It's rare for us to mention it, but the back of the speaker looks surprisingly cool. Soundfreaq flaunts the rear-ported speaker design with an inset of silver-colored plastic framed by glossy black vents. Running across the bottom, you have a place to plug in the power adapter, as well as an aux input and a socket for the radio antenna. If you're looking for a speaker that can be placed at the center of a room and look good from every angle, the SFQ-1's design can stand up to the scrutiny.
Sure, we're fans of the SFQ-1's stylish design, but it's the speaker's features that have us reaching for our wallets. This boxy beauty includes an FM radio, remote control, wireless A2DP Bluetooth audio, OLED display (albeit extremely dim), aux input, and the previously mentioned EQ. We can think of plenty of competitors that boast one or two of these features, but few that can match them all. The Bluetooth support in particular puts this on the short list of speakers recommended for iPad users, or homes contending with multiple smartphones (be they iPhones or otherwise).
One feature we weren't impressed by, though, is the Soundfreaq app, available for iOS. Once you dock your iPod or iPhone into the Sound Platform, your device will display an alert prompting you to download the free Soundfreaq app. The app isn't necessary to use the Sound Platform, but since it's free, we figured we'd give it a shot. It didn't take us long to realize that the app is just a needless repackaging of the basic playback and playlist features already included in the iOS music player, along with some remote control functionality already provided by the hardware remote. Download it if you want, but we don't believe it adds much value--at least in its current version (1.3).
Sonically, the Sound Platform is above average, but not fantastic. Its biggest weakness is the low-frequency distortion that creeps in when you turn it up over 75 percent. You can alleviate some of the low-end rattling with EQ adjustments; however, the Sound Platform only offers a paltry 3 degrees of cut of boost on its EQ, and bypasses EQ altogether when you've enabled the sound enhancement preset. Simply put, it's not a great option for those who like to get loud. If your volume needs are modest, you'll be pleased with the sound quality.
Judged purely as a speaker dock, a product like the Philips Fidelio DS8500 delivers bigger, cleaner sound for around the same price. Still, the sound quality of the SFQ-1 is better than a lot of what passes for $100 to $200 iPod/iPhone speakers, and is helped by its sound enhancement mode. For example, it knocks the socks off the ($149) JBL OnStage IV in both power and sound quality. Pitted against the Editors' Choice-winning Logitech S715i, it holds its own with a less dramatic low end and brighter clarity at the top. Of course, it's not as portable or as affordable as the S715i, but the addition of Bluetooth, FM radio, EQ control, and a full-featured remote arguably make up for it.
The Sound Platform from Soundfreaq is one of the most flexible, feature-packed tabletop speaker docks around, with options for iPod and iPhone, FM radio, aux input, and iPad-friendly wireless Bluetooth audio. You could spend more money for better sound quality, or spend less for a similar sounding portable system, but for $199, the SFQ-1's broad features and refined design are tough to match.