For years, anyone in the market for a iPod speaker dock was faced with a stark choice: cheap and cheerful (i.e. tacky), or expensive and bloated with audiophile hyperbole. Has the gap finally been closed, now that Bayan has combined engineering and design with a reasonable price tag?
Essentially just a massive sub with a few extra satellite speakers glued on for good measure. For most people it's overkill, but it's undeniably pretty and sounds huge.
Music fans who care about design and like putting on the occasional wall-shaking house party.
Clean, bold and modern. It's as if Apple and Beats Audio had an overweight baby.
The bundled remote is so slow and clunky that you're better off getting up and using your iPod from the dock. A master volume control at the back sets the global volume, and that's it — there's nothing else to do but sit back and enjoy the music. If you prefer to use a tablet or external audio source, there's a 3.5mm jack input at the back and even a USB port to keep the tablet charged.
The sub. It's almost offensively big, and confirms the Bayan 7 as the grand master of iPod docks.
Everyone knows the next iPhone will have a smaller dock connector, and in turn the entire iOS lineup will change soon too. That makes the Bayan dual-docks look redundant already, and that's before you realise that having a second dock is about as useful as cooking in two kitchens. It's as if the second dock were added for symmetry's sake.
On the plus side, Bayan has already confirmed a plug-in 'StreamPort' module for late Summer, which will be a treat if it supports AirPlay for wireless streaming.
You can switch the audio between music and speech EQ settings, but the latter is so filtered and cold that I could feel the room temperature drop. Radio and podcast producers already tweak their audio to suit vocals, and in my tests the Bayan speech setting just made it worse.
The Bayan 7 was placed at head height. Bass and treble were calibrated with the intro to Radiohead's Everything in it's Right Place, an old favourite for checking new speakers. I listened to a variety of music from different genres at the highest bitrate available (either 320kbps or WAV files) and streamed plenty of Radio 4 shows on iPlayer.
There's no denying this is an impressive hi-fi, but unless you're putting on parties every other weekend the Bayan 7 and its behemoth bass sub will feel like overkill for day-to-day listening.
Smaller versions are available in the Bayan 1, 3 and 5, and considering Bayan's engineering chops you can bet that even the smallest unit will pack some punch. And yet, there's no stand-out winner in its lineup; the larger 5 and 7 each have two docks which add unnecessary cost to each unit, and the smaller 1 and 3 run in mono, which won't satisfy even the most laid-back audiophile.
Still, Bayan seem committed to developing their hi-fi lineup, and confirmation of its StreamPort module to enable over-the-air streaming will be a welcome improvement. Wait and see what Bayan releases next — it could be the hi-fi to end them all.
Inputs: Two 30 pin iPod connectors, 3.5mm aux for a tablet, laptop or other input
Outputs: 120W 2.1 stereo speakers (60w sub, 2 x 30W speakers)
Frequency range: 30 Hz to 47 KHz
Dimensions: 45cm x 30cm x 28cm
Giz Rank: 4 Stars