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Photo/Video Review: VAF Octavio 1

VAF's Octavio 1 is a self-contained stereo system for Zune. The Octavio 1 provides a Zune docking cradle that offers convenient playback while also charging your player.

This product has a rich pedigree, coming from VAF Research - an Australian-based maker of high-end speakers and sound system components. The Octavio 1 is the highest-end Zune sound system available to date.

Read on for a full run-down of features and performance, and see how the Octavio fares in our Zunerama photo review.

Packaging. Our review unit arrived double-boxed and bubble-wrapped, in a parcel weighing in at 26 pounds. Encased in form-fitting styrofoam blocks, the Octavio appeared to have a well-cushioned ride as it made its way to Zunerama headquarters from Down Under. Front and back box views are below.

In the Box. Along with the Octavio, you get an AC power adapter, a remote control, an owner's guide, and a pack of three colored skins.

The Octavio is definitely eye-pleasing, with its integrated speaker arrrangement, minimalist controls, and luxurious black leather-like cladding. Speakers include an 8-inch bass, two 5.25-inch woofers, and two tweeters. It's a commanding presence that makes a statement. A statement something like, "I stand ready, bud, to turn your next lame house party into a rockfest."

Connectivity. Everything ugly is, appropriately, hidden at the back. VAF put some thought into connectivity: in addition to the Zune cradle at the top, you can connect two other audio devices into the L-R RCA jacks in the rear. You can thus connect any MP3 player to it, or for that matter any device (television, DVD player, Xbox or other game console) with audio output.

The Octavio also has a pair of L-R audio out jacks, for connecting to other sound systems.

A video-out jack allows you to direct Zune video (or album art, menus, pictures, etc.) to a television display. You can watch videos and pictures on your big screen, while the Octavio speakers pound out the soundtrack.

And that PC/RS232 connector? Should the need arise, VAF provides the port so that you can upgrade the Octavio's firmware via PC.

Dimensions. The official unit dimensions are 600mm wide by 260mm high and 110mm deep. That translates to roughly 23.5" x 10" x 4".

Controls. Controls for the device are smartly designed, with a single knob controlling input sources and volume adjustment. Pressing the control knob cycles the audio selection from Zune cradle to Audio 2 and Audio 3. Rotating the same knob adjusts volume.

Beside the knob is a slot to house the remote control.

As you cycle through input sources, an indicator light changes color: white for Zune, purple for Audio 2, and blue for Audio 3. When sound is muted, the indicator light becomes yellow; when play is paused, the light becomes red.

When your party's rocking, there's no need to interrupt your best dance moves. You can control all functions from across the room, with the included fully-featured remote control.

The wafer-thin remote has controls for both Zune player operation and Octavio. For Zune, you get full control pad operation as well as Play/Pause and Back buttons. The remote's Pick function toggles through the three audio input options. It also has a mute button, and an Octavio volume control.

The remote control tests out reliably at up to 15', from directly in front of the device. Like all infrared remotes, the remote needs to be in line-of-sight with the sound system's receiver, and its operating range is reduced when held from a side angle to the sound unit. The controls give good tactile feedback when pressed.

The Look. The Octavio looks great as it is, in a variety of home settings. Personally, I like it best with its speakers exposed, as shown below.

But if you want to dress it up to match your decor, the Octavio ships with three cloth acoustic skins, in black, white, and pink. The skins stretch over the player, with openings that allow access to the Zune cradle and all controls and jacks.

Here's more of a close-up of the black acoustic skin.

The Sound. Let's get down to audio performance! Here's a little more detail on the speakers. The Octavio has:

  • An 8" bass diaphragm
  • Two 5.25" linear-travel woofers with high damping synthetic rubber roll surrounds, low stray magnetic field, powerful magnetic motors, and high power voice coils
  • Two fluid damped, fabric dome tweeters with powerful, linear neodymium magnetic motors, and high power voice coils.
  • In addition, the Octavio's digital equalization is rated from under 40 Hz to over 20,000 Hz, for a wide range of natural sound response.

    As I settled my Zune into the Octavio's dock, it must have sensed that it was about to experience something special. I selected my "all-songs" playlist on shuffle. My Zune started the test by serving up Super Colossal, from Joe Satriani.

    The room was instantly filled with Satriani's crashing guitar, and the Octavio impressively delivered pleasing highs and nicely-resonating bass and percussion.

    After Satriani came the Who's Won't Get Fooled Again. Time for a serious volume test!

    I pushed up the sound using the remote. Over a couple of minutes, I repeatedly bumped it up, sending the Zune's volume soaring. Pushing the limits of my auditory comfort zone, Pete Townsend's guitar rang distortion-free and Roger Daltrey's vocal gymnastics were impressively reproduced. At this point, all objectivity goes out of my test, while my involuntary air guitar reflex kicks in for a few moments. (I could seek treatment for that, but rock'n'roll therapy is expensive.)

    Following the Who is Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird. Where's a lighter when I need one!!

    Following that rock troika, I experiment with different genres: jazz, classical, acoustic guitar, and even some podcasts.

    From Miles Davis to Mozart, from Bruce Cockburn to BTO, the Octavio sounds wonderful. It's been a while since I've filled a room with my favorite oldies. With the Octavio 1 cranked, it was like hearing some of my favorite albums for the first time.

    The Octavio 1 has the muscle to unapologetically serve as my home's main sound system. And even though we already have a decent home theatre audio system in our family room (with a Zune docking station), the Octavio 1 offers a clutter-free and stylish music solution for our living room. It would also be perfect for a dorm room or any common area.

    We entered into this review with high expectations, given VAF's audio credentials. We're pleased to report that the Octavio 1 delivers the goods. Sure, the unit will dent your pocketbook a bit. But you won't look back once you experience the performance of this fine example of audio engineering.

    You can see Amazon pricing and more product info at this Amazon link.

    You can also check out VAF's website for their full line of advanced audio products.

      Company: VAF
      Model: Octavio 1 for Zune
      Price: $499
      Amazon link: VAF Octavio 1
    Highly recommended. The smart design, great looks, and quality sound earn this our "Recommended by Zunerama" rating.

    Zune accessory - Recommended by Zunerama


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