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Macally TUNEPRO Flat Panel iPod Speaker - . . . or How to out-Bose, Bose.
September 4, 2007, by Keith Benicek – Audio fanatic

Ever heard the old saying, good things come in small packages? And while Gary Coleman or your last raise are the exception, we found a great example of a very good small thing.

A lot of companies have made a career of providing ancillary products for what Apple sells; one of our favorites is Macally. So when I heard about their latest speaker system for the iPod or other MP3 players, my audio fanatic ears perked right up. You see these are very unique in the accessory world of iPod speakers and you’ll see why as you read this review.

When I’m not slaving over editing this online technology magazine, or participating by being on one of our review panels and maybe writing a few reviews, I am also audio production engineer. Making radio commercials, promos, parodies, podcasts or my real passion – mixing music for musicians – is what I’ve done for most of my adult life. So I have a trained ear for sound, and a fanaticism for audio devices and software.

First Impressions –

Macally sent us a newly released press announcement about the TUNEPRO™ Flat Panel speaker for the iPod™ before sending a sample to test. Pouring through the PR the first thing that caught my eye was that the TUNEPRO was very unique in the world of iPod speakers, it was the hot new speaker technology called “Flat Panel” pioneered by NXT Technology from the UK. That’s Flat Panel, not the older technology of “electrostatic speakers” which has some serious sonically limiting complications.

Audio engineers have been a buzz about transducer driven Flat Panel speaker technology, also known as Distributed-Mode Loudspeaker (DML), since if first debuted in the late 1990’s. NXT won numerous awards for the design and patented technology. DML operates by inducing random surface vibration in a panel of material, maintaining the sound over greater distances from the source than is possible with traditional loudspeakers. It allows sound reproduction from a wide range of materials that are flat and thin. There is no limit to size of a Flat Panel speaker. Want to read about NXT Flat Panel (DML) technology? Click here.

Not having a TUNEPRO at first to touch and poke around with, I guess I imagined a speaker system of a pretty healthy size. Most of the commercial Flat Panels I had seen at CES and NAB were at least two feet square or larger. When the TUNEPRO arrived a couple weeks later, I was surprised how small the unit actually was. I initially had doubts that any thing this small could make good audio. My bad for making an uneducated assumption.

Taking it from its box, I noticed how light, yet sturdy in construction the Macally TUNEPRO was. Compared to other conventional “cone and coil type” iPod speakers we’ve tested, the TUNEPRO is at least 1/3 their weight. But with Flat Panel technology you don’t need the weight to anchor heavy cone speakers.

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All of our office staff thought the TUNEPRO would look very nice on their desk or nightstand at home. Go buy your own, I said. We all agreed its design was simple yet elegant; in speaker systems simple is good, just make great accurate sound.
     
     Dock with iPod inserts, power and mute button

Without at first reading any instructions (there were none in our package), our group of audiophiles in our Tech Lab‚ instinctively plugged in the TUNEPRO, inserted an adapter for a 4th generation iPod and pushed all the buttons until the TUNEPRO was in iPod mode. Without fine-tuning the system settings, as we should have, we were still blown away by the high fidelity of the sound that these smallish Flat Panel speakers could produce. Then we figured we needed to remove the protective film from the front of the mirror finish Flat Panel (embarrassed). Ooo, the sound was even better!


Technical stuff
As I said before, this is an NXT Flat Panel speaker technology, if you want to read a bit more about Flat Panel, click here. The Macally uses this licensed speaker technology in an all-plastic housing of tasteful black and silver. The most noticeable feature is the full width and nearly full height mirrored panel that’s really the speaker. The whole panel moves when music is played and with light shinning through the hundreds of portholes on the back, you’ll notice the panel if translucent to.(see below).
         
The whole unit is only 13-3/8” w X 4-11/16” h X 5-1/8” deep (mostly the base), the speaker panel is only 13/16” deep. Weight is only 1 pound 10-1/4 ounces (without iPod).
    Side view, very thin profile

In the center front is the iPod dock which accepts one of three adapters for recent model iPods, basically from the 2nd “generation” and newer. On the bottom of the front, either side of the dock, are a row of control buttons. ON the left side are two buttons for user set wakeup “Alarms” (for sleeping at home, or sleeping at work on your desk while the boss is out for a scheduled meeting), “Sleep” to turn itself off when you fall asleep on the couch and “Radio Presets” for selecting five each AM and FM stations.

On the right side bottom are six buttons – “Down” and “Up” for station selection or moving through user menu, “Set” which acts like an enter key, “Volume –“ and “Volume +” and the “Audio Mode” button for selecting either iPod, AM, FM or Aux input modes.


© 2007 Tech Edge E-zine




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