Docks that connect to your hi-fi are ubiquitous in the iPod market, but few audiophile companies have entered into the fray.
Aside from the Marantz IS201, we can only think of Denon's ASD1R dock as an example of a thoroughbred audiophile competitor that went all-out to put sound first without worrying about the price tag.
Good hi-fi equipment shows up the thinness of MP3 files if you play them through an attached iPod dock. Worse still, some docks add tinny, wavering qualities to the audio, while others boost areas of the frequency for effect.
What Marantz has done with the IS201, like Denon, is produce an excellent-quality dock that keeps the signal as neutral as possible, so with excellent-quality files to play and a decent amp and speakers to attach the dock to, you can revel in the original production techniques and fine artistry.
For a clean and tidy desktop, the connection ports are kept on a separate box a cable's length from the dock, so you can tuck most of the kit away. You get the twin RCA audio outs, S-Video out, RC-5, IR-Flasher and RS-232 connections.
The RS-232 connection is dated and Marantz would have been better off scrapping it in favour of a USB port, which would have allowed a Mac to sync with the iPod through the dock. The 3.5mm RC-5 and Flasher ports give you control over the dock using a stereo's IR remote control, if available.
We were less concerned with these connection options given the boxed dock remote, and concentrated on the sound quality coming through the RCA ports, which was very fine indeed.
This Marantz dock is wall mountable, which might attract some. The docking tray cover slides out to reveal two iPod Universal Dock Connectors: one facing forward and one facing out.
The Marantz IS201 iPod Dock offers excellent audio quality, and some ports you probably don't need. It just beats the Denon because it has a separate remote.