Fluance FiSDK500 High Performance iDock
I've never understood why the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air and Bose iPod SoundDock 10 iPod speakers are so popular. Sure, they sound acceptably good, but for that kind of money (around $600) you could buy a nice set of stereo speakers and an integrated amp and wind up with much better sound. For about a third the price of the B & W and Bose the Fluance FiSDK500 ($200) is a serious contender. It's by far the best sounding iPod speaker I've heard for anywhere near its price.
With a name like Fluance, it has to be good...
Long before Fluance entered the iPod speaker market I was blown away by the quality of its AVHTB+ Surround Sound Home Theater 5 Speaker System. That $200 package came with a pair of three-way, tower speakers, a full-size center, and two surround speakers! An outstanding value for sure, but it didn't sound as transparent or refined as the least expensive alternatives from Aperion Audio, Definitive Technology, Energy, or Polk. It's hardly a fair comparison, the other brands are a lot more expensive, but the Fluance system was unbeatable for the money. The FiSDK500 is something else again.
Most of the expensive iPod speakers I've seen are made of plastic, and while they look cool their build quality isn't anything special. The FiSDK500 has a medium-density fiberboard cabinet and a high-gloss black paint job, so it feels more upscale than its pricier competition. Granted, the 1950s futuristic aesthetic won't be to everyone's taste, and the FiSDK500 is definitely bulkier then most iPod speakers. It measures 20.4 x 5.8 x 7.1 inches, and weighs 13.4 pounds. Sleek, it's not, but remember when it comes to speaker sound quality, size still matters.
I wish Fluance's specifications were a little more informative, but at least they provide some details. The FiSDK500 has .6-inch soft dome tweeters coaxially mounted in 5-inch woven fiberglass woofers with butyl rubber surrounds. That's pretty special right there. A stereo 10 watt per channel amp provides the get up and go for the speakers. By contrast Bose is totally mum about the details of its SoundDock 10, and I can't even tell if it has tweeters.
Connectivity options beyond the multipin iPod dock include stereo RCA inputs, plus composite and S-Video outputs. If you're the sort of audiophile who likes to have your speakers "coupled" to the surface they're resting on, go ahead and use the supplied heavy-duty cone feet. Just make sure to leave six or more inches behind the FiSDK500 for its two rear bass ports. Few iPod speakers let you directly adjust the sound balance in any way, but the FiSDK500's remote sports bass and treble controls that operate in ten, 2 dB steps, from -10 to +10. I wasn't happy with the "flat" setting, so I pushed up the bass to +4 and the treble to -2. Another feature of note: the FiSDK500 comes hardwired with an A.C. power cord! That's cool, I love that the speaker doesn't have a wall-wart power supply. Fluance recommends putting 10 hours of break-in time on the speaker before judging sound quality, so that's what I did.
The FiSDK500 is sold direct by Fluance for $199 and it's also available on Amazon. The speaker comes with a two-year parts and labor warranty, double what you get with most iPod speakers.