Positives: Bold styling combined with good build quality.
Negatives: Not subtle, either visually or sonically.
The Bayan 7, the range-topping speaker dock from new UK speaker company Bayan Audio, has given me a bit of a decor headache.
Available in white or black, both versions sport a bold clear acrylic frame and a dominant white 8in bass driver emblazoned with the Bayan logo. The styling might look great in a modern flat but it looked distinctly out of place in my traditional living room.
Bayan has furnished this model with two iPod docks. It gives the speaker a distinctive look, retaining visual balance while avoiding the default central iPod placement favoured by almost every other speaker dock on the market. The practical benefit of having two iPod docks is less clear. While it's moderately handy to be able to charge an iPod and iPhone at the same time, switching between playback of the two devices is clumsy and requires the remote control. Sadly, there's no facility to crossfade between iPods, which could have made the Bayan 7 a great option for parties.
Speaking of the remote control, you certainly don't want to lose it – there is an awkwardly placed volume button on the rear of the speaker dock, but otherwise it's button-free, relying on the remote for everything from source selection to tone control.
Listening to the Bayan back to back with the B&W Zeppelin (reviewed here May 2010) and a similarly priced speaker and amplifier combination, the shortcomings of the Bayan are clear. The jump in size between the small 2in speaker cones and 8in bass is just too great, leaving a big hole in the mid-range of most tracks.
The close proximity of the left and right speakers also limits the stereo image. I found I could only get satisfactory stereo by standing dead centre a couple of feet away from it.
As a result, complex, layered tracks such as Mark Ronson and Erykah Badu's collaboration A La Modeliste descended into an indistinct mish-mash of bass, guitars, trumpets and vocals.
Pop and dance tunes, however, allow the Bayan 7 to shine. The treble is bright and clear while the bass is taught and punchy. Justin Timberlake's mix of falsetto and thumping bass drum on Cry Me A River suits the Bayan 7 perfectly and has arguably never sounded better. Readers with more diverse musical tastes (or more traditional decor) would be better served with the B&W Zeppelin or a separate speaker and amp combo.