Last year, iPod speaker innovation appeared to have all but come to an end. The few companies who weren’t aping Bose’s SoundDock had settled into a predictable rut, releasing either iterative improvements to their own prior models, or trying minor spins on those released by others. Then, for whatever reason, the middle of 2008 caught us by surprise: three companies recently delivered four audio systems that took different, interesting spins on earlier genres in an effort to appeal to new audiences. We’re looking at all four of them in separate reviews today.
Though it might have otherwise been a conventional all-in-one iPod speaker system, JVC’s new NX-PX7 ($150) is interesting for two reasons: it’s the first speaker we’ve seen with twin iPod or iPhone charging and audio docks, yet it’s not outrageously priced. It’s also the only speaker we look at today that is certified as shielded against iPhone audio interference; the others are iPod-only.
NX-PX7 isn’t the first dual iPod or iPhone dock around—Griffin’s PowerDock 2 was the first dual-dock accessory we tested—but that earlier design was limited in purpose and functionality to merely charging the docked devices. NX-PX7 does that, and at 12.5” wide by 6” deep takes up more space on a flat surface, but provides an easy way to actually listen to the connected devices rather than just keeping their batteries topped off. Two full-range speakers, each nearly 3 inches in diameter, are found inside the silver and black cabinet, set off to the sides of the docks behind a unified metal grille. We can’t say that we love the system’s design, but it’s not terrible, either.
Plastic flaps inside can expose either, neither, or both of the docks at once, and though you can’t merge two devices’ music into a single audio stream, you can switch between their audio with buttons on the system or the included Infrared remote control. You can also activate multi-colored lights on the unit’s face under the docks, which is sort of interesting if not especially useful; more functional are the NX-PX7’s integrated AM and FM radio tuners and digital clock, accessed under the docks via integrated buttons or an included remote control.
Strictly speaking, none of these features is a major breakthrough, as we’ve seen myriad all-in-one iPod speaker, clock, and radio docks before, and apart from its dual charging capability NX-PX7 doesn’t bring anything new to the table. However, we liked the system’s neutral default audio balance and very good overall sound quality, which can be augmented with user-controllable bass and treble settings, as well as a feature JVC calls “Sound Turbo.”
Apparently supposed to be a spatializer, Sound Turbo just makes the system sound a little less lively when it’s deactivated, so we found that keeping it on was a better idea. We saw much more of a difference when tweaking the NX-PX7’s bass, which took the system from neutral to a pleasant, non-overbearing level of warmth. That said, you can do better for the $150 asking price if you’re really a fan of bass; systems such as iHome’s iH51 offer similar features and more substantial low-end at similar prices.
Radio performance was above average. We had no problem clearly tuning in FM stations and actually enjoyed the system’s powerful radio sound, however, AM performance was mitigated by a fair bit of buzz interference—more than on the iHome system we were testing at the same time. However, the NX-PX7 doesn’t suffer from the same level of iPhone-related AM/FM radio interference as iHome’s units have, which is a plus for iPhone and iPhone 3G users. Should iPhone users consider the NX-PX7 as a replacement for a comparably priced iHome? Perhaps; JVC’s inclusion of these radios and the three-stage dimming clock are both appreciated, though there aren’t alarms built in here, and the clock is on the small side. Those looking for an alarm clock radio will need to go elsewhere; this is purely a clock radio, and then, a limited one.
On a final note, JVC’s Infrared remote control includes 22 buttons, offering both iPod menu navigation and separate controls for all of the NX-PX7’s varied light, speaker, radio, and clock features. However, like earlier JVC systems we’ve seen, the remote’s buttons could really stand to be reorganized for reasons of aesthetics and simplicity; there’s a lot of little text to read and decode before just pressing a button. According to JVC, the system has 15 AM presets and 30 FM presets, but the remote doesn’t make obvious how they should be accessed, and tuning is—as is sometimes the case with Japanese- or Chinese-developed radios—done in small 0.1FM increments rather than U.S. standard 0.2 steps. Thankfully a scanning feature eliminates the need to keep pressing the tuning buttons over and over again.
Overall, the NX-PX7 is a very nice all-in-one audio system for the $150 asking price, offering very good speaker, radio, and charging features in a reasonably sized, convenient package. It won’t win awards for its styling, and certain aspects of its design—the remote and the colored front lights—seem to unnecessarily add complexity, but between the novelty of its double dock functionality and its good out-of-box sound, it’s worthy of consideration, particularly if you need an iPhone-ready speaker.
Company and Price
Company: JVC (Victor Company of Japan, Limited)
Compatible: iPod 4G, 5G, classic, mini, nano, touch, iPhone