In 2005, SDI Technologies had a surprise hit with its iPod-compatible clock radio, the $99 iHome iH5. Expanding on that success, SDI has a new line of iPod-dockable audio systems, including the $199 iH52, the company's first audio system to feature separate satellite speakers and a subwoofer.
Give SDI credit: the company has managed to hire some fairly decent designers. The only cosmetic choices we really don't like are the shiny plastic on the front of the subwoofer, which cheapens its look, and the size of the iHome logo that's plastered on the front of the sub, again, cheapening its appearance. The sub isn't ugly, but chances are you're going to end up wanting to hide it, whether you opt for the white or black versions. Luckily, that's not all that hard to do because it's pretty small. However, the cable that connects the sub to the compact dock/control unit is only about four feet long, so your placement choices are constricted. The included speaker wire for the connecting the satellites isn't of the thick, high-grade variety, but it should serve most people just fine, and because it plugs into standard spring clips, not proprietary connectors, you can upgrade it if you want.
The system's amplifier is housed in the subwoofer, which leaves the two satellite speakers and the dock/head unit free to sport small, sleek enclosures; it's just too bad that SDI didn't match the front of the sub to that of the satellites' finish. We also like how you can adjust the speaker stands to orient the speakers vertically or horizontally. Like other iPod systems, this one comes with several inserts to make sure your specific iPod model fits snugly in the dock.
We're also happy to report that the iPod Shuffle isn't excluded from the party--there's a USB port on top of the iH52 that accepts the it (including, presumably, the newer second-generation Shuffle as well). However--and unfortunately--you can't attach any old USB thumbdrive filled with MP3s; the system recognizes only the Shuffle. It's also worth pointing out that the iH52 will not control your Shuffle. To play songs, you have to use the buttons on the Shuffle.