Gear4 enters the US with a trio of competent speaker docks. (September 26th, 2010)
Gear4 is best known as one of the eclectic iPhone and iPod accessory makers in its UK home: it makes speaker docks, but it also makes cases, chargers, and even karaoke accessories. Gear4 will be entering the US market for the first time in October with three products: the AlarmDock Reveal iPod alarm clock, the StreetParty4 speaker dock and the StreetParty Compact, a smaller version of the StreetParty4 speaker dock. We're reviewing all three Gear4 devices to see how they stack up.
Product Manufacturer: Gear4
Price: $49 (Compact), $69 (StreetParty4, AlarmDock)
- All three quite affordable.
- Useful FM radio on the AlarmDock Reveal.
- Good remote on StreetParty4.
- Relatively high volume on the StreetParty Compact.
- AlarmDock a pain to program.
- AlarmDock Reveal and StreetParty4 both strictly average in sound.
- Weak power connectors on all three.
The AlarmDock Reveal retails for $69 and offers users an iPod charging station, alarm clock, and FM radio all in one device. All of the controls for the AlarmDock Reveal are on the top of the device and are relatively easy to access. Programming the time and the alarm settings was not as easy as we would have hoped, but we did figure it out without referencing the instruction sheet.
The AlarmDock Reveal supports both 12-hour and 24-hour military time settings and has a brightness adjustment for the small LED clock on the front of the unit. The bottom of the device has a place for a watch battery to be inserted so that the alarm clock would stay functional even if the power goes out. The back of the device has a somewhat long FM antenna and a very small power connector. Gear4 should look at beefing up the quality of its power connections as this design feels cheap and the connector wiggles around far too easily; we're wondering if it's too used to UK power outlets.
Sound from the AlarmDock Reveal is suitable both for waking up and for general listening. The audio quality is average for a device in this price range and the volume level can get decently loud without too much distortion. When the iPod is not selected, the alarm clock can use FM radio or a traditional beeping noise for the alarm. The design of the device is nice except for the FM antenna, which we would really like to see integrated into the enclosure somewhere. The entire front half of the top of the device functions as a snooze button: smacking the device is not only easy but is a very satisfying solution for turning off your morning wake-up call. Most alarm clock users do this anyways, but the AlarmDock Reveal is actually designed well for it.
The StreetParty4 is a typical iPod speaker dock. The unit can run from four AA batteries or via a chintzy power cable that, again, really needs to be improved upon. In addition to serving as an iPod dock, the StreetParty4 also has an aux-in jack and can function as a speaker for any line-level audio device.
We really like the design of the StreetParty4 because it can fold flat. The iPod dock and the rear support both fold flat to make the unit very portable. The dock can accommodate most any iPod that uses the Dock Connector and ships with four different dock adapters for a quick start.
The StreetParty4 has an official price tag of $69. The sound quality and volume of the device are both average given the price and relative size. Bass response was lacking since the device has no woofers, only a pair of tweeters. We were very impressed with the tiny remote it came with; the remote felt much more responsive than other similar remotes we have used in the past.
The StreetParty Compact is a smaller, more portable, $49 version of the StreetParty4. Like the larger model, this dock has a line-in connector, a cheap feeling power cord, four dock size adapters and the ability to run off of four AA batteries. The biggest difference is the absence of a remote for the Compact, which is understandable given its focus.
The volume and audio quality from the StreetParty Compact was nearly as good as its bigger brother without the $20 price premium. Bass response was equally as bad on the StreetParty Compact, but the overall acoustic clarity, volume, and listening experience was very similar between the two devices. Unless you really need a remote , the StreetParty Compact can offer almost as much sound as the StreetParty4 with less of a hit to the pocketbook and your shelf space.
Gear4 has seen good success in the UK and will likely also build a following here in the US as well. All three products we reviewed today were good, not incredible, but good nonetheless. We'd really like to see Gear4 make the AlarmDock Reveal easier to program and toughen up the power connectors on three systems. While the sound on the StreetParty Compact was stand-out excellent for the cost and performance, the other two systems produced only average quality sound. The entire line is priced right and designed well and represents all around good value.