I’m a little shocked by the Viso 1. Frankly, I’d have expected Barton to design something more like the JBL OnBeat Xtreme, a dock that seems intended purely for sound quality without much concern for the average guy’s desire to play his music really frigging loud. To my ears, the Viso 1 achieves a more crowd-pleasing blend of finesse and muscle, sacrificing perhaps a bit of the OnBeat Xtreme’s delicacy to achieve a more robust sound.
Jeff Beck’s brutal version of “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” from You Had It Coming is dominated by the powerful pulse of a kick drum and an aggressive rhythm guitar track. I’ve blown a few speakers’ woofers with this recording, but the Viso 1 played it loud and clean, more so than the OnBeat Xtreme or the House of Marley Bag of Rhythm.
Steve Earle’s country classic “Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left,” from Guitar Town, also showed off the Viso 1’s crankability. Because its dynamic capabilities are greater than those of the other docks, it not only gave me a fuller sound with more bass, it also gave me less distortion, so the sounds of the vocals, guitars, and violins were clearer.
On the great Telarc recording of Joseph Jongen’s “Symphony Concertante” by organist Michael Murray and the San Francisco Symphony, the Viso 1 delivered what I’ve long wanted but never previously experienced with a speaker dock: the ability to portray an orchestra with some hint of the sonic majesty you hear in a concert hall.
Two of my most-used — but for that reason, most vital — test tracks gave me the clearest picture of the Viso 1’s performance. In my listening notes for Steely Dan’s “Aja” and James Taylor’s performance of “Shower the People” from Live at the Beacon Theatre, I wrote, after hearing how full and free of distortion the dock sounded, “Sounds like speakers.” I’m pretty confident that’s what Barton was going for. It was just clean, neutral sound, as smooth on the voices as it was on the guitars, keyboards, and drums — and with none of the distortion and ragged response I usually hear from a speaker dock.
Every product has its strengths and weaknesses, although with the Viso 1 the latter are hard to find. Where it loses ground sonically to the JBL OnBeat Xtreme is mainly in treble detail and the openness and spaciousness of the sound; the OnBeat Xtreme’s tweeters do give it an advantage here. The OnBeat Xtreme’s bass, while falling short of the Viso 1’s output, does sound tighter and better-defined. Also, the OnBeat Xtreme will dock an iPad but the Viso 1 won't. In my opinion, the OnBeat Xtreme is more for the audiophile who wants a bedroom or vacation home system and isn’t so concerned about dynamics, while the Viso 1 is just for anyone who wants great sound.
As I noted above, the Viso 1 is designed to deliver the best sound at an upward angle of roughly 20 degrees. Thus, to measure the frequency response, I placed the Viso 1 on a 5-foot-high stand rather than the 2-meter-high stand I normally use, so I could place the measurement microphone at the angle Barton suggested. I took several measurements at slightly different mike positions and settled on the position that yielded the flattest measurement. I measured the left channel only. Because the Viso 1 has no analog input, and because the digital output on my Clio FW wouldn’t allow me to send a signal to only the left channel, I used a TVOne analog-to-digital converter to feed the test signals from the Clio FW to the Viso 1. I used the Viso 1’s factory default EQ mode for these measurements.
Using the Clio FW audio analyzer in MLS mode, I got quasi-anechoic measurements down to 300 Hz. (Quasi-anechoic measurements remove the reflections from nearby objects to simulate measurement in an anechoic chamber.) To get the response below 300 Hz, I ran a ground plane measurement with the Clio FW in log chirp mode and the Viso 1 and the mike placed on the ground 2 meters apart. I then imported the data into my LinearX LMS analyzer for post-processing. The graph here shows a quasi-anechoic measurement at 0° on-axis (blue trace) and an average (green trace) of the measurements at 0°, ±10°, ±20°, ±30°. The quasi-anechoic measurements are smoothed to 1/12th octave, the ground plane measurement to 1/3rd octave.
The Viso 1 measures very well for an iPod dock. On-axis response is ±2.49 dB from 38 Hz to 10 kHz, which is better than most speakers we test can achieve. Some unevenness in the top octave of treble — possibly resulting from reflections off the bridge that holds the dock — makes the full 20 kHz measurement at little rougher, at ±3.97 dB, but that’s still better than many of the speakers we test can do. The averaged response across a ±30° window is ±4.03 dB — almost the same as the on-axis result. There’s a mild dip or -2 to -3 dB between 4 kHz and 11 kHz.
The Viso 1 is the most well-rounded iPhone dock I’ve heard to date. Its clear, neutral sound, solid bass output, room-filling power and simple operation make it an all-around winner for anyone who wants a sound system that’s as simple as possible yet still delivers satisfying sound.
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