Plug and play iPod docks have flooded the market since Apple took a strong hold of the portable sphere, but Edifier has taken the game to the premium market with their high class for high price unit, Breathe.
Measuring 420mm x 257mm x 244mm and weighing in at nearly five kilos, the Breathe is a hefty unit but with its symmetrical half-moon black and grey finish that matches Apple’s iPod/iPhone style, it’s intended to be a showpiece in your living room. The face of the unit is layered with a thin, black fabric that leaves no impressions on the face of the unit, making you almost wonder where the speakers could be hidden. The fabric could be a magnet for dust, though. And the backside of the unit leaves little to be desired, so you’d want to have it up against a wall rather than on a table mid-room.
You just need to look at the unit’s giant power supply to know that this thing eats electricity, but what you get from the 48 watt output is a five-speaker system with immense clarity and warm timbre. The tweeters push the quality of treble for clear vocals and sharp sound, while the downward-facing subwoofer maximises bass performance. Pushed to its limit, the Breathe performs with stunning quality. In fact, it’s only really at louder volumes that the quality can really be appreciated.
While it may just seem like a bit of unconventional (and perhaps a little bit ugly) design, the contours on the bottom section of the Breathe’s face is actually a subwoofer’s best friend. Cleverly integrating design and practicality, the contours allow for greater air intake for the speakers that will result in better life of the unit. Some similar units with downward-facing subs fail to facilitate proper air intake, affecting sound quality and the longevity of the unit – so here Breathe becomes more than just a name.
Despite cleverly protecting the sub, the bass is still a little under par for a dock that will set you back $500. While pop, classical and rock music will make the most of clear high end, warm mid-range and crisp treble, bass-intensive hip hop and R&B will suffer from a lack of sustained bass notes. While not many iPod docks can boast the same power as the Breathe, for $500 you’d still expect more.
If you’re not fastidious about bass, the rest of the sound quality along with a handful of added luxuries will still sell the deal. For instance, Edifier’s tailoring toward Apple means that most iPods and all iPhones are compatible, with individual plastic fittings provided for each to sit comfortably in the dock. iPhone integration means that incoming calls will automatically pause any playing music on the unit, so you’ll never miss a ring.
An ergonomically designed circular remote around the size of a cupcake makes for a stylish and comfortable tool for navigating your music from a distance. Unfortunately, despite the remote’s ring-shaped buttons’ similarity to an iPod scroll wheel, you won’t find a scroll wheel function on the remote. You got me, Edifier… Putting the volume up and down is a bit of a chore if you’re used to using your iPod on the go, and Edifier has placed redundant play/pause, change track and volume buttons on the unit. But at least the slightly rubbery, resistant buttons are a joy to press on this unit that all-round feels… expensive.
Edifier’s Breathe is the epitome of premium pricing for a limited product. Consumers can stick with using a contemporary stereo or home theatre system that could offer more dynamic sound, but Edifier are offering a similar experience in one package. Thankfully it offers AUX cables to attach other MP3 players, because otherwise you’d be paying $500 for a restricted, yet stylish, figure for the mantelpiece (an audibly delicious figure though).