Back in December 2005, we reviewed Sonic Impact’s i-Fusion, a portable speaker system for dockable iPods built into a sturdy, hardshell case. Although the i-Fusion didn’t provide the best sound in its class (portable speakers in the $150 price range), it wasn’t that far off, and its rugged enclosure made it a great travel accessory.
About a year later, Sonic Impact released the i-F2, an updated version of the i-Fusion. Although it carries the same $150 price tag, the i-F2 offers a number of welcome improvements over its predecessor. Rather than repeat the basics of both systems, I recommend reading our original review of the i-Fusion at http://playlistmag.com//reviews/2005/12/ifusionipax/index.php. I’ll be focusing here on the improvements and differences the i-F2 brings.
The most obvious change is that Sonic Impact has done away with the i-Fusion’s white and gray appearance in favor of black-on-black with a few spots of gray and chrome trim. But the other major change is that the i-F2 includes a wireless remote control, the lack of which I noted when reviewing the i-Fusion. Stored inside the lower storage area, next to the system’s rechargeable battery, the 2.25-inch by 1.7-inch by 0.25-inch remote provides Power, Play/Pause, Track Back and Forward, and Volume Down and Up buttons. Both range and off-center performance are excellent for an infrared remote.
The other major improvement (at least for international travelers) is that the i-F2’s AC adapter is an international model with three different plugs. On the other hand, one new drawback is that the i-F2’s glossy interior is a metaphorical magnet for fingerprints and smudges — so much so that Sonic Impact actually includes a small cleaning cloth for wiping it down.
Finally, one change I was surprised not to see is an updated dock cradle. The i-F2 still uses Sonic Impact’s own docking system rather than Apple’s Universal Dock design; although cradle inserts are included for most recent iPods, it’s too bad the company didn’t use the Universal design — both to accommodate third-party Universal accessories (such as SendStation’s Dock Extender or the case-accommodating dock inserts from iSkin and Agent 18) and to ensure compatibility with future iPod models.
Apart from that, the i-F2 has pretty much the same advantages and disadvantages as the i-Fusion. If you’re looking for the best sound quality at this price, you should instead consider Logitech’s mm50 or Altec Lansing’s inMotion iM600. But, as I said about the i-Fusion back then, if you’re looking for a rugged speaker system that can take some abuse, you can opt for the i-F2 without sacrificing too much in terms of sound quality or features. The fact that you can actually store your iPod and earbuds inside the i-F2 during your travels is an added bonus.–Dan Frakes