Cignias NAO Symphony Review: A Wireless iPod Dock for Blackberrys

The Cignias NAO Symphony looks like any other iPod dock. But it's not like any other iPod dock. Because it streams music wirelessly and plays nice with BlackBerrys, too.

Cost

$299

The Verdict

The theoretical flexibility of the NAO Symphony is impressive: You can pipe in music via the iPod dock, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or the standard auxilliary port, and control it with apps for the iPhone or BlackBerry, along with the crap IR remote that ships with it.

The problem is that in practice, it's frustratingly splintered.

On the iPhone, you can only stream music over Bluetooth, but you actually control it via Wi-Fi using the MusicNAO app. So you have to bounce between the iPhone's iPod app and the MusicNAO app—iPod is where you actually pick tracks and do the real controlling if you're streaming music, but the MusicNAO is where you perform all of the settings voodoo, and, um, control the volume. (No, you can't control volume in the iPod app when it's connected.)

The situation's actually better on BlackBerrys, for the simple reasons that you can actually stream music over Wi-Fi and the settings and music management are mostly centralized in a single app. (There's still a separate app if you're trying to remotely control an iPod plugged into the Symphony's dock, for reasons I can't understand.)

Cignias NAO Symphony Review: A Wireless iPod Dock for Blackberrys

A single LED in the center of the speaker wall serves as your indicator for what's happening with the unit—green means you're streaming over Wi-Fi, blue for Bluetooth, red for bad things. Otherwise, there's not much feedback going on, even in the apps, so I had more than a few occasions where I'd start playing music in one of the apps, but nothing would come out, and I wouldn't be able to figure out why. So I'd go "WTF?" fiddling with the volume before turning it on and off a of couple times, after which it would magically spring to life, and blow out my ears because I had turned the volume all the way up from the BlackBerry.

Bluetooth connections seemed to be more reliable in actually getting music to stream, but in any Bluetooth scenario, I definitely had songs that would cut out intermittently, despite being a mere 10 feet away and in line of sight. And not having music coming out every time it's supposed to is beyond annoying.

Oh yeah, how does it sound? Um, fine—not great, not bad—like a typical (not premium) iPod dock tends to sound. The sweet spot seemed to be in the middle loud range, where the slight overcompensation in bass leveled out, and slight crackling in the highs is smoothed out thanks to overall volume. We're not talking about over detailed or refined audio here, but when you're just looking to fill a room with sufficiently big sound and not too much distortion, it gets the job done, mostly pleasantly.

But $300 is a lot of clams, even for an iPod dock that works with your work phone.

Cignias NAO Symphony Review: A Wireless iPod Dock for Blackberrys

An iPod dock that works with BlackBerrys

Tons of ways to control it and pipe in music

The overall sound is just okay

$300 is pretty pricey, even with the BlackBerry superpowers

Music wouldn't play sometimes, for no discernible reason

The app and wireless situation on the iPhone is kinda confusing, and there's two apps on the BlackBerry for reasons I can't divine [Cignias]