Nationally, Altec Lansing’s long history for producing superior sounding products makes them stand out. Even their cheaper products stand out. The audio system on my computer at home is still an Altec Lansing SoundBar. The SoundBar, from 2008, has lasted longer than my last three computers, and I have access to nearly every computer speaker system out there.
And I feel the same about Cambridge SoundWorks products, even since their buyout by Creative. SoundWorks’s Newton speakers are divine. The company’s compact radios sound excellent and rival other tiny sound systems that promise big sound.
That’s what pains me about the SoundWorks i525, an iPod docking radio/alarm clock. By itself, the audio quality and construction make it a great choice. That’s how we should base audio products, right? Sound. Construction.
Well not quite. The i525 was not designed with the iPhone in mind. It plays and charges the iPhone, but Cambridge Soundworks did not get the product certified by Apple. A warning pops up on my iPhone 4’s screen when I dock it with the i525, warning me that it’s not optimized for my phone.
The product is fully functional, but WiFi and cellular phone activity can cause audio distortion and interference.
“The SoundWorks i525 will charge and function with iPhone. The Optimization flag appears as we are not yet certified for iPhone support. The product is fully functional with iPhone; however,” said Maria Cataldo, a spokeswoman for Cambridge Soundworks. “Please note, since we are not yet certified ‘for use with an iPhone,’ the user is presented with a warning that the iPhone may cause interference with the radio and offers you the choice to enter Airplane Mode. If the user does not enter Airplane Mode, the phone will still operate normally, but may introduce some interference from the radio when communicating with cell towers.”
In the device’s defense, I ran it through a few hours of trials and did not encounter any audio distortion.
Should we judge the i525 by this? On one hand, no. The i525 outperforms many similarly priced bedside iPhone docks. At $149.99, it’s the cheapest radio ever produced by Cambridge SoundWorks. it has an AM/FM radio that gets clear reception, and the company’s proprietary Smart Volume feature normalizes volume levels between songs, so you don’t get one really loud song and one quiet song.
But on the other hand, the company really needs to get that certification thing taken care of. The dock needs to fully play nice with what’s docking on it.