With portable devices and convenience becoming many peoples’ music source and priority, the IPod dock system has replaced the traditional stereo in most of our homes. As for reputable choices their is the B&W Zeppelin air, NAD VISO 1, and Bose SoundDock, all of which will run $200+. The BeatBox made by the cable giant Monster, can be had for between $99-$250 and features two 5.25″ woofers, two 1.5″ inverted dome titanium tweeters, optional Bluetooth hook-up, 3.5mm audio-in, IPod dock with support up to IPhone 4s, and 200 Watts of total amplification.
After seeing refurbished units on that popular auction site for around $80 and remembering being surprised by their sound a few years ago at a big box chain store, I decided to pull the trigger. I was not expecting much from the unit, especially after being used to my B&W Zeppelin air for a few years.
After unpacking the unit I was surprised by the solid build quality of the unit. Although a more simple design than the B&W Zeppelin, the BeatBox was similar in build quality. I fired up some Miles Davis and was immediately impressed with the overall fidelity level. Cymbals sounded crisp and clear without being harsh or distorted, and it only sounded better as the volume went up. Switching to some electronic music, Infected Mushroom, the surprisingly deep bass really shined. This was not bloated bass like that associated with the Beats headphones, this was tight, accurate, visceral bass. As I listened to more and more music I began to learn the Beatbox’s sound signature, slightly hyped treble, smooth and detailed midrange, and excellent, accurate bass. With the treble being slightly elevated, some music would lose its natural sound, but with the majority it was a non-issue.
In comparison with the B&W Zeppelin, the BeatBox plays louder without distortion, but loses in vocal reproduction and overall realism. The B&W sounded more balanced from top to bottom and was not as sensitive with placement, the BeatBox excelled when loaded into a corner of the room. Overall detail and clarity of both units was very similar which surprised me. I would give the bass category to the BeatBox, with the treble and midrange being slightly better with the B&W. If I listened to mainly Electronic, pop, rock, and hip-hop, I would choose the BeatBox every time. If I listened to mainly jazz, live recordings, classical, and vocals, the B&W would be the natural choice.
It is obvious to me that some solid R&D went into the Beatbox. After opening up the unit to have a look at the driver quality I was even more impressed. Large motor structures along with vented baskets definitely helped explain the excellent bass capabilities and loudness capabilities of the BeatBox. Also impressive was the extensive bracing and hefty amplifier parts quality.
Overall, I would recommend the BeatBox to anyone looking for a dock system under $300. It blows away the Bose, and is on par with the B&W Zeppelin Air for a lot less cash. The newer scaled down BeatBox is a completely different animal and is not recommended.