The category of audio docking units designed specifically for iOS device has exploded across nearly every home electronics manufacturer, and it's where a great deal of audio innovation is happening for consumer grade speakers for the MP3 generation. Sony has jumped into the game with a subtle little number, the Sony RDP-X500IP, a dock meant to be unobtrusive visually while still being able to compete with nearly any dock speaker system out there...
Sony may have arrived late into the iOS audio system category, but it looks like they bid their time well refining the features presented by the RDP-X500IP, picking many of the finest features from other docks, while editing out unnecessary bells and whistles. At first glance we were impressed with Sony's industrial design, an deliberately unassuming but pleasant black clothed trapezoid speaker with solid metal accents on top and below; if the RDP-X500IP was a person, it would be gent in a well fit off the rack suit with the addition of a little swag on his wrist and cufflinks. The unit's heft is indicative of its solid construction, though the speaker cloth is a little delicate (our review unit arrived with a small poked hole), so one should look out for keeping the speaker far from pointy ended obstructions.
Press the front of the Sony logo emblazoned front tray, and the metal finish opens up in a controlled elegant motion, ready to dock your iPod, iPhone or iPad (the thought of docking an iPad seems a bit silly considering it would block some of the speakers); the speaker avoids the issue of an ugly unused dock thanks to this hideaway feature, but presents itself pleasing when an iOS device sits docked. The "less is more design" philosophy extends up top, where there's only six buttons: Power, iPod, Line, Play/Pause, and Up & Down volume control.D-Sappli, onto our retired iPhone 3G unit for testing purposes. D-Sappli adds the following features to the RDP-X500IP, all which are otherwise not available to a unit without a screen:
- The Music Play Timer is a function that turns your favorite music on or off at any desired time. - The Sleep Timer is an ideal function for listening to your favorite music while you fall asleep. - There are 4 designs available for selection of Clock Display.
Test music included the Americana crooning of The Avett Brothers, the cinematic classical soundtrack from A Dangerous Method, the electronic-warbles of Com Truise, and even a little old school Cee-Lo helmed Goodie Mob, all to test the range capabilities of the RDP-X500IP. Even though the Sony is about the size of a large toaster, Cylon jokes aside, the RDP-X500IP really takes advantage of all the 60 watts of total amplifier power to produce clean sound for small or medium size rooms with just about any song played. Hats off to the DSP, which didn't wince while correcting for any compensation necessary, and the speaker's spatial sound field didn't produce an sugar coated artificiality, whether it was rock, rap or classical being played.
There was little to complain in the mid and high ranges, competing closely with our Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air in vocal clarity performance and undistorted overall sound from the dual 2" internal speakers. Where we did notice a little trouble was when we pushed the RDP-X500IP with bass-heavy tracks; the problem could not be attributed to the speaker components itself, otherwise producing a tight and deep low end when bumping out Goodie Mob's Soul Food. The problem could be attributed to the speakers elevated undersized feet, producing a modest, but noticeable vibration effect (an instance where the all-on-one speaker solution falls short). If you like to really turn it up, make sure to place the RDP-X500IP on a surface with a little grip, otherwise it could bounce out...literally.
Bottom Line: I don't think I'd necessarily recommend the RDP-X500IP as a primary audio system except for small rooms, where higher volume performance would be less of an issue and Airplay would be a less missed option. But as a secondary bedroom or home office dock station, where the RDP-X500IP would be at arm's length and listened at low to medium volume, Sony's speaker system is a winner in both the design department and audio performance. There's already a dearth of docks which bring attention to themselves while even off with sometimes wildly off-putting form factors, so I find an appreciation for Sony's design direction here, where the RDP-X500IP is mostly invisible until it's turned on and the focus is really on the audio capabilities.
Pros: Simple to use out of the box, excellent overall performance, good looking unobtrusive design (especially the dock), perfect secondary home office unit
Cons: No Airplay compatibility, bass heavy material will cause unit to shake, bare minimum controls which requires iOS/apps to compensate for radio and clock options.
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did provide us the product for testing and review purposes.