Fluance may be far from a household name, but we were blown away by the value and performance ratios of its SX-HTB and AV-HTB 5 home theater speaker packages when we reviewed them here on CNET many years ago.
Now the Canadian company has entered the fiercely competitive iPhone/iPod speaker-dock market with the FiSDK500 and managed to pull off the same feat, delivering a winning combination of excellent performance and a distinct design for just $200.
Nearly all iPod speakers are made of plastic, so we were happy to see the FiSDK500 features a sturdy medium-density fiberboard cabinet, finished in high-gloss black paint. It's also a bigger than average model and measures 20.4 by 5.8 by 7.1 inches, and weighs 13.4 pounds. Sleek, the FiSDK500 is not, but it is distinct looking, and when it comes to sound quality, size still matters.
The FiSDK500 has stereo .6-inch soft dome tweeters mounted in the center of its 5-inch woven fiberglass woofers. That's pretty exceptional. "Two-way" tweeter and woofer iPod speakers are rarely seen in this price range, and they usually have much smaller drivers. For example, Altec Lansing's Octiv 650 iPod speaker ($200) is an above-average performer, but it doesn't have tweeters, Rather, it features two 3-inch "full-range" drivers, plus a bottom-firing 4-inch "subwoofer." The Octiv 650A is a lot smaller and about one-third the FiSDK500's weight.
Built-in stereo 10 watt per channel amps provide the get-up-and-go for the speakers. Connectivity options beyond the multipin iPod dock include stereo RCA inputs, plus composite and S-Video outputs for routing iPod/iPhone images or videos to a TV. The top of the speaker has power on/off, input selector, and volume up and down buttons directly in front of the dock connector. The small plastic remote duplicates those controls and adds bass and treble controls that operate in 10, 2 dB steps, from -10 to +10. It's easy to fine-tune the sound to your liking. The remote can also navigate through your iPod/iPhone's menu options.
Clearly, Fluance didn't build just another "me-too" product. Another noteworthy touch worth highlighting is the hardwired AC power cord. Most powered speakers come with an external, wall-wart power supply, but FiSDK500's power supply is in the unit and it has a simple power cord that terminates in a two-prong plug.