The George by Chestnut Hill Sound is one of the more ambitious entries into the iPod accessory field. With the iPod dock on top of the unit, the George is similar in size to the I-Sonic or Bose Wave but it is especially for iPods. The white audio system weighs 10 pounds and has four internal speakers and a subwoofer. It features a faceplate that comes off and becomes the remote control. Besides being an iPod dock, it’s also an AM/FM radio with 24 presets, 6 per page and has a built-in amplifier, internal speakers and downward firing subwoofer. There are the obligatory bass and treble settings with adjustable crossover points for sound modifications in different types of rooms.
In case you haven’t noticed, there is a whole industry focused on iPod-approved accessories. The manufacturers submit their iPod accessories to the folks at Apple who evaluate them. If they measure up to iPod’s standards (and assuming Apple doesn’t want to make them), then Apple issues a license to that manufacturer. Apple does this, not out of the goodness of their hearts, but for royalty income. The manufacturer is then authorized to use the iPod logo in their packaging and advertising. Nice business for iPod; they get money for products they choose not to make.
The very unique, detachable faceplate that is also a rechargeable remote control powered by a Lithium-ion battery. The George uses RF (radio frequencies require no line of sight) communication for a distance up to 25 feet. The remote has an LCD screen that shows information from your iPod’s screen. George’s remote has a scrollwheel, essentially a big rubbery knob, and is surrounded by four buttons (menu, play/stop, beginning and end) and eight assignable soft keys. You can scroll though your iPod by artist, title or album, even your playlists. Some, but not all of your iPod’s functions are available. One caveat: you can’t sync your iPod while it’s docked in George.
The alarm clock can be set on the remote allowing you to keep it on the nightstand and function as the alarm clock; this gives you the freedom of having the main unit on the other side of the room. The alarm has five different settings — two repeating alarms and a one-time alarm with sleep and nap. The remote also controls the functions of the AM/FM radio including changing channels.
How’d It Sound?
George seems to be aiming for accuracy with clean music reproduction. The sound was better (or worse) depending on the unit’s location. Up close it lost details but at a distance of 10 feet it was crisp. That’s probably one reason why the remote has its own docking/charging station. The charging dock is optional at $50.00. The George can be placed in the best acoustic spot in the room and the remote can be anywhere else.
The sound doesn’t have a wide, big stage feel. It sounds good, but there is no sound separation. It is as if the sound is coming from one speaker. Not punchy, without energy, but very clean and accurate. George has good high and midrange frequencies, but the bass or lower frequencies are not as robust. But make no mistake, it plays loudly.
You can hook up a CD or other players via the auxiliary input, but unlike the iPod, you can’t control these devices. There is a pre-out if you want to plug the George into your home’s audio system and there is a headphone jack.
George does have a good array of features, but they are not as intuitive as they could be. Much of the functionality of George is software that could conceivably get better over time. There is a USB port for firmware updates and a few have already happened.
Switching songs from the iPod is slow; sometimes it took up to 10 seconds. The placement of the subwoofer control on the rear panel (awkward) and not on the remote is a negative. George is expensive at $550 and $50 for the optional docking station/charger. The price might not sting as much if it had a CD player. The remote is a little too big for even my hand and I wish the George had a video output so I could watch my iPod videos. But George, like all good butlers, costs some money.