Editors' Note: The rating on this review has been lowered from 6.0 to 5.7 due to changes in the competitive marketplace.
JVC has been making audio products for a long time--almost 80 years, if you can believe it--but the company isn't a premier name when it comes to iPod accessories. That doesn't mean JVC's not in the game, though. The latest iPod-ready digital audio device to come from the company is the RA-P10, a compact speaker system with a built-in FM tuner and alarm clock. At $129, the RA-P10 is a decent deal for what you get, but if you can do without the radio, you can find cheaper speakers that sound better (such as the Sonic Impact iFusion).
The JVC RA-P10 looks a little like Logitech's mm32 with its oblong design, white shell, and compact size. But at 12.5 x2.8x3.8 inches, the RA-P10 is significantly larger than the Logitech unit. The RA-P10 also has an ample backlit LCD that displays the date and time, temperature, and mode (iPod or radio). And a plethora of controls rest all over the top of the unit. There's a switch for the alarm mode as well as several buttons for setting the time, date, and temperature reading (Fahrenheit or Celsius). A large snooze button, a power key, volume toggles, and a five-way music playback control pad round out the rest of the controls. In the middle of all this is the dedicated iPod dock, and JVC includes all the adapters you might need for the various iPods. An auxiliary line input lets you plug in other audio sources, but you'll need to supply your own cable.
Of course, if you'd rather control the RA-P10 from afar, you can use the included IR remote. This includes all the basic controls, including fast-forward/rewind, volume up/down, play/pause, and mode (for switching between the iPod and the radio). The remote worked well from a distance of about 15 feet, but you have to be in direct line-of-sight from the front of the unit.
Setting up the JVC RA-P10 is a fairly simple process, though you'll likely need to glance at the included instruction sheet to set the time, date, and alarm functions. Simply plug the unit in using the included AC adapter, and you're ready to go. JVC includes a backup battery for the clock, so be sure to pop that in as well. The RA-P10 can also run off of six AA batteries for true portability. The iPod will be charged only while the unit is plugged in to wall power, though.
The RA-P10 falls flat in the performance department. First, the temperature reading is inaccurate--a small gripe, to be sure, but why bother having it if it doesn't work? The sound quality is about on a par with your standard radio/CD alarm clock. It's passable, with present bass and clear highs, but we thought the music sounded off on the whole. After a bit of listening, we realized we were getting almost no midrange sound at all, leaving the audio sounding flat and with none of the richness we desire. And even though the unit includes an antenna, FM reception wasn't great.