Speaker dock reviews

Take a bus ride these days or walk down the street and nearly everyone you pass is tuned in to a portable music player.
 
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01 .Introduction

Speaker dock

Test results for 10 speaker docks from $150 to $450

Take a bus ride these days or walk down the street and nearly everyone you pass is tuned in to a portable music player

The wires can be a hassle when you're out and about, but at home they can come off. A speaker dock lets you listen to your digital music aloud without encumbrance. You simply dump the iPod in the dock for easy listening and it gets recharged automatically.

For this test we bought 10 medium- to higher-priced speaker docks. They’re all one-piece, portable docks, though they differ greatly in shape and size. We tested them for:

  • Sound quality: A panel of three listeners with experience in the recording and sound engineering field awarded scores for each speaker dock after listening to six music tracks using an 80GB video iPod. The music files were in the *.wav format (lossless) and ranged from choir to rock. We averaged their scores to get a sound quality score.
  • Ease of use: Our tester assessed how easy it is to set up the dock and follow the instructions.
  • Standby power: We measured the docks' energy use on standby — the higher the score, the lower the power consumption.

We didn't conduct separate technical tests as they’re more suitable for testing the audio source, which was the same iPod in each case.

Please note: this information was current as of April 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market. For more recent information, see our iPod speaker docks review 2012.


Brands tested

  • Altec Lansing inMotion iM600 #
  • Bose SoundDock #
  • Cyruslink Link Dock
  • EDS SP250 #
  • JBL on stage III #
  • Logic3 JiveBox MIP100K #
  • Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere #
  • Philips Docking Entertainment System AZ1330D #
  • Teac SR-Lxi #
  • XtremeMac Tango #

# Discontinued, but may still be available in some stores.

 
 

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The following models scored the best results in our test 

What to buy
Brand Price
XtremeMac Tango # $299
Teac SR-Lxi-B # $199

The tested speaker docks can be used with most iPods (Apple's MP3 player), however, some early models may not fit. All docks except the Bose have an auxiliary input jack so you can connect other sound input sources such as a CD player, radio, computer or another brand of MP3 player.

Without an auxiliary line input, the Bose can be used only with an iPod. We think this is pretty limiting, especially as this model cost a fair bit more than the others in our test. It scored well overall but because of this limitation we’ve excluded it from the What to buy list (below).

The XtremeMac performed best in the test. The Teac scored lower for sound quality but is cheaper to buy.

About our test

The XtremeMac dock was the only one that our expert panel thought produced enough bass for dance music. It scored 73% for sound quality overall, whereas the others ranged from 40% to 67%.

Three of the four docks that scored 45% or less for sound quality were among the lightest and smallest in the test. Such low bulk can come at the cost of sound quality. They simply lack the power to fill a larger size room with good quality sound — some started to distort the sound when played at higher volume.

Energy use of the smaller docks in standby mode was generally good, but it can show how underpowered they are. Most only used about double their standby power when playing rock 'n' roll music.

Results table

Full results for all models are showin in the table below 

  Performance Features Specifications
Brand / model (in rank order) Overall score (%) Sound quality score (%) Ease of use score (%) Standby power score (%) Price ($) Rechargeable dock Recharges MP3 player when docked Line in for everything else Other stereo features Dimensions (mm, H x W x D) Weight (kg, incl. dock and power cord)
XtremeMac Tango #
www.xtrememac.com
75 73 90 60 299 2.1 (subwoofer) 129 x 363 x 251 3.3
Teac SR-Lxi-B #
www.teac.com.au
71 63 98 70 199 182 x 321 x 72 2.9
Bose SoundDock #
www.bose.com.au
70 67 90 50 449 169 x 304 x 165 2.5
EDS SP250 #
02 9666 5888
68 64 90 50 250 3D sound processor 239 x 454 x 165 6.6
Logic3 JiveBox MIP100K #
www.logic3.com
68 60 89 80 299 2.1 (subwoofer) 193 x 180 x 180 3
Altec Lansing inMotion iM600 #
www.alteclansing.com
66 57 93 70 199 SFX 153 x 283 x 119 1.2
Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere#
www.logitech.com
58 45 95 70 230 StereoXL 94 x 333 x 62 0.9
Cyruslink Link Dock #
02 4351 9663
56 45 88 70 149 97 x 206 x 114 1.3
JBL on stage III #
www.jbl.com
55 42 93 70 330 52 x 191 x 191 0.7
Philips Docking Entertainment System AZ1330D #
www.philips.com
53 40 95 60 210 Dynamic bass boost 145 x 351 x 256 3.6
 

Table notes

#Discontinued, but may still be available in some stores.

