Headphones or earphones are all well and good but if you want to share your tunes or simply give your sweaty ears a break then an iPone, iPod or iPad audio dock is a good bet. Hundreds of docks are available from cheap and cheerful docks, found in many supermarkets, to more serious investments both financially and sonically. Apple's UK website currently lists audio docks from iHome, Jawbone, Philips, Logitech, Bowers & Wilkins, Bose, Xtrememac, Quest, JBL, Edifier, Nad, NacSound, Sony, AltiGen, Loewe, Libratone and Jean Michel Jarre among others under 'Top Sellers,' which gives you an idea of the choice available. Apple offers cheap docks from under £40 ranging to an impressive £1,199. HMV, Richer Sounds, supermarkets such as Sainsbury's, Tesco, Morrisons, Asda along with retail outlets such as PC World, Currys and Argos all stock docks and are useful options if you haven't time to order online for that special occasion such as Christmas.
Which iPhone, iPod and iPad dock.
Docks fall into two categories, the more traditional dock that allows you to dock - and generally charge - your iPhone or iPod, and to a lesser extent iPad and now iPad mini, and the newer speaker only option that uses Bluetooth or AirPlay technology to play your music wirelessly. Both are worthy choices, but the wireless option is the more expensive of the two. Audio wise, AirPlay is generally considered a sonic step above Bluetooth, although this all depends on the bitrate of recordings you are listening, the higher rate the better sound, and quality of hearing. If you choose the dock option, check its compatible with your generation of iPhone, iPod and iPad. Apple's newest iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, iPod touch and iPod nano use the smaller Lightning connector rather than the older Dock Connector configuration. If an old iPod is still going strong, any decent manufacturer will offer additional adaptors for older Apple devices.
If you get to visit any of the above then try and check out build quality, as this is an indication of how the dock might sound as price isn't always a good guide when it comes to audio playback. We've been impressed with docks that are modestly priced, sometimes sold by lesser known brands or stores, or are significantly reduced. Google is your friend here and it's worth checking reviews and customer feedback online and check for bargains on websites such as Money Saving Expert and HotUKDeals.
The Made for iPhone logo is generally a good sign of quality, and this applies to Made for iPod and Made for iPad. Apple notes:"Made for iPod, Made for iPhone, Made for iPad, and AirPlay logos communicate to customers that an electronic accessory has been designed to connect specifically to iPod, iPhone, or iPad, and has been certified by the developer to meet Apple performance standards."
Finally, select a dock that's fit for your needs, little point in going for something all singing and dancing when it's simply needed for a spare room, kitchen or bedroom, where you are unlikely to ever crank up the volume.
Here then are links to docks and speakers Macworld has listened to in the last 12 months and remember, these SRP are significantly if you shop around and check the sales.
We said: Libratone's Zipp is another entry in the continually expanding market of colourful and unusually shaped wireless, portable speakers. However, while most of those speakers use Bluetooth, the Zipp uses Apple's AirPlay technology; and instead of being a short, wide speaker system, the Zipp is a tall cylinder. £329.99 with one cover exclusively from Apple stores; £369.99 with three covers included. Available from John Lewis, Dixons Travel, Conran, Harrods.
We said: As long as it’s resting on a firm, flat surface the Cisor does manage to produce a surprisingly full and powerful sound. Damson boasts about the Cisor’s “serious bass”, and the bass on dance tracks such as Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head really is quite pronounced. Around £75.
We said: The iD9's body is made of black and silver plastic that looks almost like metal. The system weighs 3.3 pounds and measures 12.9 inches wide, 2.1 inches tall, and just 4 inches deep. You simply place your dock-connector-equipped iOS device or iPod in the iD9's cradle and start rocking out. Around £100.
