Review: Sony RDP-X500ip Dock


Your iPhone/iPod/iPad is a great device for personal audio listening. Why, a good pair of headphones can make all the difference in the world, turning a seemingly drab song into a full-on concert in your head, where every nuance is heard. For sharing that audible bliss, all of the aforementioned devices have pretty terrible speakers. So terrible in fact, we’d recommend simply not using them. Solution: Get a dock.

Which dock? How about Sony’s RDP-X500ip dock for iOS (and older iPod) devices?

Features & Hardware

Tucked away inside the X500ip is a single 3-5/8 inches main woofer on the unit’s frontside along with two similarly sized passive radiator on the right and left sides of the units rear. The radiators are essentially speaker cones that aren’t wired up to anything. Instead, they act as amplifiers of sorts to boost volume of certain sound frequencies — in this case, bass.

Upper-mids and the higher frequencies are handled by a pair of 1-15/16 inch satellite speakers, also on the dock’s front, that for the most part do a decent job of reproducing relatively clean, diverse music.

As touched on above, Sony has created a free app in the App Store that allows you to configure the app’s main display (undocked) which features options for a timer, alarm, clock and time/alarm-based music playing schedules. While docked, the app provides additional utility by allowing you to choose from various preset EQs to adjust audio quality as needed.

The hardware itself has a few tricks up its sleeve, too. Take for example the damperless Magnetic Fluid that surrounds the speakers. Typically, speakers have a dampener which helps control sound pressure levels and try to prevent distortion caused by rouge audio frequencies. The X500ip’s magnetic fluid barrier is far and away a much better method (see audio quality below).

The dock that your iDevice sits in is actually a sliding draw that can be pushed back into the device when not in use. If you’ve ever knocked a dock off of a table because you clipped the actual dock tray jutting out from the unit, you’ll appreciate the hide-away feature.

Finally, no self-respecting audio dock can ship in 2012 without a remote control of some type. The X500ip’s isn’t anything special; is allows your normal set of controls for music playback and volume control. But leaving a remote out would be a far worse situation than simply have no remote at all.

Audio Quality

Good looks and a lengthy feature list are great and all, but when it comes down to something like an audio dock, it is the audio quality that matters above all else.

Firing up a vast range of music — everything from DMB, Metallic Man, In Flames, Florence + The Machine — rewarded us with countless hours of semi-enjoyment. In Metallic Man’s self-titled album, bass was strong and deep. Though, things got a bit weak (and rather abruptly we might add) in the ~30Hz-50Hz range. So if you’re looking for uber deep rumble, the X500ip isn’t quite there. However, we did find that after a few days of switching rooms and locations that the X500ip responds very well to being placed in a corner, amplifying bass from the back-firing subwoofer and dual passive radiators. At the same time, while bass response is improved depending on placement, the better the bass gets, the worse other mid- and higher-end frequencies become.

That said, the mid-range is warm, and at times too warm, allowing the upper ranges to be overshadowed. The high range is a bit dull to our ears. Various tracks by Muse, Florence + The Machine and DMB sounded as if they were missing certain pieces and sometimes entire sections simply because we couldn’t hear them or they blended (too much so) into the background. Using the free iOS app available in the App Store (D-Sappli) complete with additional EQ presets helped to some degree. That said, it’s clear that bass was the primary focus with this dock. (The D-Sappli companion app also features a programmable alarm function and customizable UI for different alarms/now playing screens.)

One thing we must touch on is that while the overall ability of the X500ip dock to reproduce the full range of our music was rather average, the volume level and lack of distortion near (and at) max volume is truly impressive. Miniature sound systems, whether they are shelf systems or audio player docks, have always had so-so audio quality that worsens as you approach the volume dial’s limits. The X500ip on the other hand, will gladly crank to max volume with extremely little to no discernible distortion — very impressive. The only downside to maxing out the volume is that bass performance drops off a cliff.

Conclusion

At $299, the X500ip dock by Sony is pretty much smack dab in the middle of the road. It’s not overly expensive, though at the same time not a simple “meh, let’s get it” price. While it’s sonic characteristics can be a bit bland, the amount of bass in particular that it pumps out as well as the distortion-free playback is something we find highly enticing. We only with the rest of the frequency range were attended to as well.

Because the $299 price point is extremely competitive, we’re easily swayed by other options. Quite honestly, the RDP-X500ip is for you only if you prefer bass over true sound signatures and need something that can be cranked to 11 and still keep distortion at bay. Otherwise, there are better docks there.

Gadgetsteria’s Rating: 6.5/10

Gallery