THESE DOCKS WORK WITH THE IPHONE!! READ THIS POST!! Full disclosure: We have no clue if either the Altec Lansing iM7 or the Cambridge Soundworks Playdock i will work with the iPhone. We were lying to get you to read the next review in our iPod Bracket Battle. You don't have to if you don't want to.
The IM7 goes for that soup can on its side boombox look, which...works? Its most notable feature is that your iPod snaps recessed into the dock, though since the controls remain uncovered for iPod navigation, your precious music collection still isn't bomb proof. The s-video out is a nice bonus.
The Playdock i is almost a third less wide than the IM7, making it a better squeeze on to your shelf. And the build quality is excellent. The volume wheel offers a fulfilling tactile click and a knob on the back allows easy bass adjustment—I don't understand why more docks don't have simple EQ options. To finish it off, a single button allows toggle of their Wide Stereo Effect.
I tested this round with Rodrigo Y Gabriela's Tamacun, because my wife is listening to it nonstop so I am listening to it nonstop.
The IM7 has a rounded sound, not just in its excellent low to high balance, but the roundness of each note. The guitars, in any range, sounded almost wet in texture. The lows don't go quite the that guttural range that shakes the tummy, but they are about as well as one can expect without a sub.
The highest ranges play back with slap-you-in-the-face presence. But the listening experience degrades through the midranges and lower. "Wide Stereo Effect" sound enhancement cuts the lows too much for my taste. And cranking the bass adds false colors to the sound.
The companies are clearly taking different approaches to sound: Altec Lansing is trying to offer a solid stereo performance with their IM7, while Cambridge Soundworks' Playdock i attempts to offer a sound that emulates the live experience. But to pull off that live sound, the speakers have to be amazing.
WINNER: Altec Lansing IM7
Even with a retail of $50 more, we're giving the victory to the IM7. If we could only combine the two units: Playdock i build combined with the IM7 sound would be a force to reckon with. We'll see if Bose can fill that gap...