Quite what the design process was that led Maxell's designers to lop the ends of a rugby ball and stick it on a metal-effect plastic spike, we don't know, but we're quite happy they did.

The design of the Timedomain MXSP-4000 is divisive – generally, it gets the thumbs up from the MacFormat team, though there are dissenting voices – and the finish is a little rough.

Despite this, though, the audio is proficient. It lacks richness and depth – 'soul' really – but it's by no means dreadful.

Mixed sound quality

Vocals are especially clear – though this seems to be at the expense of other parts of the audio spectrum, pushing the singer to prominence where it shouldn't really be on some recordings – and while acoustic music can sound a bit jangly and jarring, we're generally pleased.

Stereo separation is, as you'd expect from a device that puts the drivers on the sides, very good, and we enjoyed putting it in the centre of our desks and letting it fill the area with music.

It came as no surprise to find that audio broke up as we cranked the volume, but it held together at levels that would fill most rooms.

iPod dock

The Timedomain comes with a simple but large remote control, and the male-to-male cable lets you hook it up to anything that has a 3.5mm minijack; you could connect your Mac this way, for example.

The standard iPod docking system is supported, though none of the model-specific inserts come in the box; just hope you still have the adaptor that came with your iPod. That said, any will fit without the adaptor; it may just wobble a little. Note that it's not GSM shielded, so it won't work well with an iPhone unless it's switched to Airplane Mode.

There's nothing stellar about this product; it's a competent performer at a decent price.