When you think about Car Audio, one of the first names that come to mind is the ever so popular Kicker brand of audio equipment. While they have traditionally produced some of the best bang for your buck car subwoofers, they have until recently steered away from home audio. Although it had been out for a few months, we got our first hands on look at the Kicker iK501, at CES 2011. Today we have gotten one in our hands to take a closer look at. Will their home audio be as crisp, clear, and loud as their car audio counterparts? Join us as we take a look.
The new iK501 now certifiably works with iPhone,™ along with iPhone 3G and all 4th-generation or newer iPod media players. Another feature is composite video output, allowing the user to play video from the unit to larger screens.
Still portable and still loud, the iK501 still features the outrageous, square-shaped reflex subwoofer on the back of the unit, along with a pair of five-inch woofers and silk-dome tweeters. It’s all juiced by a powerful internal amplifier with digital signal processing for the richest, best-sounding docking system available.
Dig deeper into DSP with the thin infrared remote, fully featured to fine-tune the iPod or iPhone’s music and video content. It helps to navigate with ease through the iK501 system menu, adjusting bass, treble, and aux-in options, as well as through the iPod or iPhone’s menus and sub-menus. Skip forward and back, fast-forward and back, play and pause, volume, mute, and power on/off selections have their own buttons too.
The rotary knob manually serves as the power and selection push button, and controller for bass, treble, auxiliary-input options, or standby mode. Standby will continue to charge the iPod or iPhone even when the system is powered down. In the dark, the knob is back-lit in blue and the display LCD screen continues to steer the user easily through the menu.
A minijack input allows a hookup for stereo sound from alternate media, including other MP3 or compact-disc players, desktop and laptop computers, or satellite radio. RCA stereo outputs allow for even more alternative audio hookup. A two-foot auxiliary cable, integrated carrying handle, AC power cord and 22-volt power supply add up to complete a convenient and enjoyable entertainment experience.
The Kicker iK501’s packaging is exactly what you would expect it to be. The unit itself is held in place with hard pressed Styrofoam, and all of the contents are secured by it. Although the box that the iKick501 was packaged was obviously treated as a football during shipping, the mistreatment had no effect on the performance of the unit itself. Although not something you would do on purpose, this shows that a little rough treatment of the iK501 should be handled well.
Testing of any audio equipment is subjective. There will always be preferences in bass, treble, and loudness of music. My testing process attempts to take a look at this from all aspects, and throughout the process, I will listen to many different genres of music, and adjust the settings to the best of the Kicker iK501’s ability.
As with many of Kicker’s user base, the first genre of music that I listened to was Hip Hop. The iK501 was more than able to hit all the highs and lows of Little Wayne, and provided little to no distortion, even with bass turned up and volume near max. This could be majorly in part to the 6” square integrated subwoofer that delivers astonishingly clear bass.
Next I decided to venture across the spectrum. Beethoven and Bach played clear at any level on the iK501. The tone levels did have to be adjusted to get optimal sound from the iK501, but that is hardly a fault of the iK501. Any unit would.
Lastly I played a bit of rock, a little country, some reggae, and even a little techno. No matter what I played, the iK501 took the music in and played it beautifully. This unit could handle much of anything that you could throw at it.
Depending on your particular needs, this docking station may be used indoors for its entire life, or possibly on a back porch. For those of us that like to go to the beach, camp out for the newest iPad, or Playstation, worry not, Kicker has thought about us. They have an optional device that allows you to draw power from your cigarette lighter in your car. This means that you don’t have to leave the music at home when you go out to party. Simply take it with you. If you are worried about this device drawing too much power from your carm don’t worry, we let it run for 8 hours while we waited for the iPad 2 to be launched, and had no problem starting the car up. Of course, this will depend on the battery in your car.
When compared to many other well established home audio names such as Bose, Altec Lansing, etc…, Kicker can absolutely hold its own. With the price of $199.99, this unit isn’t geared toward the economical crowd, but it is certainly a value. Although it seems to have lower wattage’s than many of the competitors, it is just as clear, and just as loud as anything else you could buy in this range. While many think of Bose for ultimate sound quality, beware, Kicker is making a name for itself, and kicking the competition to the floor. Because of this, we really have no choice, other than to award the Kicker iK501 with our Awesome Hardware Award.