Australian company's iPod speaker system could use some tweaking

ON GADGETS

January 20, 2009|By KEVIN HUNT | KEVIN HUNT,Hartford Courant

Maybe Aussies don't know us as well as they thought. Or else the designers at Cygnett in Richmond, Victoria, outside Melbourne, badly miscalculated the pampered, iPod-loving American consumer.

It built an iPod speaker system, the Unison i-XT, with the on-off switch way, way around back at the base of the rear panel - easily located by anyone wearing a coal-miner's helmet with a safety lamp.

And the iPod dock? Not built into the speaker, like most speaker docks, but a lonely stand-alone device.

Despite the fashion faux pas, the i-XT surpasses many of today's speaker docks with a remote control that lives up to its name. Where other remotes run out of tricks after pausing or advancing a track, the i-XT remote actually operates the iPod's menu. You don't see that too often in a $180 speaker dock.

Once the music starts, the i-XT doesn't have to make any apologies, either. Cygnett calls this a 2.1 dynamic speaker system, which ordinarily means two separate speakers and a subwoofer. (The i-XT has a 3-inch driver on either side of a 4-inch woofer for the lower frequencies.)

On the front panel, it has only two volume push-buttons beneath the cloth speaker grille and a green power indicator LED that the manual insists is blue. The cabinet is a slick, high-gloss black plastic.

At lower volumes, the i-XT has a certain robustness - a nicely rounded sound lacking shrill highs - but at higher volumes the boomy bass quickly announces you've pushed it too far. The i-XT doesn't have tone controls, but even with my Nano's equalizer I could never tame the excessive bass.

The dock is a mixed bag. Although it has an S-Video connection for hooking up video-capable iPods to a TV and a USB port to sync an iPod with a computer, my Nano sometimes shut down unexpectedly or its battery drained, even though the dock is supposed to be a charger, too.

The system just felt like so much patchwork. The i-XT shows promise, but Cygnett will have to retool it if it hopes to make it in America.

Digital converter

If reader reaction is any indication, the people most upset with the digital conversion are those with portable televisions. One said she relies on her battery-powered TV for information during blackouts or when camping. Why aren't there any battery-powered converter boxes available yet, she asked?

Turns out there's at least one, the Winegard RCDT09A (winegard.com/dtv), an otherwise-standard $63 converter. But Winegard also sells the RC-BP9V battery pack ($15), which lasts as long as 18 hours on six D batteries. It only works with Winegard converters.

Check first to see whether your portable TV has an RF input or other audio-video inputs. If so, it will work with the Winegard converter box.

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