There's something new on my desk. The Jawbone Jambox is a great product but I wanted bigger sound.
I've always wanted an Apple Hi-Fi. I don't have a great deal of money or space for speakers so the Hi-Fi made total sense (maybe not the money part). However, as we all know, the product was discontinued due to low sales.
The SYD 5 is a product clearly "inspired" by the Hi-Fi. It's much larger though. Just by comparing photos, it seems to be about 30% larger than Apple's counterpart. When I saw this for sale on Fab, I had to grab it. These speakers launched at a price of $360 but they are now available for as low as $150 on clearance. The white model seems to be totally sold out though.
The SYD 5 is by a small Canadian company called Kanto. Their website indicates that the speaker cabinet is made of wood. These speakers seem to be completely hand built. The paint and finishes are meticulously done.
The front grill is held on magnetically. The five magnets auto align the grill, making the design free of pins. The front of the grill comes with a logo plaque. It was ugly so I peeled it off.
Unlike the cabinet, the grill is of questionable quality. The wood has harsh edges and the cuts seem like they are hand done. The magnets are also held in with cheap foam pads that look like they're from the craft store. Not a big deal though.
The speaker has two 5.25" drivers and two 3" drivers. This thing is big.
The Apple Hi-Fi had one fewer driver, giving it a proportionally more appealing design. It's interesting how the SYD 5 has a more elegant magnetic grill though.
The woofers on the SYD 5 are made of kevlar and the tweeters are of silk. I guess that's a good thing.
Like the Apple Hi-Fi, the key source of audio is an Apple dock connector. Kanto includes a bunch of adapters for various (older) iPods.
The SYD 5 also charges your device through the connector. This made my universal dock obsolete. When I come home now, I just dock my iPhone into the SYD 5. When it's time to go, the phone is charged and ready for action.
The back features additional input options including RCA and a standard 3mm aux jack. There is also an s-video output for video playback - which I haven't tried. Surprisingly, there's an AC outlet that is prefect for connecting an AirPort Express to make this an AirPlay speaker.
The reflex ports are positioned in the rear. There is a ridiculous number of screws on the back but thankfully they are constrained to that black panel.
Kanto includes a foam foot in the box that they get the user to stick on. I find it strange that it isn't just preinstalled.
Despite some questionable design decisions, there isn't much to get annoyed by. Even the power cord has a wall friendly L-shaped plug.
So how does this sound? It sounds fantastic. The system has no difficulty of presenting layered sound in a clear, accurate fashion and the bass is powerful and deep. Right out of the box, the speaker does sound extremely bass heavy (I blame the modern youth for this trend). When I first powered up the system, I was disappointed at how the bass overpowered everything. Thankfully SYD 5 has a simple bass/treble adjustment that allows for an effective fix. I live in an apartment so I haven't tried playing music in extreme volume levels but the speaker has no hesitation in filling my entire flat with distortion free music. With the music on my iPhone and the magic of AirPlay, I can start playing anything instantly. This truly is a simple home stereo replacement. I'm not claiming that this is of audiophile quality but it honestly one of the best - if not the best - iPod speaker system I've heard. I'm including products like the Zepplin Air that cost significantly more.
So you're probably wondering how the bass/treble adjustments I just talked about are done. They are done through an IR remote. This is the worst part about the SYD 5. I hate IR.
I could forgive IR's line-of-sight limitations if the remote is well done like Apple's. The problem is that the remote that Kanto provides is utterly crap. The buttons are mushy and it feels like a melting chocolate bar in your hand. It does offer some nice functionality though. The problem is that these functions are only accessible through this remote. If you lose it, you are done for. And although the bass/treble adjustment can make the SYD 5 sound brilliant, these settings are reset when you adjust the volume. So you'll find yourself constantly mushing at these horrible buttons.
A nasty QC sticker completes the circle of crap. If the SYD 5 had a proper remote and offered some simple adjustments directly on the speaker, I would love this product. This speaker does sound truly outstanding. It's just such a disappointed that the part that you interact the most with is the biggest weak link in the chain.
The SYD 5 is an amazing sounding product that just has one huge flaw - the worst remote I've ever seen. It sounds and looks great on my desk so I will be happily using this for quite some time. If only Apple made this speaker. Oh. Wait.