Onkyo's new iPad/iPhone speaker sounds sweet

A speaker dock for iPads? Onkyo has one, and it's a winner.

The Onkyo SBX-300, shown with an iPad Onkyo

Onkyo's new "iOnly" family of iPod speakers has three models, iOnly Play (ABX-100), iOnly Stream (ABX-N300), and iOnly Bass (SBX-300).

I have the SBX-300 in for review, and it sounds pretty nice. The look is basic, but the black cloth speaker grilles, brushed-aluminum base and carry handle, and the retractable dock give the SBX-300 a nice sense of style. An LED display peeks through the upper right hand side of the grille and indicates volume and bass boost level. The Active Bass Control Circuit boost is available in two steps, via the small remote control. Power is supplied by a 2 x 20 watt amplifier, and there are two 4.2-inch drivers. Tweeters? Sorry, the SBX-300 doesn't have tweeters, but that's fairly common for iPod speakers.

The SBX-300 measures a tidy 17.7x6.9x5.2 inches, and it weighs 7.7 pounds.

I turned up Bob Marley's "Lively Up Yourself" pretty loud, but the SBX-300 didn't distort. Bass was potent, for an iPod speaker. With Norah Jones' "Come Away With Me" the sound was sweet and natural, and I'd rate the SBX-300 above par for its tone, it's easy to listen to for hours on end. Some iPod speaker sound best from a few feet away, but the Onkyo sounded fine close up and from across the room.

I compared the SBX-300 with the Fluance FiSDK500 iPod speaker (which is now $230), and the pulsing beats coursing through Radiohead's "The King of Limbs" album had more weight and oomph over the FiSDK500. It's a much larger speaker, and has tweeters, so it was easier to hear the music's textures and details over the FiSDK500. The SBX-300 was no slouch, but if you can accommodate a larger iPod speaker, check out the FiSDK500.

The SBX-300 has a suggested retail price of $249. It's a one-piece speaker system, and therefore barely delivers any stereo separation. Onkyo's new CS-345 CD Mini System ($299) has a built-in dock and a pair of two-way speakers, so it should do real stereo. I'll try and get the CS-345 in to review.

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