Prices are recommended retail, as of March 2008.

Overall score This is made up of:

  • Sound quality: 70%
  • Ease of use: 20%
  • Standby energy: 10%

Features See Useful features for more details.

XtremeMac Tango #

Price: $299

Good points Xtrememac tango

  • The only speaker dock in the test that handled all test music without major faults.
  • The only dock with enough bass for dance music.

Bad points

  • None to mention, unless you’re put off by the white, unusual design.

# This model will be discontinued in June 2008, but may still be available in some stores after then.

Teac SR-Lxi-B #

Price: $199

Good points Teac

  • Handles vocal pieces well.
  • Includes AM/FM radio.

Bad points

  • Some distortion at the very low end. 

Bose SoundDock #

Price: $449

Good points

Bose sound dock

  • Nothing to mention.

Bad points

  • The only dock tested that does not have an audio input jack, so you can’t use it with any sound source other than an iPod.  

Logic3 JiveBox MIP100K #

Price: $299 Logic3 jivebox

Good points

  • The best standby power score of the docks tested.

Bad points

  • Nothing in particular.  

EDS SP250 #

Price: $250

Good points EDS SP250

  • Handles mid range and top end well.
  • Includes AM/FM radio.

Bad points

  • Larger dock without carry handles.  

Altec Lansing inMotion iM600 #

Price: $299

Good points Altec lansing

  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery as well as mains power.
  • Compact, easily portable.
  • Two-year warranty.
  • Includes FM radio.

Bad points

  • Some distortion at higher volumes.

Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere #

Price: $230

Good points

 Logitech pure-fiRechargeable lithium-ion battery as well as mains power.

  • Compact, easily portable.
  • Two-year warranty.

Bad points

  • Lacking in dynamic range.
  • Distorts at higher volumes.
  • Not capable of a very high volume.  

Cyruslink Link Dock #

Price: $150

Good points

  •  CyruslinkCompact, easily portable.

Bad points

  • Lacking in power.
  • Some distortion at higher volumes.
  • Poor bass response.

JBL on stage III #

Price: $330

Good points

 JBLCompact, easily portable.

  • Can run on batteries (6 x AA)

Bad points

  • Lacking in power.
  • Some distortion at higher volumes.
  • Poor bass response.

# Discontinued, but may still be available in some stores.

Philips Docking Entertainment System AZ1330D #

Price: $210

Good points Philips

  • Can run on batteries (6 x D cell).
  • Includes CD player and FM radio.
  • Carry handle.

Bad points

  • Sounds thin and lacks warmth.
  • Poor bass response.

# Discontinued, but may still be available in some stores.

When choosing a speaker dock, the following features can be worth looking for. (Note, the results table includes some of these features.)

Auxiliary input line

This is an analogue input that connects a DVD, portable CD, computer or tape player. All the docks tested, except Bose, have an auxiliary input line. Some of the docks also come with a 3.5mm lead, such as the Teac, EDS, JBL and Philips.

Rechargeable dock

To play music outside, or wherever there’s no mains power, the speaker dock needs to be able to run on battery power. The Altec Lansing and Logitech have an internal, rechargeable battery. Two of the other docks tested can run on batteries you supply — the JBL and Philips take AA and D cells respectively. The Philips needs six batteries, which increases its weight considerably.

Recharge while docked

This feature means you can recharge your MP3 player while you play music, so you don’t need to attach it to a PC via a USB cable or buy a separate iPod charging dock.

Special effects abilities

Some of the tested docks have special features, such as a stereo field enhancer on the Altec Lansing, stereo widening effect on the Logitech or bass booster on the Philips.

Portability

This is important if you want to take the speaker dock with you on holidays, to picnics or the like. The smaller and lighter the dock, the higher the portability. Carry handles are useful too.

We consider four of the tested docks to be highly portable: the Altec Lansing, Logitech, Cyruslink and JBL.

Remote control

Well-spaced keys and clear and intuitive labelling make a speaker dock easier to use. All the tested models have one.

Your say - Choice voice

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