Remember those vertical record players that were all the rage in the 70s and 80s? If you do then you’ll quickly see where iLuv got the inspiration for its eye-catching i9200 system.
The i9200 combines four vertically-mounted CD players, an MW/FM radio with 16-station memory per band, a sensibly-placed iPod dock and a set of decent stereo speakers.
The wing-like CD players on either side of the system give it a statuesque look. There are lots of cool touches, too. For example, it’s wall-mountable and the CD players are protected by sliding doors that retract at the touch of a button. Such moving parts are one of those features that makes using a consumer electronics product exciting, even if these only slide back one at a time. The system ships with the fixtures needed to hang it on your wall, and offers floorstands for the main unit and speakers.
Assembled in a matter of minutes, the i9200 stands 42cms tall, with the iPod dock hidden behind a drawer at the top. With your iPod in place, the system looks as though it’s been designed to accentuate the music player’s iconic status, like a shrine. But it’s not all style over substance – the i9200 also charges your iPod’s battery.
The system can navigate and play MP3 CDs as well as standard CDs, and lets you program up to 40 tracks for playback. Additional functions include mute, sleep, timer, and a clock display with a sleep function. The front of the unit hosts separate volume and power switches that are decorative as well as utilitarian – like the chrome flashings on a car. The system’s other controls are situated discreetly in front at the bottom and include a 3.5mm headphone port.
The round, white-illuminated, silver-bordered LCD screen is easy to read from across the room and is echoed by four round silver platters placed on the CD doors. The twin speakers feature silver-metal circles on the fronts and are equipped with enough cable to give you flexibility when placing them in your room.
Connectivity is limited: you can’t integrate the i9200 into an existing system as there’s no auxiliary sound input. The system offers three audio connections at the rear, one for each speaker and an RCA jack for a subwoofer (an optional extra). You’ll also find a power port and a fixed radio antenna wire. There’s no option to connect a more powerful antenna for better reception of hard-to-catch channels such as XFM.
The speakers each contain two cones: a 45mm tweeter and a 90mm cone for the bass and mid-range. There’s practically no sound distortion at maximum volume, which is 50W (two 10W and two 15W cones). The i9200’s sound quality is excellent for a system without a built-in bass subwoofer. The treble is well-detailed and the overall sound balance is sensitive, though fixed. Digital music (MP3 CDs and iPods) sounds detailed rather than flat and the quality of standard CD playback is equally good.
Despite its excellent acoustic reproduction, iLuv’s one-size-fits-all strategy means that users can’t tweak settings to get the exact sound they want as there are no bass, treble, EQ or sound balance controls. These features, available on most systems, allow listeners to adjust the sound to match their tastes and compensate for the shape of a room.
The i9200 ships with an infrared remote control. Unfortunately, we found elements of its interface confusing. Rather than a single control, it has two play/pause buttons, one each for the CDs and the iPod. The iPod navigation is limited, too – you can’t navigate through the menu using the remote, though you do get all the standard commands. We note that since Apple opened up this function to developers last year, most new iPod products now ship with remotes capable of navigating through entire music libraries.
We found the remote unresponsive at times. It’s buttons are protected by a plastic membrane and, occasionally, no amount of pressing would initiate the control signal we were trying to send. Applying a finger at a slight angle to the control button did achieve better results, but we were disappointed at the way the remote behaves – particularly when it’s part of a system that has so much to offer.
Impressive to look at and capable of excellent music playback, iLuv could be on to a winner with this retro-styled product. While there are criticisms – particularly of the remote and the lack of a line-in port for other devices – we believe the company has made a valuable addition to the iPod stable with the i9200.