Were I to judge Logic 3’s i-Station Rotate portable speaker system on audio quality alone, I’d rate it merely good—it’s a nice-enough-sounding speaker for its size and price. But when you couple the Rotate’s sound quality with the features of the hardware itself, the dock enters the realm of “very good.”
Unlike most docking speaker systems, which sport a dock that accommodates an upright iPod or iPhone, the i-Station Rotate features a cradle that can be rotated between vertical and landscape orientations. The system ships with with seven cradle sizes to fit various editions of the iPod classic, iPod nano, iPod touch, and iPhone. But instead of supporting just the base of your iPod or iPhone, each cradle grips the sides of its intended device to hold the device steady.
Unlike the similar feature of Digital Group Audio’s Livespeakr ( ) that I previously reviewed, the i-Station Rotate’s rotation mechanism and cradle feel sturdy and secure—if anything, the mechanism is a bit stiff. (The Rotate’s dock connector normally sits in the center of the unit, but slides to the right to allow for the rotation. You can’t insert or remove your device in landscape mode; you must rotate back up to portrait orientation for that, which I found to be of minimal inconvenience.)
Also unlike the Livespeakr, which connects only to the headphone jack of your iPhone or iPod touch, the Rotate features an actual Apple dock connector. This allows for better audio quality, video output, and the capability, when connected to AC power, to charge your iPhone or iPod while in the i-Station Rotate. The system is Works With iPhone- and Made For iPod-certified.
Landscape mode obviously makes the most sense when you’re using an iPhone or iPod touch to watch a movie. The Rotate even sports a composite-video output—you can place your iPhone or video-capable iPod (including the iPod classic, the iPod nano, and the fifth-generation iPod) in the i-Station Rotate and then connect the system to your television to watch on the big screen while listening via the Rotate. I occasionally noticed very slight audio/video sync issues when testing this feature, but it wasn’t ever dramatic enough to be truly troublesome.
With your iPod or iPhone docked, particularly if you’ve rotated the device to landscape mode, it can be a bit annoying to fiddle with the onscreen controls. Fortunately, the Rotate includes a small yet very functional infrared remote. In addition to the standard controls—power, volume, mute, pause, back, and forwards—the remote also includes menu-navigation controls. That means you can actually navigate through your device’s menus and screens to, say, switch between playlists, albums, or artists. Of course, in order to be able to read what’s on your iPod or iPhone’s screen, you’ll need to be close enough to touch the device directly, but it’s still a nice feature. Unfortunately, the i-Station Rotate doesn’t provide a place to store the remote when not in use.
The on-board controls on the Rotate itself are limited to power and volume, both easily accessible on the left and right sides, respectively, of the front of the device. On the rear is a second power switch that toggles whether the device should run on battery power (specifically, four AA batteries). This switch is a bit confusing: When the i-Station Rotate is connected to AC power, the switch is apparently ignored; when not connected to AC power, toggling this switch to the On position allows you to turn on the Rotate using the remote—it apparently enables a sort of “sleep” mode. (This would seem to imply that keeping this switch in the Off position will conserve battery power.) Logic 3 doesn’t provide an official battery-life estimate, but I was able to listen to music for at least eight hours over two days without the power button flashing to indicate a low battery level.
On the base of the Rotate, you’ll find two small “legs” that rotate out from the base. The unit can stand without those feet extended, but it’s far more stable when you use them.
The i-Station Rotate also includes a soft, lightly-padded carrying case, as well as a short, 3.5mm (1/8-inch) audio cable to connect other audio devices to the system’s line-in jack. Finally, you also get a small plastic cover, about the size of an iPhone, that slides into the cradle area to protect the dock connector when traveling. Given that you must remove your iPod or iPhone, and the matching cradle adapter, to slide the cover on, I’d probably forego the cap most of the time.
As I said at the outset, the i-Station Rotate sounds pretty good given its size (approximately 12.3 inches wide, 4.8 inches tall, and 2 inches deep). The system uses dual (left and right) 2-inch midrange drivers and 0.9-inch tweeters, which combine to provide solid, rich sound. The bass isn’t jaw-dropping, but upper bass is indeed present and respectable for a unit of this size. On the whole, audio sounds quite full, and you can crank the system up impressively loud. I heard no interference when coupling the Rotate with my iPhone, even when the phone checked for new e-mail in the background. However, the system doesn’t include a microphone, so I needed to remove my iPhone in a hurry when a call came in.
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Overall, I like the i-Station Rotate. Everything about it is solid—the system’s design and portability, its remote, and its audio quality. The rotation feature is more than a gimmick—it makes on-the-go movie watching far more pleasant, and it might even serve to keep your iPod or iPhone a bit more protected when you rock out. Just be sure not to lose the remote control—with the Rotate’s limited on-board controls, you’ll undoubtedly need to buy a replacement from Logic 3 if you don’t want to get stuck relying on your player’s own controls.