Onkyo SBX-200 iOnly Bass Dock Music System
Clear, clean, loud sound; Active Bass Control; works with iPad; remote
No rechargeable battery; no Bluetooth
Onkyo’s SBX-200 iOnly Bass Dock Music System is a speaker dock that works with any iOS device, including all models of the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, as well as the iPod classic and the second-generation-or-later iPod nano. Onkyo says the estimated price for the speaker is $349, and will be available in Australia in July or August.
The SBX-200 is shaped like an all-black, triangular prism and sports an integrated aluminium handle and base, plastic sides and a cloth-fabric grill covering the speakers. The 3.5kg unit measures 45cms wide, 13cms deep and 17.5cms tall.
The system’s dock-connector cradle pops out from the bottom centre of the unit after you push gently in the right spot. To fold the cradle back in, you first slide a switch on the front face of the unit and then you flip the hinged cradle back into the unit’s body. Centered on the front of the dock cradle is an LED that glows white when the unit is powered on, switching to green when you switch to auxiliary-input mode.
At the upper right of the SBX-200’s face, shining from behind the fabric speaker cover, are a pair of LED displays. The first is a green volume indicator, which displays up to five green LEDs, depending on the volume level. The first four volume LEDs encompass seven different unmarked levels each; the fifth and loudest setting adds two more levels, for a total of 30 volume levels. The second LED indicates the status of the SBX-200′s Super Bass feature: off, Super Bass 1 (green) or Super Bass 2 (orange).
On the right side of the SBX-200 sits a large, silver power button, along with several smaller buttons: Input, Volume Up, Volume Down and Super Bass. There’s also a 3.5mm auxiliary-input port for listening to a non-docking audio source. There’s but one port on the rear of the unit and that’s for the included AC adapter.
The SBX-200 also ships a dinky, plastic, blister-button infrared remote controls. The remote replicates all the main unit’s on-board buttons (Power, Input, Volume and Super Bass), but it adds numerous options: Play/Pause, Previous, Next, Shuffle, Repeat, Muting and buttons (Up, Down, Menu and Enter) for navigating iOS or iPod menus.
At this point, I’ve mentioned the Super Bass feature enough times that it warrants explanation. The technology boosts low-frequency audio to add a substantial amount of bass presence. Without Super Bass enabled, the SBX-200 lacks oomph. With it enabled, especially at level 2, bass can sound a bit overwhelming – and sometimes distorted. Unless you want to adjust the Super Bass level for each song, I recommend sticking with Super Bass 1 as a good compromise.
Regardless of whether you turn Super Bass on, the SBX-200 uses Onkyo’s proprietary Active Bass Control, which the company says “maintains an optimal balance of low-frequency sounds by making automatic, real-time adjustments in line with the playback volume.” (You can’t disable this feature.) In my testing, Active Bass Control worked well, boosting bass presence at lower volumes to compensate for the Fletcher-Munson effect.
Onkyo uses a pair of front-facing, 4.1in drivers along with two reflex woofer ducts (bass ports) in the back. Beyond bass, the SBX-200 offers precisely the clear, clean sound I expect from a docking speaker system of this size and at its loudest, it can certainly fill a large party room with music. And because the unit is nearly a foot and a half wide, it does create a reasonable amount of stereo separation as long as you aren’t listening from too far away.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice
I’d recommend the SBX-200 at its original MSRP of $349, but with caveats about its limitations compared to similarly-priced competitors that offer a rechargeable battery or Bluetooth support. We will have to wait to see the market when the SBX-200 is released in Australia.