Friday, August 26, 2011

Freaq out!

These days, the road to hi-fi nirvana for a teenager does not begin with a CD Walkman anymore. It begins with an iPod, MP3 player or a smart phone.

With these gadgets, you will be listening to MP3 songs mostly on headphones - the earbud type or the newer more fashionable wraparound headphones.

If you use the gadget's speakers, you will hear a thin and high-pitched sound with all the body and bass missing.

So how does a teenager with little pocket money strive for better sound?

Simple - save up for an iPod speaker dock. There are lots of them in the market now and the latest is the SoundFreaq SFQ-01A.

The SoundFreaq SFQ-01A with docked iPhone.
My Nokia handphone is on top of the gadget.

The control knobs - (from left) UQ3 sound enhancement, bass and treble.


Unlike some of the others which have really cool designs, the SoundFreaq is shaped like a shoebox measuring W 11.8" (300mm), H 5.9" (150mm), D 6" (151.5mm) and reminded me of a bread toaster.

It is a design that you either hate or love.

The one on review was bright red in colour - again it is a colour that you either love or hate. Other choices are white and black and frankly, I preferred red.

The SoundFreaq features the usual dock for the iPhone and iPod. At one end is a hidden compartment where the small remote control is kept.

While iPod/iPhone docking is quite common these days, what is more interesting and exciting about the SoundFreaq is the Bluetooth connectivity which pairs it with not only the iPhone and iPad but any smartphone or laptop of any make.

After pairing the SoundFreaq with a gadget, remember to disconnect it from that gadget otherwise you will not be able to pair another gadget with it.

The hidden compartment where the remote control is kept.

If you have an iPhone, streaming MP3 music files to the SoundFreaq via Bluetooth is more fun than just plugging the iPhone to the dock as you are able to do other things like surf the Net with the iPhone while listening to music.

When your iPhone's battery charge runs low, you can then dock it to recharge while still playing the songs.

I had great fun Bluetoothing songs to the SoundFreaq downstairs with my Nokia handphone while I was upstairs working on the PC in my house.

Bluetoothing music files from the Nokia handphone to the SoundFreaq.

The maximum distance before the signal is disrupted while Bluetoothing depends on the make of the phone. With my son's Sony-Eriksson, the maximum distance was around 26 feet while with my Nokia it was around 28 feet.

I tried Bluetoothing from behind a brick and concrete wall about 10 feet away and from behind a sofa about eight feet away with my Nokia handphone and the signal was not disrupted.

Since my house is now a wifi hotspot, I could watch music videos on YouTube with my iPad while the song was played on the SoundFreaq.

While only the US version of the SoundFreaq comes with an FM radio mode, I felt that it did not matter at all that the Malaysian version did not have an FM mode.

This was because I could play Internet radio on the SoundFreaq via Bluetooth with either the iPhone or iPad. 

All I had to do was download a free app called Tunein Radio and I had access to hundreds of stations from Malaysia and around the world.

Seconds after I had downloaded the Tunein app I was listening to jazz from a radio station based in Seattle, United States. And all that was done without me moving an inch on the sofa.

SoundFreaq has its own app for the iPhone and iPad, but I never had to use it at all even though I downloaded it.

The SoundFreaq aspires to be an audiophile product by featuring kevlar-reinforced full-range drivers, nautilus-shaped tuned dual ports and a proprietary UQ3 spatial sound enhancement to widen the soundstage.

It has an Aux input and you can plug a 3.5mm jack to it, but I never used it at all since I had dozens of songs in my phone and I had access to hundreds of Internet radio stations.

In terms of sound quality, the SoundFreaq sounded better than many that I have heard and the UQ3 feature does enlarge the soundstage.

It can play loud enough for a party and I can already visualise college kids blasting it in their rooms and dorms. For an older audiophile with a mega-buck main rig, it can be for the bedroom - it certainly sounds better than a bedside alarm clock/radio.

The SoundFreaq sells at a rrp of RM899 and is available at all authorised resellers.

Just the other day, I heard a similar component at the Mac Store in Bangsar Shopping Complex which was in that price range and it sounded worse than the SoundFreaq.



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