overly sibilant.

The SPL that this thing could deliver also amazed me. The carbon fiber woofers didn't break up, and there was no harshness from the tweeter. Seriously, I have heard larger, more expensive bookshelf speakers that didn't sound this good.


Conclusions

Earthquake Sound has hit a home run with its iQuake IQ-52. At $475, it is at the upper end of the price spread for iPod docks, but as for features and performance, it sits at the top. Recommending the iQuake to iPod fans is simply a no-brainer.