Review: JVC NX-PS1 Compact Component Speaker with Connection for iPod
As JVC's first Apple-sanctioned Made for iPod speaker system, the NX-PS1 ($250) offers a cube-shaped alternative to the white multi-component speaker systems offered by companies such as JBL and iHome. We've opted to do only a capsule review of this system because of its very modest iPod integration, which struck us as being of afterthought quality, rather than a fully realized design.
When first unpacked, the NX-PS1 package appears to be impressively equipped: in addition to two black fabric grille-covered 3” satellites and a 6 5/16” down-firing subwoofer, all in predominantly white plastic, JVC includes four other parts of interest to iPod owners. There’s a central control unit with a black and light blue LCD screen, two USB ports and a JVC-proprietary iPod connection port, plus buttons for power, volume, function, play/pause, stop, track backward and forward. An auxiliary input and headphone output are hidden along with the first USB port under a panel on the unit’s bottom right corner. You also get cables to connect the subwoofer and satellites to the control unit, as well as a power supply that connects the control unit to the wall, and an Infrared remote control to access the unit’s various features. In all regards, this is a fairly typical multimedia speaker system, and one that visually fits well with white computers such as Apple’s iMacs - we spent some time testing the system with one, and generally found it to be a nice addition to the iMac’s integrated audio system.
Twenty-two buttons are found on the included remote control, collectively permitting access to the unit’s integrated but simple clock, timer, and sleep features, bass, treble and EQ settings, as well as controls for various types of connected music devices. It appears as if NX-PS1 was primarily designed to interface with non-iPod MP3/WMA players, as its control cube provides on-screen, semi-navigatable access to those formats of audio files found on connected USB devices, a handy feature if you’re not an iPod user, but not one that most iPod owners will care much about. We found the remote to be above-average in functionality but somewhat spotty in reception, and the cube’s integrated clock to be small to the point of near pointlessness, there just because it could be.
Our biggest issue with the NX-PS1 was with the iPod interface, which is a few steps behind what we’ve seen in most $200-250 “Made for iPod” speakers that are out there these days. We’ll only briefly note the fact that constantly toggling between input sources will present a challenge for some users; NX-PS1 doesn’t auto-detect or mix input, and requires you to use the function button to flip between various modes before your iPod or computer’s sound can be heard. One of our testers found this to be an annoyance when trying to exploit the NX-PS1’s computer-slash-iPod audio connectivity, which could have been easier to transition between.
More significant was the fact that instead of creating a full iPod dock, as in the company’s RA-P10 portable clock radio unit, JVC instead includes only a Dock Connector-to-JVC proprietary port cable to let the system interface with an iPod. This cable plugs into the back of the control cube and provides you with a few feet of length in which to essentially leave your iPod sitting someplace while connected. Rather than providing a full-fledged iPod dock, the cable sits in a less than secured way in the bottom of a tray-like stand, and the iPod rests inside; only charging and audio-out are provided, without any video support. The tray also doesn’t make it easy to see your iPod’s screen unless you’re hovering directly over it - the angle is just off - and at a time when companies such as Monitor Audio and iHome are designing full-fledged component systems with very nice iPod docks, JVC’s design comes across as a half-hearted way to offer iPod integration without making a real effort.
On a more positive note, the NX-PS1 sounds pretty good - not great - for the price. With 50 watts of total power, the NX-PS1 sits in-between JBL’s popular Creature and Encounter speaker systems, and not surprisingly noticeably outstrips far less expensive systems such as Creature and JBL’s more recent Spot in clarity and midrange performance, comparing more to the Encounter and similar $150-200 systems in detail. As one would expect from a JVC system at this price, NX-PS1’s sound is tight and controlled rather than boomy - bass and treble adjustments tend to bring out measured enhancements rather than distortion - though the system’s peak volume level and bass are not going to blow away most people for the dollar. Even when tuned to the user’s preference, the NX-PS1 is a more clinical system than we’d expected, neither warm nor punchy, just competent. By multimedia speaker standards, you can do better for the dollar - systems such as Altec’s FX6021 are basically in a different league sonically, while iHome’s recent iH52 offers similarly good sound with many more features and better iPod integration for the dollar.
Overall, our feelings about the NX-PS1 are somewhat mixed. While there’s no doubt in our minds that this is an attractively designed, Mac- and iPod-matching audio system that’s capable of delivering good sound, its pricing is high relative to speakers with better iPod integration and/or sound quality. That said, stores have a fair degree of pricing flexibility on this unit, and we expect to see it become substantially more affordable over time, at which point, it should become more attractive to iPod and other users. In the meanwhile, we’re going to continue to hold out for a JVC component system with a real iPod dock and a bit more power for the price.