Best iPod Docks & Best iPod Portable Speakers
The iPod is a sophisticated, ergonomically efficient, technological wonder. Unfortunately, Apple has yet to produce a dock/speaker system of its own to harness the power of this device. So there are a plethora of choices for the discerning consumer. As is the case with most purchases, the decision ultimately boils down to form, function, and price. In my opinion, the best approach is to take your iPod to the nearest Apple store (or your favorite electronics retailer), locate the best looking, most space-efficient iPod docks. Then choose three songs on your iPod that represent three very disparate genres and styles. Walk over to each one and test them out. That’s what I did. I used “Knives Out” by Radiohead, “In A New York Minute” by Herbie Hancock, and “The Healer” by Erykah Badu and came up with these iPod dock speaker systems as my favorites.
With the best iPod docks, you'll be set to jam out at home and on the road. Always the best price, these iPod portable speakers and iHome docking station choices come in an almost unlimited number of styles to fit your needs.
Best iPod Docks by Saundi Wilson
The Best You Can Get
This unit, first and foremost, sounds better than any stand-alone speaker system on the market. Bass response is usually a requisite sacrifice when purchasing small speakers. However, the Radial provides warm, clear bass imaging at myriad volume settings (even 11!). This system does a fantastic job of decompressing those wafer-thin mp3s, and provided crisp, clean dynamic detail on all three of my test songs. You don’t have to be an audiophile like me to appreciate the “big” sound coming the relatively diminutive JBL.
The Radial is not loaded with bells and whistles, and does not follow the ultra-sleek styling cues of the iPod. But it is at least easy on the eyes, and its unique circular design makes it easy to transport with just one hand. This shape also creates a speaker layout that produces greater stereo separation (a note-worthy achievement for stand-alone units). JBL also includes audio line-in, video out, sync, and recharge capabilities, as well as a highly practical RF remote (controlling all iPod menus) - but they’ll be no need to fiddle with EQ presets. The four aluminum-domed Odyssey full-range drivers and single low-frequency neodymium driver work in tandem to deliver consistent response across the board.
The JBL is priced slightly higher than some of its competitors, but it provides plenty of high fidelity bang for your buck.
This speaker system is drop-dead gorgeous, eco-friendly (made from real wood with 100% recycled packaging), and very practical. The 2X is compact, sleek, and even has the power unit placed underneath the cabinet, making it easy to tuck away the cables. There are the two rear ports for the speakers, helping to naturally push thicker bass out of the small cabinet. Low frequencies distort a bit at higher volumes and some high frequency detail is lost at lower volumes. But the little unit has nice clarity and “thump” throughout the middle of the volume range, and the cherry wood cabinet actually adds warmth to the reproduction of the often-lifeless digital sound of mp3s.
This unit could be considered the Dodge Viper of iPod speaker systems. With its RSX-3 satellite speakers, 200-watt powered subwoofer, and what seems like MILES of cable, it’s big, loud, and hard to miss. Thanks to the subwoofer (which comes a super-sized, eight-inch cabinet), bass response can be a little “boomy” depending on the acoustics of the room. But the Klipsch iFi is powerful enough to fill even fairly large rooms with full-bodied sound, and once the satellites are placed at least seven feet apart, the stereo spread is excellent. The sub’s rear also has a stereo mini-jack input intended for use with the audio output from a laptop or PC. It is always active, so you can hear sounds from your computer while listening to music from your iPod. And the powerful and practical (and cute) RF remote is a plus as well.
Ironically, the dock itself is just about the smallest on the market (a tiny disc about the size of your fist). However, the four-component iFi will need to be spread out.
Bass fanatics will rejoice; space (saving) fanatics will not.
The Zeppelin is a fantastic sounding unit when listening to the right kind of music at the proper distance. Its composure and sophistication were most evident when I was listening to Herbie Hancock’s cover of “In A New York Minute” which is performed by his jazz quintet. The clarity of the mid-range and high frequency imaging was most important on this test song, and this is where the Zeppelin excels. Bass response was decent in that test, but the system had problems converting the more complex bass tones (especially sub-bass) present in the Erykah Badu track.
I didn’t find the design of the Zeppelin particularly pleasing. However, consumers and critiques alike overwhelmingly rave about its sleek, curvaceous shape. It’s quite heavy at sixteen pounds, but is very well constructed and it looks, feels, and sounds bank-vault solid. The B&W also feels expensive; and it IS. But if you’re looking get accurate reproduction of your iPod music, and do not listen to a bevy of bass heavy music, the Zeppelin may be worth paying top dollar.
Because of the stellar Bose brand name, this system suffers from a bit of over-hype and is, of course, in the top tier of the segment, price-wise. The sound quality comes in a distant second to the JBL, but is still quite good. Other than somewhat stunted bass response, there are no glaring weaknesses in the unit’s performance. Bose’s excellent digital signal processing circuitry enhances audio accuracy and the “volume ramping” feature is very handy.
The cabinet is simple yet stylish, and will blend easily with just about any decor. As usual, Bose build quality and costumer service are tops in the segment.
The major selling point for the SoundDock Portable is that it is, in fact, portable! The Lithium-ion battery allows the system to play at higher volumes and for a longer time between charges than other battery-powered speaker systems. And this feature also eliminates a nagging flaw of the standard SoundDock - the unwieldy, cumbersome AC power supply.
