Kensington is more than familiar with the peripheral and accessories game, and the company doesn't appear to be stopping anytime soon. The latest iPod-ready product to come off the Kensington lines is the SX 3000R Speakers with FM Radio. This $170 audio unit offers an understated design and decent sound quality, but the imperfect control set and poor radio integration spoil the fun.
The SX 3000R very closely resembles Kensington's SX 2000 iPod speakers, and indeed, it is nearly the same product (only with an FM tuner built in). A flat, rectangular NXT-designed speaker system dominates the unit, while the universal iPod dock juts out to the right. You'll need to use the dock adapters that come with the iPod to ensure a proper fit, as Kensington doesn't include extras. Below the cradle, you'll find the power and volume buttons. Interestingly, the buttons located on the SX 3000R control the volume of the unit, while the remote controls the volume of the iPod. Call us crazy, but it seems more logical for the buttons to control the same thing. We do appreciate that the SX 3000R charges the iPod while it's docked, though.
An odd-shaped IR remote comes in the box with the SX 3000R speaker. It's shaped somewhat like an "L," with a small segment jutting out of the top portion. This is both handy--you can prop the remote up--and weird--why the top and not the bottom? As it stands, the remote is propped up upside down. Eight pleasantly tactile buttons are arrayed in a logical manner around the face of the remote. You get the standard playback controls (play/pause, volume, fast-forward/rewind) as well as a bass enhance button, and two additional keys: one with radio tower icon and one with an iPod icon. Obviously, these serve to transfer you between radio and iPod modes. Unfortunately, when you switch from radio to iPod mode, your music doesn't automatically start up where it left off. And because the remote has no menu navigation controls, you'll have to walk up to the unit and navigate to the music playback area on the iPod itself. Many A/V docking unit remotes have menu navigational functions now, so we're not sure why Kensington left these out.
As far as the integrated FM tuner is concerned, Kensington rather missed the mark on this one. First, the FM reception is pretty poor--we were only able to tune into about half the stations we normally can in the CNET building. Then there's the lack of an autoscan function, which is reprehensible in our book. Manually tuning into frequencies is so passe. You do at least get a bunch of preset slots, though we were never able to figure out how to shuttle just between the presets. The user guide doesn't say much about it, and every time we tried the instructions, the SX 3000R would jump to the same station. At least the unit output the frequency numbers to the iPod screen, but unlike with the Apple iPod Radio Remote, it doesn't have a nifty dial graphic or support Radio Data System feeds (which offer textual information about the station and sometimes the songs currently playing).
On the plus side, the SX 3000R speaker offers decent audio quality. Tunes came through loud and clear with no muffling or background hiss. Highs were crystal and the midrange was decently represented. A satisfying bass response was lacking, though. But all in all, audio was passable, and certainly better than radio alarm clock quality.