You just can’t get away from the iPod. It dominates the mobile audio space and everyone seems to have one these days either in iPhone form or the standard iPod Touch. While Apple’s perfected the personal experience of music with their portable line of iPods, they have left the sharing of music up to 3rd part manufactures. The iPods’s internal speakers certainly don’t cut it, so companies like Altec Lansing have developed solutions for music lovers that want to share what they are listening to with family and friends. But what do you do with multiple devices iPods or iPhones in the mix? Fighting over the stereo system can be avoided with a dual dock device, such as the Octiv Duo (MSRP $99.99). Altec Lansing takes that concept a step further by introducing a way to mix the tracks between two devices, allowing different music tastes to be represented.
The Octiv Duo most comfortably fits in a corner due to the triangle shape. I was able to comfortably mount it in the kitchen above the counter, but beneath the cabinetry. The front matte black grill is rounded and hides both three-inch neodymium drivers. On the top, you will find both docks for the Apple devices, a power button, a source button and volume control buttons. On the back right side, you will find the power jack, a 3.5mm Aux jack and a USB port. By combining the latter two ports, you could hook up a 3rd iPhone / iPod / iPad and charge it at the same time through the USB port. When the device is powered up, you will notice orange LED lights on the top that light up to indicate the currently selected source.
The Octiv Duo also comes with a circular remote, decked out in black and gold. It can be creatively stored on the back of the system, locking into a snap-in storage space. Despite the small size, the amount of functionality is surprising. You can power up the device, control volume, select the source, play / pause songs, skip tracks and use the arrow buttons for full iPod / iPhone song control. Of course, you will need to stand right next to the device to see your selection screen, but it’s excellent for altering volume from afar. My only complaint is that it’s not very comfortable to hold and I feel like I have to contort my hand to use it occasionally. However, the storage design makes up for that. I can hide the remote any time when I’m done with the Duo.
Testing and Performance:
To mix the music from two different devices, it requires a new app called Music Mix. This is an application created by Altec Lansing and can be downloaded for free. You also get a notification to download the app if you plug an iPod / iPhone into one of the docks. Once you have the app downloaded and your devices plugged into the docks, you can start mixing music. One of the great features of the app is the ability to control the amount of music played from each device. If you think that your iPod has a superior music collection over your friend’s iPod, you can move the slider towards your side and the percentage of songs that get pulled increases significantly. Or course, it’s using your entire library to shuffle and select songs to play, so be wary of your guilty music pleasures popping up out thin air and becoming public very quickly.
I left the Octiv Duo out for anyone in the house to use to gauge the reactions of guests and friends, both in their ability to adapt to the design and their willingness to download another app. Overall, most people defaulted to the regular music controls on their iPhone / iPod rather than downloading Music Mix. The people that did install Music Mix used it for about 30 minutes before defaulting back to a more granular control of their music. I also got a couple complaints from anyone with an iPhone 4 as it doesn’t sit perfect in the dock and occasionally loses connection. A simple fix for future iterations of the device would be a scroll knob behind the mobile player to adjust how the iPhone, similar to the solution seen on Onkyo docks with their receiver line.
As I’m sure you guessed already from the price point, this isn’t going to be a device for an audiophile. The speaker output is better than what you would hear from a high-end clock radio, but pales in comparison to a bookshelf-speaker system. It’s definitely more full bodied than listening to your music through the iPhone / iPod’s tinny internal speaker. Bass is strong for a component in this price range and treble performance is respectable. That being said, this isn’t a device for parties or for large rooms. It would work well in a small space like a kitchen, bedroom or office.
Speaking of the bedroom, Altec Lansing also offers up the Alarm Rock app for anyone using this on a nightstand. It’s a simple app that displays the time and date which sitting in the dock of the Octiv Duo. There’s also a handy slider for lowering the brightness, particularly useful for anyone that has trouble sleeping with bright light in the room. You have a variety of alarm options and, wonderfully, get to choose the album, artist, play list or track to wake up to every morning. It’s a pretty fantastic tool and definitely awesome for those who rely completely on their iPhone to get up in the morning. There are also different settings for how the clock looks on the screen for design options.
There’s very little to dislike with the Altec Lansing Octiv Duo. It’s a solid dual dock system that’s priced competitively for anyone looking to add a speaker system to a small room. It’s also friendly to guests and simple to understand. In addition, the inclusion of the Music Mix and Alarm Rock apps alleviate the usability of the system significantly. I recommend the Octiv Duo to anyone with an iPod / iPhone that wants to broadcast their musical tastes beyond the headphones.