Friday, June 03, 2005

Not Just Another Table Radio: Polk Audio Raises Bar with I-Sonic

Polk Audio's new I-Sonic Entertainment System can
receive XM Satellite Radio broadcasts and HD Radio
stations in addition to the AM and FM bands. It also
has a DVD player and, yes, even an alarm clock.
© 2005 Stadium Circle Features. Posted by Hello

(See update below)

If you spotted Polk Audio Inc.'s new I-Sonic in a store window, you probably wouldn't be impressed. It looks like a conventional stereo table radio with what looks like a CD player--certainly nothing special.

Look closer, however, and its abilities come into focus. In addition to the standard AM and FM radio bands, the I-Sonic can also receive XM Satellite radio broadcasts (with the help of an extra-cost antenna) and can tune in the high-quality HD Radio broadcasts now available in many cities. That CD drive? It's actually a DVD player. The video connections are on the back. So much for first impressions.

The $599 I-Sonic Entertainment System was announced at the recent Home Entertainment Show in New York City, but the unit on display was only a non-functioning mock-up. Working units won't be available until September, according to Polk Audio.

[UPDATE (8/11/2005): Polk Audio reports that due to "technology integration issues" the I-Sonic won't be available until the first quarter of 2006.]

If the final product works as advertised, the I-Sonic would be a versatile home entertainment solution for those who don't want to deal with multiple devices. Aside from DVD movies and music CDs, the I-Sonic's DVD player can play music saved in MP3 format. According to Polk Audio, the radio's I-Sonic surround-sound technology and Power Port bass-enhancing speaker ports create a room-filling audio effect from the unit's small stereo speakers. A remote control is also included.

By connecting a $49 Connect & Play XM antenna, the I-Sonic can tune in XM Satellite Radio's offerings, which include 150 commercial-free, CD-quality stations. A basic subscription is $12.95 per month.

HD Radio, developed by iBiquity Digital Corp., allows radio stations to use tiny slices of their unused bandwidth to broadcast high-quality digital radio content. HD Radio, now available in many major radio markets, bumps FM reception to CD quality and improves AM broadcasts to today's FM quality.

Like satellite radio stations, HD Radio stations can broadcast data such as streaming stock reports, weather reports, sports scores or the name of the song that's playing. Unlike satellite radio, HD Radio broadcasts are free and don't require a subscription.

You can connect a digital music player to the iSonic via standard audio input jacks and at the end of the day you can use the I-Sonic as a standard dual-alarm clock radio.

Too much in one box? What do you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am afraid I just couldn't see buying one of these pricey units, not that any blame lies with the designers at Polk, who have clearly done a remarkable job with this ambitious radio.

Everything I've read about HD radio, on FM and especially on AM, makes me leery of ever adopting it, and the pending XM/Sirius merger leaves the whole hardware issue up in the air for the medium-term future. As for DVD players, I love 'em, own two, but am not entirely sure why I'd want one in a table radio.