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Polk Audio i-sonic HD radio review

I’m surprised how many people still don’t know what HD Radio is.  The best way I can describe it is that every major radio station that you know has an HD version and is simultaneously broadcast with its analog version.  Simple right?  Admittedly I had gone years without ever hearing HD Radio so when I received the Polk Audio I-Sonic I was totally blown away by how awesome it sounded.

Having had a Sirius Satellite Radio (it was stolen), I thought that the programming was cool but the audio fidelity was horrible.  Not with HD Radio.  Sound is what HD Radio is all about and the Polk Audio I-Sonic excels at it.  Straight out of the box the I-Sonic delivers stellar audio reproduction values at no expense and I can easily say that I am now a huge fan of Polk Audio products and HD Radio.

In addition to being an HD Radio Receiver, the Polk Audio I-Sonic is also an iPod dock capable of iTunes tagging.  When you hear a song you like, just press the tag button on the I-Sonic and the information is stored and transferred to your connected iPod.  The next time you sync with your computer you can seamlessly buy all your tagged songs from iTunes.  For those of you who buy music this is a great way to check out some new tunes.

The I-Sonic has a myriad of other features as well.  There is a full alarm clock mode, station presets, HD station seek mode, plus the ability to plug it into a TV so you can watch videos or movies from your iPod thus making it a more suitable device to have stationed in your living room.

Aesthetically it kind of reminds me of that BOSE (Buy Other Sound Equipment) speaker system. You know, the one with the infomercial.  It actually has a very unique shape and doesn’t really have a level surface area so you can’t put beers on it.  Polk Audio uses a 4 speaker array with patented PowerPort technology that allows the I-Sonic to deliver room filling sound no matter where you are standing.  I totally agree.  The I-Sonic sounded great regardless of my position to the speakers and even when I was out of the room.

It has a display that is large and blue, and easy to read from across the room.  I also like the fact that HD Radio displays the artist and the track so even if you aren’t tagging music you know who you’re listening to with a glance of the display.

I dabbled through several genres of of music before finding my sweet spot at classic rock.  With no tweaking at all the I-Sonic sounded lavishly lush.  In fact, I had never heard classic rock sound so good.  Most memorable was how round and balanced the bass sounded.  It measured a perfect connection with treble and mid range frequencies to create a classic rock “symphony of emotion.”  In all honesty, words can be very descriptive, but they don’t come near to describing how immaculate this HD radio sounds.  Even using an iPod through it was up there with my current favorite dock the iPig, and though the iPig still jammed a little louder, the quality of the I-Sonic should not be taken lightly.

Tagging worked very smoothly and showed up just under the iTunes store bar in my computer’s iTunes.  Just one click will bring up the collection of songs you have tagged with the option to buy them.  Very easy.

The TV out capability worked flawlessly and really added versatility and depth to the I-Sonic.  All you have to do is make the proper cable arrangements and adjust the settings on your iPod and you are good to go.  The remote control works well with the TV out as well as all the other modes.  My only complaints about the controller are that it’s difficult to tell which end is which and that it could be bigger.

I’m really racking my brain for more to say about this HD Radio system.  It sounds killer, it’s easy to use, has a bunch of modes that are all well designed and implemented, and if you buy music the iTunes tagging feature will surely broaden your music horizons.  I had no issues with the firmware and all of my iPods and iPhones worked like a charm.  The price might be sticking point for some ($400), but I have rarely seen a dock that has so much quality to offer!  This is the type of system that a whole family or household can enjoy and I am just really flat out impressed with this product.

Pros:

  • Sound so awesome you won’t believe it’s radio
  • Versatile and easy to use
  • Compact design

Cons:

  • No matter what I say people will think it’s expensive
  • Remote control could be shaped so you know which way is the front

Buy it here for $400!










Jeff B