Fluance. The name alone exudes a certain level of snobbery. And by that I mean high end, lacquered opulence. The speaker company isn’t widely known, but they contacted me asking if I’d be interested in there FiSDK500, an iPhone/iPod dock. So I said sure, and along it came. I really had no expectations going into this review, but for starters I can say that I’m a bit surprised, and here’s why.
Right out the box, the first thing I noticed was the all black glossy finish of the Fluance FiSDK500 speaker dock. It’s an almost completed sealed cabinet, which is something you often see in high end home theater speakers, and it’s equatable in luster to that of a grand piano. Yup, it’s built with the kind of respect your teenage son could never grasp. Ultimately, the Fluance FiSDK500 is a no frills, or thrills speaker dock with a heavy focus on build and, well, sound quality (more on this latter point shortly).
On the face of the FiSDK500 is a small, brightly lit LED display. By design, the FiSDK500 enters a standby mode when you power it down, which is signified by a “-”. Again, this is something you often see in high end home theater equipment, amps to be specific. So yes, there is a trend emerging, but needless to say it’s a good one. Hit the standby button on the FiSDK500 and the system clicks on with a slight thud. Again, another indicator that this is a home theater manufacturer.
Slight glue leakage – click to enlarge
Fluance has included 4 metal pegs for placing the dock on a soft surface. It’s a nice touch, but hardly nescessary in my opinion given its hefty weight. But you can’t knock them for trying and it’s just another attempt at conveying its solid build quality. However, with further examination, I noticed that the face of the dock is actually glued into place. Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect job, as the top had a few glue smears. Not a deal breaker, but a little disappointing since it over shadowed the box’s high end glossy finish.
Update: Fluance reached out and said they have addressed the glue leakage on all future shipments. So it should be a non-issue from here on out.
Two full-range premium 5” woven fiberglass composite drivers make up the horn section, while a integrated amp powers up the tunes channeled from the 30-pin dock. The cabinet is made from audiophile grade MDF wood, and is specifically designed to reduce resonance. The rear is outfitted with two bass ports, an AUX video ouptput (a nice touch) and an RCA input for other non iOS devices. Though the cabinet sports a limited button configuration (power, input and volume), Fluance has included a remote that allows you to adjust the treble, bass, volume and interact with the iPod’s menu (it won’t work with Spotify or other audio apps). Now, down to brass tacks.
The Fluance FiSDK500 is an excellent sounding system, and for $200 it most certainly can sonically keep pace, if not out perform similarly priced docks. In fact, given the build quality I thought it had to be at least $300+, that is until I checked out the product’s website. However, despite it’s lower than expected price tag, it does have some short comings in the audio quality department. At normal (20) to louder (30) volumes, the FiSDK500 can hold its own, displaying no distortion or loss in audio production. But crank it to 35+ (it caps out at 40) and the music will begin to distort and lose its clarity. I made sure to test it with a wide range of music and unfortunately this occured with pretty much any genre I threw in its path. Some relief can be found by lowering the bass output, but the higher frequencies still lost their clarity at peak levels. So this leaves me to believe that the FiSDK500 is slightly underpowered, since distortion at higher volumes is generally a reflection of this. Nonetheless, playback at an amplitude between 30-35 is plenty loud, though it may lack the necessary oomph for some. Comparing it to a pair of Audioengine amplified speakers I noticed that the voice section of many tracks didn’t boast an equitable gusto and was ever so slightly muddled with the other sections of the music.
So, to reiterate, the Fluance FiSDK500 is a great sounding dock for the money, it just loses face at higher volumes. But that isn’t to say the build quality is anything short of exceptional, though the front of the dock did suffer from leaked glue marring its glossy finish ever so slightly. The addition of a set of tweeters, as well as a power boost could help resolve some of the docks sonic short comings, however that might increase the price and subsequently place it at another level.
Fluance FiSDK500 iPhone Speaker Dock Bottom Line: Christen Costa 3.5 5.0 It’s a great sounding dock and looks cool for 0. Unfortunately, it distorts at high volumes and some of the frequencies get a bit muddles since there are just two speakers.
You can buy the Fluance FiSDK500 from Amazon for $199.99.
- Opulent glossy finish and build
- Good bang for the buck when you consider other docks in the same price range
- Very easy to use
- Audio distorts at high volumes
- No battery operation