capsule review

Review: Fluance FiSDK500 speaker dock offers good sound, attractive design

At a Glance
  • Fluance FiSDK500 Two-way High Performance Wood Speaker Dock Music System for iPod/iPhone

    Macworld Rating

Fluance’s FiSDK500 Two-way High Performance Wood Speaker Dock Music System for iPod/iPhone—let’s just call it the FiSDK500—is a big, serious-looking system. And it sounds good, too.

The FiSDK500’s wood, rounded-ends enclosure is finished in glossy piano black with silver-metal accents. The system measures 20.4 inches wide, 5.8 inches deep, and 7.1 inches tall, and weighs in at just under 13.5 pounds. The system can sit directly on its flat bottom, although the FiSDK500 ships with four round, metal spikes that you can screw into the bottom of the unit for audiophile-grade feet. There are also four small, metal discs that you can painstakingly position underneath each spike if you’re concerned about scratching your table’s surface.

Atop the unit is an iPhone/iPod dock using Apple’s older 30-pin dock connector, rather than the brand-new Lightning connector. Positioned directly in front of the dock cradle sit four buttons: Standby, Input, and a pair of volume controls. The Standby button is marked in red; the others are gray. As I so often do when reviewing these types of speaker systems, I bemoaned the FiSDK500’s lack of onboard track-navigation controls. The rear panel of the FiSDK500 sports S-Video and composite-video outputs, RCA (left and right) auxiliary-audio jacks, and a power switch.

The FiSDK500 ships with six dock adapters you can use for your iPod or iPhone. They’re unlabeled, making it difficult to determine—without trial and error—which device each adapter is designed for. I docked my iPhone 4S without a dock adapter, and that worked just fine.

On the front face of the FiSDK500 is an LED panel. Most of the time, this panel merely displays the current volume level, between zero and 40. When you switch between the dock cradle and the auxiliary input, the panel temporarily displays IP (for iPod/iPhone) or AUX, as appropriate; when you make other sound adjustments using the remote control (below), those details similarly take over the LED display temporarily. This display is useful when you want to view such details, but I’d rather the volume level wasn’t displayed all the time—it’s a big, bright 20 (or whatever) shining in the middle of your entertainment center.

You also get a small, plastic, infrared remote control that’s crowded with buttons: power, reset, menu, previous, next, enter, play/pause, iPod, Aux, and up and down controls for treble, bass, and volume. There are also two amusingly unintuitive buttons for iPod/iPhone menu navigation: Menu Down is represented by a counterclockwise-turning circular arrow, and Menu Up uses clockwise-turning circular arrow.

The FiSDK500 packs a pair of 0.6-inch tweeters and a pair of 5-inch woofers. These drivers generate excellent sound, though the FiSDK500 doesn’t play as loud as I expected. (The company says it maxes out at 40db, but I thought it was a bit quieter than that.) That said, the system can certainly fill a large room with sound, and that sound is crisp and powerful. After I tweaked the bass settings a bit using the controls on the remote, I was impressed by the substantial bass presence. However, once you increase volume into the high 30s (out of 40), you start to hear some distortion unless you turn the bass back down to the default level.

Bottom line

Is the FiSDK500 right for you? I like the attractive wood finish, I like the audio quality overall—though I wish it could get a smidgen louder without distortion—and I like its build quality. If you don’t crave portability and peak loudness isn’t your concern, the FiSDK500 is a fine option to consider.

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At a Glance
  • Fluance FiSDK500 Two-way High Performance Wood Speaker Dock Music System for iPod/iPhone

    Macworld Rating
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