The Pure i-20, which has been available for a little over a year now, is an attractive and affordable high-end dock, also based around a Cirrus Logic 24/192 chipset. It offers a few more features than the Pro-Ject Dock Box S — at less than half the price. The i-20 has a sleek, modern design that elevates the iPod, holding it above the electronics on a padded cradle and it comes with a remote that looks quite similar to a miniature iPhone. All connections are on the back. The Pure lacks a front panel power switch or indicator; you'll have to put the device into standby using the remote — probably worth the tradeoff in price, but something to keep in mind.
In addition to an S-Video output (which, unfortunately, requires a proprietary adapter, available separately from Pure but fairly difficult to track down, at least in the US), the i-20 has component and composite video outputs; the video button on the remote cycles through the video outputs. Also, the i-20 has an optical S/PDIF digital output as well as a coaxial S/PDIF digital output (both worked without hitches connected to our test DAC).
Like the Pro-Ject dock, you can choose between using the digital outputs if you have a high-quality external D/A converter, or use the RCA outputs. It will work with any 30-pin Apple device and will charge the device while it’s docked. Though it isn’t mentioned in the literature, the Pure will both play back from and charge an iPad, though the mount seems a bit overwhelmed by the heavier device. If you choose to use it this way, you’ll probably want to place your dock well away from the edge of your rack or shelf and hope for the best.
How does the i-20 sound compared to the Pro-Ject? Very, very similar, as you might expect. The sound was clean with no artifacts, and certainly no compression artifacts. If you are using the digital outputs of either box, the sound should be essentially identical.
These are both fabulous devices, and either is a good way to get the audio off your portable device and into your home system. Which is better? Both are aimed squarely at those looking to incorporate their mobile devices into their primary listening systems; neither includes, for instance, a USB pass-through for syncing playlists with a computer.
How to decide, then? They both sound terrific. It comes down to budget, and which iDevice you're looking to dock.
First and foremost, the Pure i-20 is very hard to beat on price, and for anybody who just wants a clean signal path from their iDevice to their main system, the cheaper device does the job just fine, and offers plenty of connectivity to boot (it's certainly interesting to see more output options for both audio and video on the older and less expensive Pure device, and if you want to connect to a receiver via TOSLINK optical, the Pure is clearly for you). Points for style also have to go to the Pure, though its construction makes it a poor choice for those looking to use an iPad in their systems — the suspended connector just doesn't inspire confidence as an iPad perch.
The Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital is certainly a great piece of technology, and its unadorned, stark design might appeal to some people — it'll certainly look nice with your other high-end components, and if you do have an awesome sound system that lets you hear minute differences, then you might want to splurge for the Pro-Ject and its XMOS audio processing. And the Dock Box weight, physical solidity, and adjustable clamp give it a significant edge for iPad owners. And, ifAlso, if you're looking to use an S-Video connection, the Pro-Ject's standard output connector will save you some trouble. It's just a better solution than Pure's proprietary connector.
Just remember not to skimp on the sound quality of your files — use either of these docks in your system, and you’ll hear it.
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