Speakers the size of a coffee mug, no matter how good they are, are expected to sound a bit tinny. That’s certainly the case with the Sony SRS-GD50iPs, but with the subwoofer added and Mumford and Sons’ Sigh No More playing, this 2.1-channel system sounded good, and at times delivered an an unexpected richness.
Overall, the sound is pretty much what I’d expect from a unit in this sub-$300 price range. It faithfully reproduced the melodies of The Temper Trap’s Conditions, but fell short for the depth of sound on Muse’s oldie Showbiz. The unit has a separate volume toggle to change the bass levels to your tastes, and this was useful in giving a boost where needed.
Audio aside, the idea of the unit itself is just brilliant. It’s something I’ve wanted for some time: an easy solution for audio from my Mac and a dock for my iPod/iPhone when the Mac is off. The GD50iP has three inputs – an iPod/iPhone docks in the volume control unit, a Mac connects via USB, and anything else can hook up via AUX.
Switching to a new source is as simple as plugging in an iPod and selecting the right input. The supplied remote can change the volume and skip to the next track, or you can do it using the connected player. Control using the remote is unfortunately limited when using an iPhone.
Because of the USB connection, the dock can also sync your iPod/iPhone to your computer without any extra cables. It’s just a matter of flicking the ‘Sync’ switch, and the USB connection hooks it all up.
The two satellite speakers are compact and sturdy. The main unit that includes dock, controls and amplifier is simple and easy to use, with the iPod sitting at the perfect angle for controlling from the device. The volume control is an inlaid scroll wheel reminiscent of the early iPods with mechanical wheels. An orange light around its perimeter indicates the current volume and is a beautiful touch to an otherwise basic design. The remote is small and handles all the necessary functions well.
The GD50iP’s biggest problem, in my mind, is its overall finish. The plastic is a dull black colour and feels cheap. Had Sony chosen a jet-black high gloss finish or even brushed aluminium (to match all the Mac gear), this little unit would be an absolute winner. Likewise, some of the buttons and switches feel like they’re low-cost parts that wouldn’t stand the test of time.
Unfortunately the unit just doesn’t feel as good as it should. While a $299 RRP isn’t high-end, it’s not bargain basement either. I’d expect a little more thought put into the aesthetics. But maybe that’s just me.
Australian Macworld’s buying advice. It seems there just have to be trade-offs in the fact that this is both an iPod and computer speaker system. If you just need an iPod dock, there are probably better sounding options in this price range. Similarly, if all you need is sound for your Mac, there are some nicer speakers for the money. But if you’re after something that does both, this will do the trick. It may just not look that impressive next to your Mac gear.
If you’re after a similar setup but want the best on the market, have a look at the $999 Focal XS Multimedia Sound System reviewed by Dave Bullard in the November issue of Australian Macworld.