XtremeMac goes for a truly complete iPhone dock and hits its goal (March 6th, 2011)
The iOS audio dock space has grown fierce enough that standing out in any way is a serious fight XtremeMac is hoping to do just that with the Tango TRX, an innovative Bluetooth-capable speaker setup for iPods and iPhones. With a breakout dock and a dedicated app, it could be one of the best docks yet; we'll find out in our Tango TRX review.
Product Manufacturer: XtremeMac
- Full sound for the size.
- Detachable dock.
- Very easy Bluetooth calls and music.
- iOS remote app with EQ.
- Speakers strain at high volume.
- iOS app could use more extras and EQ settings.
The Tango TRX features a very simple, solid black design with some very clean lines. The orange accent on the sound dial is enough to be noticed without being obnoxious. Underneath the speaker cover are two 2.75-inch midrange drivers, two 1.4-inch dome tweeters, and a 3.5-inch downward-firing woofer. The five speakers together are good for total of 30W (RMS, or sustained) of power and are capable of providing a wide dynamic range of sounds.
While every iPod and iPhone dock can play music and charge devices the Tango TRX can also take calls or play music through the built-in Bluetooth 2.1 connection. Included with the Tango TRX is a satellite dock for charging iPods and iPhones in Bluetooth mode, as well as a small remote. The remote not only controls a docked iPod or iPhone but also provides some basic EQ adjustments. The EQ adjustments are a nice touch that isn't often found on small remotes.
If they like, users can even download a free app from XtremeMac that replicates the remote functionality on their iPod or iPhone. Additionally, users can find a line-in jack on the back and some basic audio controls on the top right of the unit. Again, it's a minimalist design, but we appreciate for that very reason.
User experience and audio quality
All of our audio testing was done with iTunes-encoded lossless quality ALAC audio files ripped from original CDs. We found that the sound quality was very close across all three inputs -- surprisingly, despite the usual wireless compression, including Bluetooth. The Bluetooth audio functionality itself worked seamlessly. When a Bluetooth connected device is docked to the Tango TRX it automatically switches over from its basic calling mode to playing music.
Little details like this show the overall attention XtremeMac put into the design of the Tango TRX, but the biggest surprise of all was the iPhone speakerphone capability. Incoming calls were crisp and the audio quality was superb. The mic occasionally sounded a little distorted, almost like we were talking in a small room, but overall the speakerphone feature was very nicely done.
As always, we tested a wide variety of music to put the five speakers in the Tango TRX through the paces. We started with "Touch a New Day" by Lena Meyer Landhurt, whose guitar sounded crisp with no distortion while the vocals were warm and full. We followed the mellow pop tones of "Touch a New Day" with a very classic choral rendition of "Sure on This Shining Night" by Morten Lauridsen. The Tango TRX handled the choral depth very well and the piano accompaniment sounded full. With the volume past three quarters, we did notice the high A and C notes of the chorus cracking. Perhaps the weakest part of this otherwise excellent speaker set is its inability to handle very high volumes, but this is typical of speakers in this price range.
With the pop and choral numbers out of the way, we queued up "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. The bass of this R&B track was full, deep, and clear - thanks in doubt to the woofer in the bottom of the Tango TRX. Thankfully, the bass didn't muddy the details in the track; even the often-missed backup vocals were discernable. With our rap testing out of the way we went back to some more detailed and softer tracks with Coldplay, SpyroGyra, and the Beatles. The drums in "Yellow" by Coldplay, and in "Morning Dance" by SpyroGyra, both sounded clear and precise, just as they should. Both tracks required some EQ adjustments but sounded wonderful with the correct tweaks. Our last tests were with the iconic Beatles tracks "Here Comes the Sun" and "The Inner Light," both of which were done justice by the Tango TRX.
The combination of great sound, Bluetooth, and speakerphone capability make the Tango TRX a genuinely special iPod/iPhone speaker offering. The app and equalizer settings go above and beyond and give it a touch of control that's still quite rare. With a retail price of $180, there are many docks that offer equal or lesser quality sound but which can't be used day-to-day nearly as much. If you plan to go anywhere beyond just playing music from a speaker joined at the hip to its dock, XtremeMac should be on the short list.