Review: Sonic Impact i-P22 Portable Speaker System for iPod

Pros: One of the most attractive combinations of sound quality, size, and price we’ve seen in a portable speaker, with a durable ballistic nylon zippered hard case, a Universal iPod Dock, and a wall power adapter. Runs for 24 hours off of four AA batteries.

Cons: Lacks a few frills found in leading competing sub-$100 speakers, such as computer synchronization, remote control, a dedicated bass driver, or international wall adapters.

Review: Sonic Impact i-P22 Portable Speaker System for iPod

Based upon Sonic Impact’s earlier i-Pax speaker system for the iPod shuffle, i-P22 has been redesigned as a low-cost docking portable speaker system for all Dock Connector-equipped iPods. With an iPod-ready Universal Dock in the bottom center and two ported speaker drivers on its top left and right, i-P22 folds into an easily carried ballistic nylon case with a sturdy zipper and detachable strap. A power supply is included for wall power, or you can add your own four AA batteries to two compartments inside to get up to 24 hours of run time. You can store earbuds in a small compartment in the unit’s top half. As always, Sonic Impact uses a rubber-sealed compartment on the unit’s side to house audio and power ports; this model doesn’t have a pass-through Dock Connector for synchronization.

Last year, Sonic Impact released i-Pax, one of the only speaker systems dedicated specifically to the first-generation iPod shuffle, and a smaller sibling to the company’s original i-Fusion. Since it had become apparent that most of our readers weren’t interested in shuffle accessories – especially ones costing nearly as much as the shuffle itself – we opted not to cover i-Pax, but we’ve kept a unit around anyway.

Now Sonic Impact has released i-P22 ($90), an almost identical system that sells for $10 more than i-Pax, but offers improved audio and a Universal iPod Dock for superior iPod compatibility.

From the outside, the two portable speakers look basically identical. Just like i-Fusion and its more recent i-F2 replacement, i-P22 places two speaker drivers inside of a black, reinforced ballistic nylon case that measures roughly 8.3” by 4.8” by 2.5” closed, and slightly under 2 pounds without an iPod inside. A rubber-coated, weather-resistant compartment on the unit’s left side covers two ports, one for power, and one for auxiliary audio input. When the case’s zipper is opened, you’ll see the iPod-ready Universal Dock in the bottom center, in front of a power switch and volume buttons, with two AA battery compartments off to its sides, and two ported speaker drivers on its top left and right, flanking a compartment that’s large enough for headphones, but too small for any iPod.

Review: Sonic Impact i-P22 Portable Speaker System for iPod

The system comes with a detachable carrying strap, a wall power adapter, and three Dock Adapters – one for iPod minis, and two for full-sized iPods of various thicknesses. Newer iPods and nanos can use the adapters found in their boxes if you want to guarantee a snug fit. Sonic Impact also includes an audio cable that allows you to connect older iPods and shuffles to the aforementioned auxiliary input on the unit’s side. You’ll have to provide four total AA batteries for on-the-road power, but will get 24 hours of audio run time out of them, which is great by portable iPod speaker standards. As with most iPod speakers, the integrated dock recharges your iPod when connected to wall power, but not when connected to the batteries.

Missing from i-Pax are three trivial features: a 3-D spacialization switch that introduced distortion into the original unit’s audio, a headphone port, and the dedicated iPod shuffle USB dock.

None of these items will be missed, especially since current, second-generation shuffles can’t use the USB dock, but also because Sonic Impact’s redesign has made small but noticeable tweaks to the original’s audio quality.

Review: Sonic Impact i-P22 Portable Speaker System for iPod

In straight comparisons between i-Pax and the i-P22, the newer model has noticeably less distortion, particularly at higher volumes, where i-P22 can go as loud as i-Pax without warbling. The volume level is actually impressive for such a small speaker system: you can crank it up to a level loud enough for more than a few people to listen at the same time, and it will fill a small or quiet room with sound. Though there’s no thump in the low-end – an issue with any properly balanced speaker of this one’s size and price – there’s enough clean bass and treble to render any song very listenable. Sonic Impact has struck the right balance.

Review: Sonic Impact i-P22 Portable Speaker System for iPod

That said, i-P22 isn’t the equivalent of the larger, more expensive i-Fusion or i-F2 in audio horsepower: Sonic Impact’s larger systems can be turned up louder and have somewhat superior detail and treble. For the added dollars, i-F2 also gives you an integrated rechargeable battery, a remote control, and computer synchronization functionality. But whereas i-F2 is designed to compete with the $150-$180 portable speaker systems out there – Logitech’s mm50, Altec Lansing’s iM3c, and the like – i-P22 is a rival to sub-$100 portable systems such as Altec Lansing’s iM11 (iLounge rating: B+), JBL’s On Tour (iLounge rating: A-), and Logic3’s i-Station7 (iLounge rating: A).

If judged solely on manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRPs), Sonic Impact clearly offers a great value proposition for the dollar. The i-P22 is a rival to the superior-sounding On Tour on sound quality and run time, has the iPod docking and charging functionality of the iM11, and then adds a smarter case design and Universal iPod Dock to the mix. But because of JBL’s aggressive street pricing, many stores have long been selling the On Tour – a great-sounding system, minus the iPod dock and nice ballistic nylon case – for only $60.