Against my parents' wishes, all my aunts and uncles got together and bought me a cheap stereo system as a Bar Mitzvah gift. (My parents would have preferred a set of Talmud, a computer, sports equipment - literally anything that wasn't a stereo system I could use to blast horrible rock and roll and annoy my father. Yes, I grew up in the movie Footloose.) It was a thing of beauty: a Fisher record player/tape deck/am/fm radio and a pair of speakers that were at least three feet tall. Oh, those speakers were huge, and the system could play much louder than my parents would like. I was happy.
It didn't take long before I realized that while the speaker cabinets were huge, there was only a single, mid-sized full range driver in each of those big boxes. Similarly, when I unscrewed the 1/8" particleboard side panels from the stereo component box, I discovered there was mostly air inside. When you turned it up an played it loud (genuinely loud, not the "it's too loud! Turn that horrible music off" level that I was restricted to when my parents were home) it distorted quickly. The system looked impressive, but performed about as well as its price point probably dictated.
They probably won't appreciate the comparison, but after a few months living with mStation's 2.1 Stereo Tower, I have concluded that it is the modern incarnation of my old stereo system. It looks great and takes up a lot of space, but its sound quality -- while much better than that old Fisher -- is limited by its price point.
The mStation is without question one of the largest iPod docks of any kind. The top two columns are the main speakers; thanks to some clever engineering they can be screwed on and rotated slightly outward for some directionality. Unfortunately, the speakers are still too close together to get realistic stereo separation. The main cylinder is a "subwoofer" - a 5" bottom facing driver that generates a fair amount of mid-bass. The bass tends to be boomy, and the driver is still too small to reach truly low bass. Plastic inserts are included to customize the dock to a specific model. Other than the shuffle, every iPod I tried fit, including an iPhone, iPod touch, 1G nano, 2G nano, a 4G iPod, and a current iPod classic. Like many such systems, a remote control is included so that you can control the system from across the room (power, volume up/down, play/pause, FF, RW, and controls to adjust the bass and treble). Unlike a desktop dock, the tower will almost never be within arms reach, so the remote control is extremely useful.
At $299, the mStation 2.1 Stereo Tower can play loud enough to fill a mid-size room with undistorted sound, or a large room if the volume is kept to moderate levels. There are plenty of other choices at the same price point that won't dominate your room, but offer better sound. For example, I pitted the mStation against Logitech's AudioStation ($299, but amazon has it for just $129), and found that the Logitech's sound was richer, with considerably tighter bass. Bose also has a $299 desktop iPod speaker dock with the company's signature sound (boosted midrange and clear highs) that also handily beats the mStation. Of course, neither of those systems double as room furniture. With extensive use of aluminum in the columns, the mStation could be easily confused for a product from Bang & Olufsen; I expect set decorators will use it when creating a "bachelor pad" look for CSI Miami. It looks much more expensive than it is, but it sounds more like its price point.