Having been given an iPod Nano for Christmas by my wife, and having kitted it out with a decent pair of replacement headphones, the next obvious step was to find a decent portable docking station with speakers that I could plug them into – for use on holiday, at the beach, or on the rare occasions when the weather permits a picnic or barbecue in this rain-sodden country. My previous (albeit limited) experience of portable speakers has been pretty poor – they tended to sound tinny, distorted the music at louder volumes, and the batteries never lasted long enough. As such, I wasn’t expecting much when I started looking around for a suitable unit. While surfing Amazon, the sophisticated looks of the Philips SBD6000 caught my attention, and encouraged by some fairly positive reviews I took the plunge.
What’s In The Box?
The unit comes well packaged in a clean, durable, attractive and predominantly white box – and the theme continues with the contents. There are four main components. A mains adapter with an approximately 2 metre lead, two separate satellite speakers, and a round base unit. My model comes in a white gloss finish, but apparently it is available in black as well. It also includes a black, cordura type, double-zipped storage pouch with internal dividers to store and carry the two speakers and the base unit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t accommodate the mains adapter (which means I am forever misplacing it) but as it’s designed to protect the unit on the go, it’s a forgivable (if slightly annoying) oversight. There are also five separate adapters in the box to allow the base unit to accommodate a variety of different iPod models. To be clear, the SBD 6000 is dedicated to iPod use and is not suitable for other MP3 players.
The Base Unit
The base unit is four inches in diameter and about an inch thick, and contains the inputs for the speakers and the power cord at the back. The top of the unit has a silver volume slider, an on/off switch (with a power-on indicator), and the housing for the iPod player. My 4th Generation iPod Nano securely slots into and out of the housing with consummate ease. The bottom of the base pops off to reveal the battery compartment, which takes six (6) AAA batteries.
My iPod Nano, when plugged in, “leans back” at around a 30° angle, which helps with visibility, but it can be a bit fiddly to operate because of its small size. I often find myself having to pick up the whole base unit to change or select music, and found it works best when I create a play list and let it alone to play through it. An added bonus (as with most docking station/speaker combinations) is that the unit recharges your iPod when it is plugged in to the mains, regardless of whether the power to the speakers is turned on or not.
The two corded speakers are around three and a half inches in diameter, with a white metal perforated grill with chrome trim covering the speaker drivers. They stand on a wide base, around which the speaker cord is neatly wound when not in use, and sit on three small rubber feet, which prevent them from moving or vibrating excessively when in use. The speaker cable, which terminates in a 3.5mm jack, extends to almost three feet and is sheathed in a durable, flexible and rubberised white plastic.
Output from the speakers is three watts each, but despite the apparently modest power, they do pack a relatively good punch, providing good bass at even low volumes, and dealing with Guns & Roses “Sweet Child Of Mine” with as much vim, vigour and subtlety as Pachelbel’s “Canon”. The generous length of the speaker cables allows an extra wide sound stage (six feet) which the speakers do an excellent job of filling, making music sound more expansive and realistic. Despite my initial fears, the sound quality from this unit is far from tinny, and all but the most fussy of audiophiles are likely to be quite pleased with the output. It’s never going to power a rave, but it does a fine job doing what is was designed for – music on the go.
Looks & Build Quality
The SBD6000, with its sleek curves, clean white lines, silver trim and rounded edges is a stunning unit to look at and exudes class and quality. The thick plastic housings feel durable and robust in both design and build and, unlike other units I have seen, it’s hard to see an obvious point of failure. I have been using it for over eight months now in various environments and it has been a reliable and very useful accessory for my iPod.
The instruction booklet recommends against using rechargeables, and with six AAA batteries needed, I was concerned about the not-insignificant running costs of using this as a truly portable unit (as a guide, 6 AAA Duracell’s cost around $6 to $10). However, I needn’t have worried, as this game little unit consistently gives you around 10 hours of constant use at moderate volume, which is plenty enough for most occasional, outdoor or portable use.
Is it worth the steep price tag? To be frank, I probably would not have considered the SBD6000 had I been asked to pay the full £100 RRP. That said, for the design, build and sound quality they are certainly worth that money, and if you can find them for less, then you’ll have a real bargain on your hands.