Roth Music Cocoon MC4 review

Ignore the fact that at loud volumes you can fry eggs on the casing (okay, not quite), and you realise this is actually a superb-sounding, if quirky a Tested at £399.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A grown-up solution in a market full of juvenile rivals, the Roth is a must-hear dock


  • +

    Attractive looks, impressive build, great sound at realistic volumes


  • -

    Louder volumes lead to hard sound

  • -

    gets properly hot

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To some, Apple's all-conquering iPod range is the greatest thing about the 21st century. If that's broadly your opinion, you might not consider a valve-driven dock to be appropriately modern enough to amplify your tunes. If the dock in question is the Roth MC4, though, you'll be missing out if you dismiss it without hearing it.

Small and if not perfectly formed, at least very pleasingly put together, the MC4 includes a 3.5mm input for less ubiquitous MP3 players and a stereo RCA input for use with a CD player or similar. Other than that, there's a chunky metal remote control and proper speaker binding posts to ensure the MC4 is a viable amp as well as a dock.

The Roth is supplied with power by a fairly hefty mains supply, which runs relatively hot – and that's not the last time we'll be bringing up the ‘h' word.

Source plus speakers
With an appropriate pair of loudspeakers attached (we used Tannoy's Award-winning £110 Mercury Custom F1s, but the Roth will happily work with something a little more expansive), the MC4 presents a broad, coherent sound-stage and allows plenty of breathing space for performers.

With an iPod in situ, and playing a Lossless copy of Lou Reed's Sick of You, the MC4 is capable of a sound of fine authority and composure. Low frequencies are as warm and comfortable as the valve configuration suggests, but there's none of the languor you might expect from a valve-based system. Instead, the bassline snaps along, integrated smoothly with the clean, expressive midrange and the crisp, uncluttered top end.

Of course, the Roth isn't flawless. Most significantly, it hardens its sound a good deal when you dial in extra volume. You do have to press on, but our 192kbps copy of Richard Hawley's Born Under A Bad Sign becomes tiring when loud.

Can't stand the heat?
And it's when you dial in that extra volume that you realise just how hot the MC4 gets in operation. We understand that the valves get hot, and must be covered by a plastic shroud with a warning etched into it, but we were unprepared for just how warm the casing and control knobs become. Best to stick to the remote control, and make sure your kids don't go anywhere near it when it's in use.

This heat isn't enough to cool our enthusiasm, though. In a world overwhelmed by cheap'n' cheerful or just plain nasty iPod docks, the Roth MC4 is a considered and grown-up alternative. Quirky, yes, but – crucially – it sounds splendid. Your 21st century valve system starts right here.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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