What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Tue, 10 Mar 2009, 12:00pm

Cygnett-Unison iX5

Tested at £150
80100
4

Far from charmless (and a video output is always welcome), but the iX5 needs to rein in that bass to get near the fifth star

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For

  • Glossy good looks
  • a thumping and forceful sound

Against

  • Too many wires
  • ill-disciplined low frequencies hamper detail retrieval

Not, as we first fondly imagined, an organisation of immature swans, Cygnett-Unison is instead a speaker company with a burgeoning range of iPod-related accessories and a growing presence in Britain's department stores.

The shiny iX5 system is intended to raise the firm's profile and shine a light on the rest of its range.

And, if build quality and finish is anything to go by, Cygnett-Unison shouldn't have too many problems making itself known.

The iX5 is a contemporary looker, a red rag to the greasy-fingered – and almost exactly the same as the Audioengine A5s in terms of dimensions.

iPod dock is separate
The C-U system is slightly more complicated than its rivals, though, inasmuch as it uses a separate iPod dock which, as well as the active right-hand speaker, requires plugging into the mains.

Otherwise, it's business as usual. The active speaker is home to 20 watts per channel of amplification, stereo RCA inputs and a 3.5mm socket.

The RCAs are used to accept a signal from the battery-charging iPod dock – the dock also has an S-Video output for use with a monitor.

The right-hand speaker powers its left-hand partner via a supplied cable, terminated at both end with a 6.3mm plug – so upgrading speaker cable is less straightforward here than with the other four models on test.

A big, punchy sound
With the system set up and ready to go, you have a rather unusual situation where you have three shots at adjusting volume levels. Take your pick from the controls on the iPod dock, those on the right-hand speaker, or those on the supplied remote control.

Get a volume level that suits you, and the iX5 churns out a forthright, punchy sound – a lossless copy of Elbow's One Day Like This is a full-scale blowout in the Cygnett-Unisons' hands.

For all the breadth and dynamism of the performance, though, there's a shortage of fine detail to the iX5's sound that's only partially down to the overconfident low-frequency reproduction.

Switch to a 128kbps file of Tom Waits' Books of Moses and the C-Us' tendency to overstate the bottom end to the detriment of, well, everything else becomes even more apparent.

The C-Us do their best work when positioned on speaker stands, they're pretty unruly on a desktop.

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