Review: Pure Contour i1 Air Dock

Dock supporting 30-pin, Lightning dock provides maximum compatibility (December 10th, 2013)

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: Pure

Price: $199

The Good

  • Powerful sound
    - Device compatibility
    - Warm bass

The Bad

  • Problems with computer speaker plus AirPlay
    - No room for device cases
    - Dock connectivity issues

The half moon design speaks about what to expect overall from the Pure Contour i1 Air Dock: it is a speaker that looks to blend into surroundings while being an everyday tool in your home or office environment. Compatible with a large range of Apple products, one is left to wonder if Pure was throwing the dock out there to see who it might stick to. Will the Contour earn its place on the desktops and workstations of the world? Or will it fall to the pressure of delivering a satisfactory stereo experience while charging your iPhone or iPad?

Like many of the products from Pure, the Contour i1 Air Dock is unobtrusive in its design. The crescent of silver accents and fine speaker mesh don't look to stand out, even in a minimalist way -- even its display system works with the lighting in the room to find just the right brightness to apply in order to be seen, but not be a glaring light in the dark keeping its owner awake at night. The device dock can swiveled to hide inside the enclosure, revealing itself when needed with a simple finger press on the face of the Contour. None of this should be construed as the dock being plain, but the designers may have wished the i1 to be a central part of the room, unobtrusively.

Depending on the needs of the office or home, a stealthy design may not be a bad idea. On top of being a dock for your iPhone or iPad, it also acts as an alarm clock and more notably a stereo speaker. Powered by two 76mm (three-inch) drivers, the dock puts out a good deal of sound. Even more surprising is that it does it with a rich sound note and warm bass feel. In a multipurpose dock like this, the level and quality of the sound was something to pay serious attention to.

Brass notes sang out across the room, while electronic drum beats made the speakers breathe deep. As is found with most modern speakers these days, the Contour favors compressed, digitized music over traditional recordings, likely by design. The bass can be overpowering because of this at higher volume levels, including audio breaking up if the overall sound level is at or above the 80 percent range. The sweet spot for the Contour i1 Air is at 75 percent volume, where the bass blends into the tune but is still punchy enough to feel from a few feet away. At this level, the highs are bright and sharp, even when the speakers are being punished by double bass pedals or riding a groove with EDM.

Setup was extremely simple with the included remote. The Contour prompts for directions once plugged in, setting up your times, region, date, and Wi-­Fi information without much prompting. To make it even simpler, you can simply plug in your iPad or iPhone to feed the dock your network information. Once plugged in, the device will prompt if you would like to allow it send the information to the Contour i1 Air. Configuration is just that easy.

With the promising sound and easy setup, it would be thought that the Contour has everything going for it -- sadly, that ends up not being the case. Perhaps one of the greatest frustrations with the dock is that devices don't always seem to stay connected. In the first demo unit that was provided, we had numerous problems with phones staying connected. It was almost as if there was a short in the dock somewhere that would reset the connection at random times, be it seconds or minutes between each one. This made sleeping with the dock on a nightstand problematic, as the phone was chiming every time it reconnected.

The presumably defective unit was speedily replaced with one that didn't suffer the same extreme connection drops, but they would still occur on a random basis with both a iPhone 4S and 3G. Making sure the phone is firmly pressed all the way to the base of the dock does seem to make the drops less frequent, but never eliminated them completely. The Contour i1 Air also suffers from the same issues with dropped signals on congested networks that Apple owners should be familiar with. The dock works with many Apple 30-pin and Lightning devices, such as the first-generation iPod Touch, all iPads and iPhones, and back to the third-generation Nano.

On the subject of AirPlay, it must be mentioned that the Contour doesn't like split sound channels when being used as a sound source. Activating AirPlay through iTunes and using the standard speakers on a Macbook Pro led to some interesting cuts and interruptions in sound that was streamed to the dock. Setting the dock as the sole sound output did resolve the issue. It isn't as bad as the break up in sound from Bluetooth, but it was still frustrating.

Two minor things that may not apply to many people, but stood out to us were the odd alarm tone and the inability to dock a phone that had a case on it. The alarm issue could be bypassed by having the i1 access the player on the device docked to it -- but if someone was using the Contour primarily for its alarm clock functionality, this requirement seemed a little odd. The tone is a light beeping that ramps up in volume so slowly that it seems almost passive-aggressive.

Additionally, not being able to have a case on a phone that is plugged into the dock seemed a little strange, and quite a hassle. The only case that would still allow a connection to the dock while installed on the iOS device was the Incipio Le Deux, due to its thin perimeter. Having to remove a case to dock the phone every time seems like a step users shouldn't have to take. This may actually be Apple's fault with the "Made for i" program specifying the maximum length of dock connectors, but it does greatly impact the functionality of the device.

The Pure Contour i1 Air Dock has plenty of things going for it. It outputs a powerful sound that can fill a living room or home office with a warm bass that many multi­purpose speakers don't have on their own. Being able to step back and use older Apple devices back to the first-generation iPod Touch and all the way through the newest hardware gives this modern device a utility that many other might not. The actual mileage one gets out of the $199 unit will vary depending on the user. Using the Contour i1 Air with an old iPod docked to it will certainly be a great experience. Trying to use it for your sole sound source will be another story altogether.

by Jordan Anderson


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