Proprietary acoustic design.
Volume ramping feature gradually increases the volume when turned on.
Shielded speaker prevents TV and computer interference.
You will be happy with any of these
Klipsch has applied its “horn”-loaded stereo technology (used in their home theater speakers to the RoomGroove’s one-inch tweeters to increase the system’s efficiency, dynamic range, and minimize tabletop reflections that would adversely affect its sound. Klipsch is the only iPod speaker manufacturer to incorporate horn tweeters (which can often be found in large club speakers). The result: that coveted “big” sound, which can often be attributed more to high frequency detail, as opposed to booming bass.
Much like the Radial, the Room groove is pretty bare bones (no video input, radio, etc.). However, the wireless technology found in the RoomGroove offers unlimited add-on opportunities. To ensure that your RoomGroove network doesn’t disturb other wireless devices, the system searches your entire 2.4 GHz band to detect other wireless signals and then transmit around the spectrum used by those sources. You can also create a wireless speaker system by using two or more RoomGrooves or KlipschCast systems; no wires are required, and setup is quite simple. The RoomGroove features a retractable dock that charges all iPods with dock connectors and comes with Apple universal well inserts to accommodate multiple iPod sizes.
Altec Lansing is a venerable manufacturer of top-shelf home theatre speakers. The inMotion series of docking-docking speaker systems has been on the scene a little longer than its competition, but continues to impress. Shaped like a small flat-panel LCD monitor, it is quite efficient in its design and application. The iM600 stands just six inches tall and manages to squeeze in a telescoping FM antenna, video output, subwoofer output, and USB port. There are no EQ presets, but dynamic response is consistent for the most part (with the inevitable tinge of low-end distortion associated with small speakers).
The inMotion is, of course, supremely portable and boasts up to seven hours of battery life.
More product features:
- Tuner: FM
- Alarm clock: Integrated
- Sleep timer: Integrated
- Connectors: Composite video output, audio input
- Dimensions: 11 x 6 x 1.7 in./283 x 152 x 43 millimeters (W x H x D)
The current Pure-Fi is an update of a system that I once considered to be the best sounding iPod listening station (until I listened to the Radial). It still delivers composed and controlled performance, even at high volumes. It also offers highly accurate sounds controls (including faux 3D spacialization) that, if properly tweaked, can push its performance beyond the capabilities of the Bose. Especially when listening from greater distances (thanks to the improvement of its “long throw” woofers).
The AM/FM radio functions well, and its display is easy on the eyes. Separate AM and FM antennas are a real plus, even if they render the unit less portable. The remote is backlit and comes with a detachable dock. Very handy.
Aesthetically, this Logitech model harkens back to the days of the old “boom box” with its overly masculine stance and cheap-looking plastic. However, fans of this product consider this aspect to be quite “kitsch”. The control panel and LCD are plain and simple, and Logitech has wisely borrowed Apple styling cues for its function icons (i.e. volume and power). The detachable metal grilles are an upgrade from the previous model and, once removed, the exposed woofers give the Pure-Fi a more “state-of-the-art” look.
- Digital AM/FM tuner
- Total RMS power: 80 W RMS
- Connectors: 3.5-millimeter auxiliary input, iPod universal dock connector, composite, and S-Video output jacks.
And lastly, the price of this system cannot be overstated.
The Griffin Amplifi is a very stylish (iPod-stylish) iPod speaker system that delivers powerful, but balanced sound. It is fairly large, measuring approximately fourteen inches wide by five and a half inches tall, but beautifully minimal in its design. The Amplifi’s controls have been paired down to a single knob- a really nice, hi-fi style aluminum knob on the front and even illuminated it with blue LED trim - to go along with an impossibly thin remote control.
Two 2.75-inch neodymium drivers and a 5-inch woofer with a 1.5-inch bass-reflex port deliver sheer, unadulterated volume (I was almost asked to leave the Apple Store). It is infinitely more powerful than its price competitors. The Griffin’s sound imaging did leave me wanting for some of the ear candy associated with some of the more sophisticated (usually more expensive) units. But it does a great job at minimizing distortion at higher volumes, and maintaining nice, clean bass response. Can you say house party?
This is by far the best looking small speaker system I’ve ever seen. It takes its styling cues from the classic eMac design, and may be even better looking than the iPod itself! While the sound reproduction is not quite as crystal-clear as the unit’s physical design, the upper-mid and high frequency detail is exquisite (even if a bit too bright at times). And as I’ve mentioned before, this is what the human ear will most associate with clarity and depth. The subwoofer had a little trouble with the ultra sub-bass tones of “The Healer,” but pleasantly reproduced the sweet lows and low mids of “Knives Out”.
The SoundSticks are obviously not an actual iPod dock, so there is neither iPod control nor charging capability. But this unit made my list because it is quite one the coolest ways to listen to your iPod, and anyone with a 1/8 mini-jack connect to it. It also delivers top-tier sound quality, takes up very little space, is priced more than competitively, and is perhaps the speaker system that is most consistent with Apple design, flexibility, and performance.
Plug and play.
We suggest the best iPod docks for discerning consumers who want the right iHome docking station or one for work. For the best iPod portable speakers and docking stations go to your favorite electronics store and give your iPod a trial run on the speaker system. Always the best price, these iPod sounddock selections are essential to get the most out of your extensive music library.