Sonic Impact T24 Shelf System for iPod

The world is well supplied with iPod-compatible micro-systems. Unfortunately, many of them don't look so good. An exception is Sonic Impact's curvaceous T24.

Its gently undulating front panel brings the dock forward while the speakers, with their dark-grey metal grilles, are more concave. Rather than let the iPod jut above the top surface, the dock instead lives in a deep recess. None of the three supplied snap-in docking pieces matched my nano. Even so, the recess goes a long way toward protecting the iPod from an accidental whack.

The T24 rests on three rubber feet, cutting resonance and preventing it from getting shoved around on a busy surface. Rigorously lacking in controls, the unit has only volume plus and minus buttons on the front panel--nothing else. On the supplied membrane remote are 10 buttons: power, mute, volume up and down, track forward and back, play/pause, repeat, and two source-selects for dock and aux.

The back contains a two-inch port and jacks for the wall-wart power supply, an auxiliary input for non-iPod devices, and a composite video output for playing iPod video or photos. The unit begins playing automatically when an iPod is connected to the dock or another signal source to the aux-in. Like most iPod systems, this one charges the player, but does not run on batteries, rechargable or otherwise.

The speakers have three-inch polycarbonate drivers backed with neodymium magnets in an "acoustically optimized casing," perhaps referring to the tendency of irregularly shaped enclosures to resist standing waves bouncing between parallel surfaces. Digital Class T amplification, at 15 watts per channel, is similar to that used in the Model TA2024 Super T power amplifier, reviewed by our sister publication Stereophile.

Though I do formal auditions of larger gear in my main listening room, iPod-compatible systems tend to spend more time in my bedroom. I've gotten into the habit of setting up 20 or 30 minutes of material before going to bed, while waiting for my meds to kick in. Even with the electronic music I favor at bedtime, the T24 had a noticeably fuller, richer, more mellifluous sound than most products I've reviewed in this category.

With Olé! Tarantula by Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3, it produced a decent rhythm section sound and slightly downplayed the toppy quality of the singer's voice. High-frequency detail was not all it could be--the T24 could be vague and airless--but unlike most same-priced compact systems, it could play loud without getting tinny. The sound is bigger and brawnier than you'd expect from such a small unit, no more than 7 inches tall, 14 wide, and 6 deep.

The Sonic Impact T24 is a great little secondary music system for the iPod-addicted. On vacation or in a summer home, it could even serve as a primary system if you're not too fussy. It sounds and looks good and even has a touch of style. For less than two C-notes, what more could you want?

Price: $179.99 from Sonic Impact.

Mark Fleischmann is the author of the annually updated book Practical Home Theater and tastemaster of Happy Pig's Hot 100 New York Restaurants.