- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2009

There was Anna Netrebko, soprano extraordinaire, singing in my basement the other night, thanks to my iPhone and a $299 amplifier/speaker combo that is as close as we humans will get to a “Star Trek” transporter. It really sounded as if she were right here.

The Dock Pack from Danish firm Scandyna Speaker (www.scandyna-speakers.com) is designed to work with a wide range of Apple iPods, as well as the iPhone, though apparently it won’t charge the latest iPhone 3G model, which only utilizes USB-based charging via the 30-pin dock connector. (That’s tech-speak for you’ll likely need an adapter.) Electricity aside, the Dock Pack is a remarkable piece of equipment, however daunting it may first seem.

The daunting part comes when you open the box. There are all sorts of plastic bits, and you might wonder what you’ve gotten into. Not to worry: They are adapters for various iPod models, to make sure your iPod is cradled perfectly. Once you have the right adapter in place, the MP3 player slips in wonderfully.

Now it’s on to connecting the speakers; wiring is included, and the connection involves loosening a bolt, slipping the exposed bit of speaker wire behind, and tightening the connection again. This is done both on the dock and the Scandyna Micropod SE speakers. As I said, this can seem a bit daunting, but it’s doable and the result is superb.

The Micropod SE speakers are elfin things that include, the maker says, “A Kevlar bass/midrange driver [and] a soft dome tweeter.” The unit is available in black or white; my test system was in black and the finish is amazing.

There are several other docking solutions in this price range - the Bose SoundDock Portable and something from Altec Lansing I’d rather not revisit, ever. While I can’t say anything bad about the Bose unit, Scandyna certainly can give the Massachusetts-based Bose a run for the money. The question is whether you want to have a “disjointed” setup such as this, and what you’ll do, if anything, about charging your iPhone. But if you dock this with some fairly recent iPod models, or can get around the battery issue, then you might end up with a tremendous solution that delivers exceptional sound fidelity.

I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat myself here: I never cease to be amazed at what the iPod/iPhone line can do in terms of pumping out crisp, clear digital sound, and the ways in which it can be utilized never seem to end. Scandyna’s Dock Pack is a stunning achievement that will bring tears of joy to any audiophile. Bravo!

Sometimes, of course, you don’t want to just hear what’s on an iPod, you want to see what’s on it, too. Enter the $250 Vuzix AV310, video goggles that claim a true 16:9 ratio screen display, the equal of a 50-inch flat screen, I’m told. Don’t know if I’d call it a 50-inch, but viewing things on the Vuzix was better, frankly, than the myVu goggles I tried in mid-2008, as some readers might recall.

Setup wasn’t difficult and the picture was quite good. Also, you can adjust each lens so those of us with less-than-perfect vision won’t need to perch these in front of our eyeglasses.

Sound quality is quite good, and the price certainly is reasonable. If I were traveling overseas, or constantly cross-country, I’d load up my iPod with movies and slap these on. It’s far, far better than most of the inflight options available these days. Details online at www.vuzix.com/iwear.

Then again, it’s also helpful to just have a good set of earbuds for listening to great music or an audiobook. Here, I’m newly enamored of Etymotic Research’s hf5 earphones. For $149, you’ll get sound that satisfies as well isolates you from the crying baby in Row 5. Though lacking the microphone that would make this useful for iPhone calls, these buds are definitely for you if you value good sound.

These are “noise isolating” earbuds, which I take to mean that you might hear sound around you, but its diminished by the earbud design. Plugged into an iPhone, the hf5s delivered the kind of performance you’d want to have: sound that seems to put you in the middle of the music. Crank up the volume and you might do some serious damage, so real is the reproduction.

I recommend these, again, for travelers (even on Metro) and for the rest of us. You won’t be disappointed with the sound or the comfort - it hardly seems as if anything is in your ears. Information can be found at www.etymotic.com/ephp/hf5.aspx.

• Send e-mail to Mark Kellner.

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