In our last semifinals match in our iPod Dock Bracket, the diminutive Eton Sound 100 iPod battles the buff Altec Lansing IMV712. It's Porsche vs. Corvette, surf vs. turf, briefs vs. boxers—it's a competition for the ages, and the winner has a 50/50 chance at taking it all home.
DESIGN We were afraid to leave the Eton Sound 100 iPod alone with the Altec Lansing IMV712. The big boy looked hungry, and the Eton is just so delicate...possibly tasty...
Eton Sound 100 iPod The Eton is a cute system. It's very small, yet has a feel of a bigger unit through its solid buttons and knobs. But we'd like to have seen video out along with the radio and line in/out options. And it's tough to look past the fact that the Eton Sound 100 iPod is just Eton's Sound 100 model with an external iPod dock. Is that bitchy of me? Maybe a little.
Altec Lansing IMV712 The IMV712 is more like a big SUV than a sleek Jeep. We're not crazy about its appearance, even though a diagonally arching top spruces up the boxy form. We've already gushed over the massive screen, etc, but we wish that the screen could be put to better use than movies or the Altec Lansing logo. A little visualization could go a long way here.
AUDIO Once again, we did extensive audio testing. Sure, we knew (as you should expect) that the IMV712 would take the sound category. But just how much better is Altec Lansing's heavyweight than the little Eton...that's the big question. Eton Sound 100 iPod This is a big stage in the competition, so it's time to put away the baby music. We started out with the Boss, Springsteen himself. Human Touch sounded pretty solid. I can't help but to underestimate the output of this little unit, only to be surprised each time I put it on. It actually hits a pretty high frequency range. Vocals are clear, while the highest range instrumentation can thin out (cymbals can get a bit tinny). Lows...I can't quite explain. They hit without resonance, popping in an unnatural way in which a bass drum can resemble a snare hit. The sound is almost low enough, but it's sterile.
Nonetheless, I'm impressed by this little machine.
Altec Lansing IMV712 Of course the IMV712 is more open, reproduces sweeter bass and...well, you get the point. But the even bigger difference between the two units, however, is distinction. Layers of sound, no matter the genre, can be appreciated in full. In Outkast's Ms. Jackson, it's absurdly easy to pick out the tracks and dissect the subtle complexities that make the song so freakin' good. You won't get that with the Eton. And the tendency only gets more obvious when venturing into classical.
Strings and horns are both brilliant on the IMV712. And the Eton, the excellent little BSer that it is, can't begin to keep up.
I always separate sound quality in tiers, and maybe that's completely unfair since it's arbitrary and a bit meaningless in comparisons outside this battle. But you will hear a massive difference between the two units (or at least two tiers of quality). And it's not because the Eton is a disappointment, because I don't see many turning up their noses at the Sound 100's audio quality given the form—it's that the IMV712 transcends iPod docks and gives you a product that can be more of a home stereo than just a backup dock. It might not be perfect sound, sure, but it's fairly luxurious for MP3 playback—a bit of caviar on your Ritz cracker.
WINNER: IMV712 Like its competition in the finals, the Griffin Amplifi, the IMV712 is a bit on the big and ugly. But it sounds good and is feature-rich. Would we give up the IMV712's video for its audio in Eton's form factor? Of course. We just aren't there yet from a technological standpoint.