Gear4 AirZone Series 1
We said: Setting it up the Gear4 AirZone Series 1 is easy, as you can either enter your wifi password using the remote control and the small LCD display on the front of the speaker, or download the Gear4 app that allows you to enter the password via your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. You’re not just limited to wifi streaming either, as the AirZone includes a dock unit for iOS devices, as well as an AUX input around the back. It’s got a built-in FM radio tuner too, which is a welcome bonus at this price. Around £199.
We said: iLuv’s Mo’Beats is a portable Bluetooth speaker stand that’s designed for the iPad, but is also compatible with the iPhone and other smartphones and tablets. Around £59.
Edifier Spinnaker e30 speaker system
We said: Standing 15 inches/42cm tall and available in black and an even more eye-catching burgundy, the speakers are ideally suited for desktop use, sitting rather impressively on either side of your monitor screen. If you’re liable to park your laptop regularly in the same spot they also make decent, if not very portable, speakers, with a manageable footprint despite the size. Around £329.
We said: It's a novel iPad speaker and stand that embraces Apple's tablet snugly thanks in part to supplied rubber collars for iPad variants. Once fitted, a fairly painless process, the speaker looks rather like a picture frame. Like many B&O designs, this one by Steffen Schmelling, resembling an emancipated pyramid, is stylish yet just a touch dated-looking - it's a design that could easily pre-date the iPad. Around £449.
Read Macworld's full review of the B&O Play BeoPlay A3 iPad speaker here.
Logitech UE Air Speakers
We said: The UE Air has quite a distinctive design, with a flared, curving front panel that measures about 50cm wide. It’s very easy to set up – in fact there several different options here depending on how you want to use it. Around £299.
Read Macworld's full review of the Logitech UE Air Speakers here.
Lenco IPD-9000 docking station
We said: The IPD-9000 from Swiss audio specialist Lenco is a one box solution for iPhone and iPod users who still want to play CDs and listen to FM radio. The dock incorporates Lenco's own Sonic Emotion Absolute 3D chipset, which the company claims produces exceptional audio output. Around £229.
Read Macworld's full review of the Lenco IPD-9000 docking station here.
Logitech Rechargeable Speaker S715i
We said: The S717i also produces a heavyweight sound – it’s clear and detailed, and I was only able to turn it up to about 80% of its maximum volume before I had to stop for fear of annoying my neighbours. Logitech doesn’t quote the output wattage, but it genuinely rivals some of the non-portable home speaker systems we’ve seen at a similar price. Around £129.
Griffin Travel Speaker
We said: The dock is roomy enough that you can insert your iPod or iPhone without having to take it out of its protective case, and there’s a USB cable provided so that you can connect the Travel Speaker to a computer or charger and top up the battery while you’re listening to your music. Around £20.
Read Macworld's full review of the Griffin Travel Speaker here.
We said: We weren’t expecting much from such a compact little speaker, but the iDM12 turns out to be cleverly designed and produces a surprisingly strong sound. Around £59.
Gear4 StreetParty III Union Jack
We said: There’s a dock connector for the iPod and iPhone, which folds flat into the main speaker panel. That cuts the thickness of the panel down to just 29mm, so it’s certainly easy to carry around with you when you’re travelling. Around £39.
Altec Lansing iMT630
We said: Altec Lansing has several sets of travel speakers in its inMotion range, but the iMT630 is the most recent addition to the range and has perhaps the best overall sound. Around £99.
Lenco iPT-223 speaker dock
We said: The tower speaker system is over three feet tall and yet has a neat enough footprint to sit just about anywhere in the home. Lenco actually encourages experimenting with positioning the speaker and uses what they rather ambitiously call a 'Sonic Emotion 3D chipset,' a proprietary technology, to ensure no audio 'blind spots.' In short, the system, based on wavefield synthesis, promises an impressive 6.1 surround sound experience from a single unit. Around £229.
Pure Contour 100Di
We said: The Pure Contour 100Di is a digital radio with a built-in iPod, iPhone and iPad-compatible dock. It’s small but is able to produce good sound at moderate volumes. We don’t like the remote control, though. Around £94.