There's a single word to describe the iWall IMS27, and that word is BIG. All in capitals, because for a 2.1-only iPod speaker dock, this thing is huge; larger even than the Parrot Zikmu or any of a raft of ordinary units. OK, it's perhaps not quite as big as Jean Michel Jarre's AeroDream One, but still impressive, especially as the AeroDream is still at prototype stage. Our review unit had a slightly similar early status, as it wasn't yet branded as the iWall; simply the J&L IMS27. We're told new units coming into the country will bear the iWall branding, however.
As with many larger iPod docks, there's a slight visual problem with the iWall; putting any iPod into it makes the iPod look almost comically tiny. The dock mount is on the top, just above a very bright LCD display.
For such a big unit, the actual output power of the IMS27 isn't all that great, with single L/R 12W output speakers and a rear-mounted 26W subwoofer; this equates to a PMP output rating claimed by the distributor of 600W. That's a somewhat debatable figure, but regardless the iWall is still capable of some pretty solid sound output.
Plug options are S-Video output and RCA inputs, which is a touch limiting; this is a unit that's large enough that many users might seek to use it for general household audio inputs, but that's simply not possible. Your only input sources are from any iPod/iPhone, the auxiliary input on the back or FM radio. The IMS27's remote control is quite busy, but it's at least of a reasonable size; just as with the main unit itself there's little risk of losing it behind the sofa.
The LCD panel on the front of the unit is quite bright and busy, and almost looks like it could be a touchscreen, but it's not. In fact, there's a lot of redundant data on it; while it has spaces for every function the IMS27 is capable of, not all of them relate to the currently used function, which means you've got a lot of illumination there for no real effect.
FM radio was a notable weak spot for the iWall. Reception quality will understandably vary depending on the area you're in, but we found the simple cable antenna on the back wasn't up to the task of getting any decent FM signals on Sydney's outskirts; we eventually just gave up on this function.
Actual audio reproduction is fairly good for a 2.1 channel system. If you're listening in the same room it can get suitably loud, especially with bass tones put up to full. The large physical size of the IMS27 means it absorbs bass tones well, so there's very little distortion at higher volumes. As it's such an iPod-centric product, it's well worth making sure you've got well-encoded music to play back; testing with a few low bitrate tracks easily exposed their flaws in our tests.
It's big and it's bold, but it's not the biggest, boldest or best. Those in small apartment blocks could easily annoy their neighbours with the IMS27, especially given that the rear-firing subwoofer works best up against a wall for maximum physical effect. It's a fairly priced system if you've got the space for it, but many may find its immense size a distinct disadvantage.