We checked out a variety of content — from music in all manner of compressed and uncompressed formats, to concert films via Qello to various movie and television content from Netflix and YouTube — and you know what? The A3 certainly improves the experience over a naked iPad. As a casual listening/viewing system it's quite nice to have around; I found myself using it most often as a console radio, propped on my desk in landscape mode, off to the side of my computer. I was definitely not maximizing whatever potential the A3 had to create a sense of stereo imaging, but it made a perfectly nice table radio and personal movie kiosk.
The wedge shape sits nicely in your lap, and doubles to keep the iPad in a comfortable position for touch-typing, in case you need to switch over to some productive activity.
How's it sound? I cued up a FLAC of McCoy Tyner's New York Reunion, and found that as compared to the naked iPad, I could suddenly hear Ron Carter. The A3's sound quality is about as good as you might expect from something its size — voices and horns are smoothly reproduced, there's adequate bass with distinct tonality, and clean performance through the upper registers. It's not a particularly loud device, but for the kind of situations that this device is going to be used in, certainly enough. "Room filling" sound, as they call it these days — louder than a Jambox, quieter than an NAD Viso 1.
The stereo image is a bit narrow, obviously, but it's clearly perceptible, more so in landscape mode. The portrait orientation is an interesting option if you want to save space if you're say, listening to talk radio or want to consult a recipe while you cook — but it does narrow the soundstage somewhat.
I'm not sure I'd want to spend any critical listening time with the A3, but it makes for very nice table radio listening. It's nice to have better sound quality and some bass extension in a portable format; near-field listening with they system perched on your knee is a hoot, if nothing else. It's sort of a throwback boombox experience, with an elegant twist.
Does it beat a traditional dock? That depends. Certainly retaining the iPad's portability is a nice touch, but given the wide availability of AirPlay and Bluetooth streamers these days, one could pretty easily "dock" one's iPad wirelessly to several systems in your home using multiple cheap and convenient devices — from AVRs to docks to set-top boxes — installed in various rooms, and get equivalent or better quality playback throughout the house. Your content wouldn't follow you around in the nearfield, of course, but it's an alternative.
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.