For the price, the Sony RDP-X500iP is a hell of a lot of sound. In fact, it’s the best-sounding iPhone, iPod or iPad dock we’ve seen in its price range, and it even manages to match the audio quality of some speaker docks that cost $100-$200 more. If you’re looking to buy one, though, you should be aware of a couple of niggles before you drop your dough.
The RDP-X500iP is a fairly powerful beast, rated at 60W of amplifier power and featuring a built-in subwoofer and some digital signal processing to get bass down to the 40-50Hz range. The result is bass that you can feel transmitted through the marrow of your bones from your cochlea to your sphincter. There’s bassier docks out there, but almost all to the point of the fetishistic. If you like your bass deep and natural, this is a great sounding dock, but it also does bright, crisp lows- and mids- without overemphasizing them like some companies (Bose, we’re looking at you) do.
What we love about the RDP-X500iP is it’s sound isn’t for people who only listen to one kind of music (like hip hop, or pop), but for more rounded music listeners with tastes that span many different genres. If you’re just as likely to play a Duke Ellington collection as the Black Keys’ latest album, the RDP-X500iP is a fantastic buy for the price.
It also looks pretty damn good. Sony’s taken a medium-sized trapezoid of brushed stainless steel and black clothed speaker grills, rounded the corners and kept the buttons and inputs to the barest minimum. Coupled with a docking tray that can be collapsed into the unit, the RDP-X500iP looks good and understated in almost any living room. It’s a black trapezoid that only draws attention to itself by the incredible sound it makes, not by its garish design.
The docking tray is a nice touch, in that it can fit any Apple device that uses a 30-pin dock connector, but can be pushed back into the RDP-X500iP when it’s not being used. In other words, if you don’t have your iPhone or iPad docked with the device but instead have the RDP-X500iP hooked up to, say, your TV via the line-in port to augment your set’s build-in sound, the dock can transform into a more generic-looking speaker.
There’s a couple problems with the docking tray design, though. The biggest one is that since there’s no guiding markers to tell you where your device is in relation to the actual connector, it can take several tries to actually connect your iPhone or iPad with the dock. Docking my iPad in the Sony RDP-X500iP was an exercise in teeth-gritting frustration, as I had to blindly guess where the dock connector was in relation to my iPad’s connection port.
The other problem also mostly effects the iPad. The RDP-X500iP can push out a lot of bass, and when it does, it can actually shake. If you’ve got an iPad docked and “Silent Shout” playing and the volume way up, you can actually see your iPad tremble, and a couple times, I feared that my $830 tablet would go hurtling off. It probably wasn’t a real threat, but the bottom line is that the docking tray design coupled with the RDP-X500iP’s lack of a fully rubberized bottom can make your device visibly shake when it’s docked when the volume’s high enough, depending on the surface.
Finally, it’s disappointing that Sony didn’t opt to give the RDP-X500iP any wireless capabilities. This is a great sounding speaker, and it would have been nice to wirelessly pipe tunes to it using AirPlay or Bluetooth. In fact, given how many difficulties I had docking my iPad, if AirPlay had come with the RDP-X500iP out of the box, I doubt I would have ever even opened the docking tray.
If you’re going to spend $300 on a iPhone or iPad speaker dock, you’re not going to get better sound for the price than the RDP-X500iP… and it looks a treat too. Some problems with the docking tray and a lack of wireless streaming capabilities keep it from true greatness, but it’s sound alone can sell this thing.
Product: Sony’s RDP-X500iP Speaker Dock
Pro: Fantastic bass, great mids and lows: a fantastic all-around speaker dock for the price. Lovely understated design and collapsible dock tray mean that it won’t draw attention to itself in your living room.
Con: Docking an iPad can be an exercise in frustration. No AirPlay or Bluetooth capabilities.
Verdict: One of the best-sounding speaker docks you can buy for the price, the Sony RDP-X500iP may not do everything, but it does the one thing that really counts right: music.