Review: Jensen JiSS-250i Docking Speaker Station for iPod and iPhone
Though the idea of a rotating speaker system or rotating dock within an iPod speaker system wouldn't have made sense in the past, widescreen iPods and iPhones have inspired developers to spend the last year working on designs that can accommodate both vertically and horizontally oriented devices. Logic3 was notably first with its $60 i-Station Traveller for iPhone, which it followed with the $130 i-Station Rotate; now Jensen has released JiSS-250i ($80), a similar competitor that's physically and sonically right in the middle of Logic3's products.
Measuring roughly 8.6” wide by 3.9” tall by 1.25” deep when closed, and 10.75” wide when fully open, JiSS-250i is physically the most similar to i-Station Traveller, which measures 6.75” wide by 3.5” tall by 1.25” deep when closed, and 10.6” wide when open. Both systems shrink in width largely for the sake of portability, and expand outwards to accommodate horizontally mounted iPod touches, iPhones, and iPod nanos. By comparison, the larger i-Station Rotate doesn’t squeeze closed; it always measures 12.25” wide, 4.75” tall and 2” deep. Whereas you’re expected to just drop your iPhone or iPod into a recess in i-Station Traveler’s center, both JiSS-250i and i-Station Rotate have physically rotating docks that fully hold and mount the iPod or iPhone inside.
All three of these systems come with similar parts: wall power adapters, simple carrying cases, and a couple of extras. Jensen includes an auxiliary audio cable and plastic cradles for various iPods and iPhones, while Traveller includes four AAA batteries and an adapter for connection to cell phones with 2.5mm audio ports, and Rotate comes packaged with plastic cradles, an auxiliary audio cable, and an Infrared remote control. Like Traveller, JiSS-250i runs off of four AAAs, but you’ll have to supply them yourself; Rotate demands four bigger AA cells for portable power, and requires you to purchase them separately.
JiSS-250i’s functionality and performance is halfway between Logic3’s systems. Like i-Station Rotate, JiSS-250i connects to iPods or iPhones with a Dock Connector plug rather than a headphone port plug—the cheaper, simpler connector used by i-Station Traveller. This seemingly simple difference means that JiSS-250i can also serve as a charger for the connected iPod or iPhone, which i-Station Traveller cannot. It also means that the electrical audio connection between JiSS-250i is at least a little better.
Sonically, there’s no doubt that JiSS-250i sounds superior to the lower-end i-Station and inferior to the higher-end one. In direct comparisons, JiSS-250i produced fuller-bodied, slightly more detailed sound at the same volume levels of the i-Station, and reached a modestly higher top volume level, with noticeably lower distortion than did Traveller at its lower peak. Jensen’s larger two audio drivers were mostly responsible for its performance benefits. By contrast, i-Station Rotate had the same benefits over JiSS-250i: its four-driver array produced cleaner, fuller-bodied sound than the Jensen design, and exhibited less distortion at its slightly louder peak than the JiSS-250i.
It’s worth noting that while all three of the systems are “iPhone compatible,” none is actually immune to the effects of iPhone EDGE interference; all three continue to exhibit a low-volume chirp when the iPhone’s in this mode, though little to no problem when the iPhone’s in 3G and Wi-Fi modes. Most iPhone 3G users won’t notice or care, but original iPhone owners may find that Airplane Mode is a better option for clean music listening with any of these devices.
The only other thing worth noting about JiSS-250i relative to other similar speakers is its relatively simple design. From a materials standpoint, it’s very much like the other speakers mentioned here, with glossy and matte black plastics, matte silver speaker rings, and metal speaker grills near power and volume buttons. There are black flip-out feet on the bottom just like Rotate’s, and there’s nothing cheap about the system’s overall appearance. But the proportions of plastic to metal favor the Logic3 designs cosmetically, and make the JiSS-250i look a little less spectacular. Build quality is consistently solid across all three products.
Overall, the JiSS-250i is a good, though less than groundbreaking speaker option for users who are looking for something portable, relatively inexpensive, and versatile enough to use with widescreen or vertically mounted iPods and iPhones. For a $20 premium over Traveller, you’ll get better sound and a nicer charging and docking system, but lose a little in looks, while you’ll need to cough up $50 more to get similar functionality in a larger casing with bigger sound and remote control functionality in i-Station Rotate. If a rotating dock isn’t necessary to your iPod or iPhone usage, other options will prove equally satisfactory sonically.