Think of Sonic Impact’s new i-P23 Portable Speaker System ($120) as another iterative product release for the California-based audio company. Regular readers will remember its $80 i-Pax as a quality low-end speaker-slash-hard case for the original iPod shuffle, followed by the iPod-agnostic but otherwise nearly identical $90 i-P22. Then there was a $100 version of i-P22 that was the same inside, only with a new outer shell designed for girls’ apparel company Roxy.
Now i-P23 has arrived, continuing the Roxy partnership, and expanding it to the same parent company’s QuikSilver male apparel brand as well. The Roxy edition of i-P23 has a multi-colored floral exterior and white interior, while the QuikSilver version of i-P23 is black inside and out with more masculine white Quiksilver exterior branding.
In both cases, the art is printed on a smooth, somewhat soft plastic surface rather than on the more rugged ballistic nylon of Sonic Impact’s original i-Pax, i-P22, and i-F series speakers, though the surface remains viable as a hard protective shell, and still zippers up for travel.
Matching metal logos and fabric wrist straps are included for the cases, along with a power supply, auxiliary audio cable, and three total Dock Adapters for i-P23’s central Universal Dock well.
The big change, however, isn’t the outside of the case. It’s the addition of a blue-backlit alarm clock on the inside, complete with a dedicated Lithium battery to keep the time accurate when i-P23 is disconnected from wall power or not in possession of the four AA cells (not included) that keep it running for roughly 24 continuous hours on the road. In the absence of wall or AA battery power, the clock’s backlight and four-position dimmer switch won’t work, but it and its single iPod or beeping alarm can be set.
Unfortunately, neither type of alarm will make noise unless you provide some sort of power beyond the Lithium cell, and by the standards of top alarm clocks we’ve tested, this one’s nothing special. It beeps at a constant volume level, increasing only in number of beeps, and plays iPod audio at the last volume level set, rather than giving you separate or ascending control over the level.
The facts that it’s on i-P23’s bottom half, invisible unless you hover over it and look down, and that it has a pretty shallow viewing angle, don’t make matters better. Overall, the clock looks and feels like it was squeezed a bit awkwardly into the older i-P22 design, rather than fully re-designed around. Similarly, unless you undo two black clasps on the case’s interior sides, the i-P23’s top half also comes a little too close to the top of an iPod that’s docked inside, rather than resting back just a little bit; releasing the clasps lets the speakers recline on a more natural angle.
On a positive note, i-P23 continues to deliver impressively solid audio quality for a unit of its size and limitations. Twin drivers are aided substantially by a rear bass chamber that you can feel breathing through matching front ports, and though i-P23 is smaller than Memorex’s value-laden iTrek, it sounds a bit better, with more detailed highs and mids, and surprisingly clean, warm lows. As we said in our review of i-P22, though i-P23 doesn’t have equivalent sound quality or power to larger, more expensive portable speakers, it achieves a nice sound balance for the price.
The only offsets to our prior comments are ones that occur because of i-P23’s $20 price premium, and changes in the competitive landscape since i-P22’s release.