There are dozens of iPod speaker systems on the market, but the roster of PSP-centric speakers is pretty spare, and the majority of them are designed for mobile use. Since the PSP is first and foremost a handheld gaming device, it's not surprising that home-style PSP speaker systems are few and far between. But some folks do use their PSPs to listen to music, so it's perfectly reasonable to expect a company to take a crack at making the PSP version of the Bose SoundDock.
That company happens to be Psyclone, and the product--which has been officially endorsed by Sony--is called the Nodus, and it carries a list price of $200. Measuring 6.63 inches high by 15 wide by 7.5 deep and weighing 5 pounds, the compact shelf system indeed has a dock, but it's a little different from your standard iPod dock because it's not located on the top. Instead, the speaker surrounds the entire PSP, essentially framing it. Getting your PSP into the speaker isn't too tricky but a little finesse involved. You have to tilt the dock, line up the speaker's audio input and power connector with the corresponding jacks on your PSP, then push the dock in so that it's flush with the speaker. It's very much like inserting an audio tape into a cassette deck--remember those?--only slightly more difficult.
Once you get your PSP docked--it charges while cradled in the device--you'll be pretty impressed with how it looks sitting in its speaker frame. We've seen a lot of iPod speaker systems and few, if any, make the iPod look as cool as the PSP does when mounted in the Nodus. From a design standpoint, the Nodus is definitely a winner. Perched on a shelf or a table in a minimalist setting, it's going to get some props--the thing is a sleek piece of gear. But in other respects--namely, performance--the Nodus is decidedly more average.
Don't get us wrong--it sounds OK. But with Psyclone's talk of a "Class-T technology" and the "world-renowned T-amp from Sonic Impact," we expected a little more. Like a lot of these compact speaker systems that feature closely positioned speakers, there isn't much in the way of stereo separation, making the ideal listening position about three feet away from the speaker. Sit further back or off to the sides, and you'll notice the system doesn't sound quite the same. If you are standing across the room, you can use the system's small remote to raise and lower the PSP's volume and skip back and forward between tracks, but that's about it.
The Nodus did better with songs that had a lot of vocals and acoustic guitar--Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" sounded decent enough, as did pop songs such as the Maroon Five's "This Love." But the bass lacked definition and got muddier at higher volumes; unfortunately there's no way to adjust bass and treble levels. Songs such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps" just didn't pack much of a punch.
We also watched several movies, and while the combo of the Nodus and the small PSP screen doesn't make for much of a home-theater experience, dialog sounded clear--the Nodus is certainly a big step up from the PSP's internal speakers. For gaming, you have to take the PSP out of the dock and use the included six-foot extension cable. Plug one end of the cable into the headphone jack on your PSP and the other into the single audio input on the back of the speaker (which can be used for any audio device) and your game will suddenly sound a whole lot bigger and richer. However, you're on a six-foot tether.
To sum up, while the Psyclone PSC99 Nodus may not be a great sounding audio system, it is slickly designed, and it makes for an attractive dorm or bedroom mini shelf system if you're a PSP owner looking to showcase your gaming console. At $200, it's a little pricey, but that seems to be par for the course for gadget-specific audio systems that double as charging docks.