The Gear4 Duo is so-called because of its dual functions: it’s a standard, mains-powered MP3 player dock that can also be used portably. To do this, you must wrest off the fascia on the front of the dock. You’re then left with a lightweight speaker that can operate for up to 6 hours between recharges as long as you don’t crank up the volume too much.
The intention is that by shelling out £149 on the Gear4 Duo, you get a docking station for your iPod that can be used both at home or out and about with no need to fork out for two separate players.
The barbecue and festival season are now approaching, so the Gear4 Duo is a timely product and means you can put the few quid you save towards gig tickets or an overpriced warm beer.
The portable unit weights 594g, so it isn’t the lightest portable dock we’ve seen, but the Gear4 Duo is well-constructed and we’d happily stash it in a backpack without fear that it wouldn’t survive the experience.
It’s less than 30mm deep at its fattest part (the iPod dock folds into the unit, out the way), which is a big advantage too. All types of iPod and the iPhone can be used with the Gear4 Duo. A line in round the back offers a further option.
But if you’ve been using the Gear4 Duo at home and enjoying the power and clarity of its 2.1 speaker system and a 20 Watt sub-woofer, you’ll notice the difference when you try out its portable incarnation.
When powered from the mains the Gear4 Duo is a real powerhouse with lots of bass; detach it from the mains powered setup and you lose the subwoofer too. It’s still a very acceptable audio output when used in portable mode, with 18W at its disposal, but the contrast is striking.
There’s a lot to be said for the dual-mode concept too. Unclip the front and swing down the retaining metal bar to create a stand and you’ve got a slimline and fairly stylish-looking flat-speaker system. You have to squeeze either side to release the bar but once in place it provides a sturdy stand for the Gear4 Duo.
There’s a separate on/off button round the back of the Gear4 Duo ‘s portable dock, while a red light just above the imprinted Gear4 logo on the speaker grille indicates it’s switched on – a good visual reminder so you don’t run down the batteries. We got little more than two hours of play at the top volume.
The Gear4 Duo comes with a small remote control, while the volume can be controlled directly from the portable unit via three buttons on top.
We’d have preferred a separate volume control for the subwoofer so that you could adjust the bass to suit different types of music and we think it rather cheeky of Gear4 to charge £49 on top for a carry case and spare rechargeable battery.
Overall, however, we found the Gear4 Duo a successful marriage of home and portable speaker dock. We’ve already put in our plea for an FM radio on the next model though.