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.
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
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.
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
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
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).
view, very thin profile
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.
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