VAF OCTAVIO 1: Hands On Review
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Feb. 15 2007
The Octavio 1 is currently in a field of it's own as the only high end Zune speaker dock on the market. The Australian based company VAF Research has a long history of making speakers for component audio systems and has brought it's experience to the table as a Designed for Zune official partner.
The Octavio arrived in Colorado all packaged up on the front porch.
Retail packaging is brown with the amber magenta blend on the bottom of the box.
The unit is extremely heavy, 52 pounds net according to the shipping box. This is due to the huge magnetic drivers that do all the work when the device is in use.
The Octavio 1 comes with it's own remote control, 3 colored screens, and a power adapter with extension cord. The owners manual is very small and short thankfully. Maybe Australians haven't caught on the the idea of having a huge owners manual in 10 languages (yet).
The Octavio has 2 inputs and an audio out, so it works well with televisions and the XBOX as we will demonstrate later. There is a power switch on the rear (in addition to the power button on the remote). To see the Zune screen on your TV a yellow RCA jack is also available for video out.
To charge and listen to a Zune just drop it in the dock. There is also a space for the Octavio remote behind the Zune. The protruding knob to the right is a volume control. What's cool about it is that by pressing down you can toggle through the 3 inputs: Zune, Audio 1, and Audio 2. A multicolor LED light changes hue for each input source. All these functions can also be controlled by remote.
The player itself looks amazing, part of the beauty is that the entire device is wrapped in rich black leather giving it a super expensive look. Dimensions are 23.6" wide, 10.23" high and 4.3" deep.
Octavio features 100 real watts of inbuilt power amplifiers, a huge 200 mm (8”) bass diaphragm, two 130 mm (5.25”) long linear travel woofers with high damping synthetic rubber roll surrounds, low stray magnetic field, very powerful magnetic motors, and high power voice coil. Two fluid damped, fabric dome tweeters with powerful, linear neodymium magnetic motors, and high power voice coils.
We left the camera shutter open for 2 seconds to capture the motion of the bass diaphragm and woofers. The unit is extremely powerful and likes to push a large volume of air giving a "full room" sound. This brings us the the most important part of the review which is acoustics. Lets start by saying the Octavio is not another plastic boom box or iPod dock. On the other hand it's not a component audio system costing thousands of dollars either.
The best way to test a speaker is listen to music you are familiar with, and have heard in person or on a great system. This helps give a frame of reference. To get a sense of quality of the systems we used vocal pieces from Andrea Bocelli and instrumental cello music by Yo Yo Ma. The idea is to close your eyes and determine if it sounds like a speaker or a live performance. The Octavio rang true with both the vocals and cello music. Another great thing is what we didn't hear, the typical hiss and distortion of lesser speakers.
Next we moved on to more energetic music including classics such as INXS and U2. The device only sounded better and better as we turned it up. The treble and midrange came through clear as a bell while the base was impressive with respect to the size of the enclosure, but not room shaking. Without springing for a nice component based system it's hard to imagine a better sound.
We couldn't resist connecting the Octavio to a XBOX 360. Three screen covers come in white, black, and pink. White looks perfect next to the 360. Putting on a screen is like putting that stretchy bed sheet over a mattress. Access is still available to all the ports with the screen on.
Connecting the Octavio to the 360 is quick and simple. The Octavio added a new audio dimension to XBOX games, and as shown here the Halo 3 trailer. Whatever TV you own, the Octavio will definitely be an upgrade to the integrated speakers.
The remote comes with the Octavio and does double duty controlling both the Zune and the Octavio.
In conclusion the Octavio earns it's $500 price tag, it sounds as great as is looks. We're looking forward to spending quality Zune and XBOX time with the Octavio 1 and will definitely be inviting friends over to hear it.