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Fluance FiSDK500 review:

Fluance FiSDK500

As with most other iPod speakers, the FiSDK500 sounds best from 3 to 6 feet away. Listen from much farther than that and you'll start to become aware of its size and you won't get much stereo effect (the speakers are just a little more than 12 inches apart from center to center). However, listening close up the stereo imaging is surprisingly good. There's a nice sense of spatial depth and image focus is pretty good.

The FiSDK500's size advantages over typical $200 iPod speakers are immediately obvious in the way it sounds. Bass avoids the thick and bloated sound we've heard from countless small docking speakers. The bass is powerful but never overdone and pitch definition is excellent.

Trent Reznor's savage "Driver Down" from the "Lost Highway" soundtrack was potent, even when the sound is turned up fairly loud. That said, the FiSDK500 has its limitations compared with actual hi-fi speakers, but if you really want an iPod speaker that can play loud we'd suggest Monster's Beatbox, which sells for around double the FiSDK500's price. The Beatbox will play louder, but we think the FiSDK500 sounds more refined and clear.

And clarity is what really separates the FiSDK500 from its competitors. Listening to She & Him (Zooey Deschanel and M.Ward), we were mightily impressed by the speaker's midrange detail; voices, strings and percussion all sound remarkably natural. It's also nice to have the option of fine-tuning the sound with the bass and treble controls, and again few docking speakers offer that level of adjustability. (A remote is included with the unit).

We also used the FiSDK500 as a sound bar speaker with our 32-inch Samsung LNT3242H TV. If anything, the FiSDK500 sounded even better playing movies. The "Hanna" DVD, in which Saoirse Ronan plays a young girl trained by her ex-CIA dad to be an assassin, sounded great. Dialog was clear, and the realistic looking and sounding fight scenes packed a wallop. The only real downside to using the FiSDK500 as a sound bar is its lack of stereo separation when you're listening from more than 6 feet away.

The FiSDK500 might be too big a speaker for some people, but it will be ideal for anyone looking for the best-sounding $200 iPod/iPhone speaker on the market.

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