Back in December 2005, we reviewed Sonic Impact’s i-Pax, a portable speaker system for the first-generation iPod shuffle, built into a sturdy, hardshell case. The combination of the i-Pax’s good sound quality — very close to the best of the shuffle-focused speaker systems we’d heard — and its rugged enclosure made the i-Pax my favorite portable speaker system for the iPod shuffle.
Come late 2006, Sonic Impact revised its speaker line, replacing each model with a new-and-improved one. But when it came to the i-Pax, there was a bit of a problem: the first-generation iPod shuffle was on its last legs (it was actually discontinued in September 2006). So Sonic Impact decided to replace the i-Pax’s USB dock with a standard iPod dock using Apple’s Universal Dock design. The result was the i-P22, a system similar to the i-Pax but that worked with all dockable iPods, for only $10 more.
Because of these similarities, I recommend reading our original review of the i-Pax at http://playlistmag.com//reviews/2005/12/ifusionipax/index.php. I’ll be focusing here on the improvements and differences found in the i-P22.
As noted about, the biggest difference between the i-Pax and i-P22 is the latter’s Universal Dock — a feature not even the larger i-F2 offers. Sonic Impact includes three cradle inserts to accommodate most older dockable iPods; recent iPods use the Universal insert Apple includes with the iPod itself.
Thanks to this new dock design, the i-P22 is slightly thicker (by approximately a quarter-inch) than the i-Pax, and instead of a single battery compartment, there are two — one on each side of the dock cradle, each hosting two AA batteries. (You still get the same compartment between the speakers for storing earbuds and small cables)
The other obvious changes are that the i-P22 no longer has a headphone jack on the outside — not a significant loss, in my opinion, since you can’t listen to your iPod inside a closed i-P22 as you could a shuffle in the i-Pax — nor does it include the i-Pax’s “Sonic Extent Control” switch. The latter is actually a good thing, as I felt that this feature did little for the i-Pax other than add audible distortion.
Finally, i-P22 also offers slightly better sound quality than its predecessor. This is most obvious in the lack of distortion at louder volumes, but I also noticed better upper-bass response. You’re not going to get the kind of audio quality you’ll find in the best portable iPod systems, and there’s little stereo separation, but considering the i-P22’s size, it offers more than decent sound quality.
Beyond that, the i-P22 has the same advantages and disadvantages as the i-Pax before it. Overall, it’s an easy choice for those who need a compact speaker system that offers good sound and will hold up to some abuse. (If you want similar ruggedness but a step up, Sonic Impact’s more expensive i-F2 offers better sound quality, a remote control, a rechargeable battery, and space to store your iPod during transport.)