In use, it’s all transparently simple. While your PC or notebook is switched on the SRS-GD50iP behaves like any other set of USB speakers, taking a digital stream straight from your PC and using the built-in amplifier to output to the satellites and sub. Plug in the iPod and press the input button, and you can listen to music direct from the portable player.
While plugged in the unit charges and syncs, much as it would if you had it hooked up to a basic docking cradle. There’s really not much more to it than that. This simplicity is actually a strength, and the large volume control with its highly visual level indicator is a genuine boon, allowing quickfire changes whether you’re listening to your iPod or playing games and movies on the PC.
To be honest, I was expecting the Achilles heel with this one to be sound quality. For some primeval reason I still equate this with weight, and the satellite speakers and the subwoofer all feel suspiciously light. The same goes for the control station which, you’ll remember, houses the amplifier. The cabling is also thin, bog-standard wire, and the low-ish output ratings don’t exactly inspire confidence. Compare the SRS-GD50iP to, say, Creative GigaWorks T3 set or Acoustic Energy’s Aego M bundle and the Sony speakers just don’t feel like they belong in the same kind of price bracket.
Yet in fact, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Working as USB speaker set the sound is beefy, warm and very alive. Vocals and more stripped-back, acoustic sounds work particularly well, with the system revealing surprising amounts of detail in folky tracks from Cara Dillon and Alison Krauss. I’ve also had a good time listening to the Bill Evans trio’s classic Portrait in Jazz, thanks to clear yet rounded piano tones and a smooth, articulate bassline. The sound is surprisingly big, and there’s no jarring separation between the satellites and subs when it comes to reproducing the mid-range. Where the T3 set wins out is when it comes to clarity and detail.