When is an iPod dock not strictly an iPod dock? When it's a digital media transport, that's when.
On the face of it that might sound like pedantry, but the distinction is an important one: where most docks take an analogue signal from the bottom of an iPod, the Onkyo ND-S1 takes the unfettered digital signal, before passing it on via coaxial or digital.
What this means is that rather than rely on the iPod or iPhone's own DAC, you can get the digital-to-analogue conversion done elsewhere.
More after the break
For owners of home cinema receivers, digital amplifiers (like the Onkyo A-5VL) or stand-alone DACs, this is great news, as the ND-S1 is capable of a far better audio performance than its analogue rivals.
Play anything, from Holst's Planets to Simian Mobile Disco's Temporary Pleasure, and you'll benefit from greater detail, dynamics and rhythmic precision. Individual notes begin and end more accurately, vocals and guitars are more textured and nuanced, and cymbals have greater bite and extra sparkle. Number of nice extrasTrue, the unit itself is bigger than it needs to be, and it feels cheaper than it looks, but these are minor flaws in this excellent, first-of-a-kind product.
Besides, there are nice little touches here, like a composite output for video and a USB connection that allows you to play your PC's tunes and sync your iPod or iPhone to your computer without removing it from the dock. Oh, and there's a remote control, of course.
So, is it time to bin the CD player? Well, not quite; even a budget disc-spinner of decent quality can beat this for overall musicality, but in the world of iPod docks, this is the new king.
True, it's not got much in the way of competition, but for now, this is without doubt the best, affordable way to get your iPod's tunes out to your home system.