No one does boom boxes or bulky CD players anymore. Today, iPod docking stations are to music what headphones are to iPods. Most of them plug in to your PC, TV, iPhone or other MP3 players and offer a huge number of features. Whether you’re exercising, reading, partying, cooking, gardening, out on a day-trip or just being, as long as you have your docking station and your iPod, you’re good to go.
But any music system you buy, even a docking station, needs to offer you a few things upfront. The quality of the audio/sound is fundamental. Then comes how compact the dock is. Bigger doesn’t always mean better ‘coz that kind of defeats the purpose. Then it’s about how good it looks. Now that’s simple, if you’ve ticked ‘yes’ for sound and size, then anything that turns heads is a winner. Lastly, you need a remote control thrown in and it should do a little more than just play and pause. Combine that with a price you can afford and you should be a happy audiophile.
Here are the top five docking stations available in the US; all sleek systems packed with amazing features…
Carrying a price tag of around $610, Zeppelin is an integrated iPod docking station with several settings built into it which allow you to tailor its sound for different locations and rooms. These functions can be easily accessed via the iPod thumbwheel which, when docked with a Zeppelin, produces a new menu item called Speakers.
With the audio inputs you can use the Zeppelin as an active speaker and as an iPod speaker system. The analogue inputs at the back allow you to plug in any MP3 player, or use a wireless system such as Apple’s AirPort Express to stream music direct from your computer’s hard drive.
The docking station’s design is based on sound acoustic principles. The tweeters are small and hence they disperse the tiny high-frequency waves over a wider area than larger drivers. The Zeppelin’s body gets narrower as the drivers get smaller.
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin iPod dock price: $ 160
It has three separate amps, one to power the central 125 mm subwoofer and two to handle the left and right pairs of 90 mm woofers and 25 mm tweeters. The twin midrange drive units that supply the bulk of the Zeppelin’s sound rely on highly optimized glass fiber cones.
There are S-Video and composite video outputs, a minijack audio input and a USB port – the latter being for firmware updates.
The Zeppelin iPod docking station is ergonomically and aesthetically designed; the curved metal band of the main body holds your iPod firmly with a spring-loaded connector.
You can also use the Zeppelin to boost the sound of your TV by connecting it through either the Zeppelin’s optical digital input or stereo analogue inputs. You can stream video to your TV directly from your iPod, too.
You have to buy the remote control separately. But the pebble-like device doesn’t allow you to browse your music library, and only has controls for play/pause, volume and next/previous track.
The DS9000 offers audiophile-quality drivers, advanced PureDigital sound processing technology, precisely tuned bass pipes for deep, tight bass reproduction and a smooth-edged enclosure to limit sound diffraction.
The DS9000, which is going for almost $630, is compatible with iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and with iPod, iPod mini, iPod with color display, iPod 5th Generation, iPod nano 1st Generation, iPod nano 2nd Generation, iPod nano 3rd Generation, iPod nano 4th Generation, iPod nano 5th Generation, iPod classic, iPod touch, iPod touch 2nd Generation, iPod touch 2nd Gen 8/16/32GB.
A few interesting features include two 4-inch woofers set in the speakers, a proximity sensor to activate the backlit control panel and the Fidelio+, adedicated app available on the App Store for more functions. With this one application you can browse and play your music collection, control your speaker’s acoustic properties, and check your docking speaker’s battery health from your iPhone/ iPod Touch.
Philips Fidelio Primo DS9000 iPod dock price: $630
The DS9000 also has a clock feature with multiple music and sound of nature alarms. Designed in natural wood, fabric and metal, with a curved back, the passive crossover design delivers well-defined,original audio.
The rest of the features loaded on include a 5-band equalizer, DBB, DSC-Flat/Pop/Rock/Jazz/Classic, output power (RMS) of 2x50W and a multi-functional remote control. Accessories included are an AC Power Cord and a 3.5 mm stereo line in cable with which you can plug in an MP3 player, a laptop or a CD player.
Though complex on the inside, the SoundDock 10 – costing nearly $600 – is easy-to-use, with an equally uncomplicated exterior design.
The system’s clean lines and elegant finish are designed for use with an iPod or iPhone, but you can easily add an additional sound source—such as an MP3 or DVD player—by connecting it to the system’s auxiliary input.
Bose SoundDock 10 iPod dock price: $600
The docking station can switch back and forth between an iPod and the connected source, and will navigate an iPod playlist as well. There’s even a composite video output for watching iPod video on TV, while listening to the audio on the system. If you have a Bluetooth stereo music phone, you can listen wirelessly with the optional Bluetooth music dock.
The newly designed woofer has a larger magnet than conventional woofers, and the waveguide – a long tube intricately folded inside the system – strengthens sound from the woofer to deliver deeper, stronger low notes.
The SoundDock 10 comes with an AC power cord and a remote control.
The iMT800 has specially engineered horn-loaded polypropylene tweeters and mid-range drivers designed for smooth, wide dispersion of sound. The XdB bass-enhanced 5.25” side-firing subwoofer and tuned passive radiator deliver formidable bass.
You can connect it to two additional audio players with the dual AUX-IN jacks and with the digital FM radio, you can tune in to clean reception with a telescopic antenna and 4 station presets.
Altec Lansing mix iMT800 iPod dock price: $ 190-270
The 7-band graphic equalizer lets you tweak the sound to your taste, or you can rely on an array of presets like Rock or Hip Hop.The clip-on remote lets you change the sources; control the speakers, playlist and song navigation. With the music pause feature, all sound is automatically paused when a call is received on the iPhone.
The high-contrast LCD display shows you what track, artist, album and station are playing. The universal dock for iPhone and iPod recharges the device while it plays your tunes. You can plug in or lose the wires as it gives you up to 30 hours of play with eight D batteries.
Expect to shell out anywhere between $190 and $270 for this one.
This Go + Play system is an AC- or battery-operated, portable loudspeaker dock and it can go anywhere your iPod or other music player can go. The dock incorporates the Apple iPod Universal Dock adapter and is compatible with most docking versions of iPod, including nano and 5G versions.
A stereo mini jack connection also allows you to enjoy audio from a variety of other devices, including MP3 and CD players, desktop computers (all platforms) and laptops. It can even send your iPod photos and video to a TV monitor.
The dual Atlas woofers are capable of peak-to-peak travel of nearly an inch for tight, accurate bass reproduction, while the dual Ridge high- and mid-range transducers produce rich, full-spectrum sound.
Harman/Kardon Go + Play price: $ 600 approx.
The compact digital amplification coupled with DSP (Digital Signal Processing) equalization efficiently provides the Go + Play transducers with running power. Proprietary port architecture improves bass output while minimizing distortion. A proprietary OCT (Optimized Compression Technology) ensures clean, accurate sound at high output levels. This iPod dock delivers tight, booming bass from high-excursion low-frequency drivers.
The Go + Play has a flat, protective iPod cradle and an arching stainless-steel handle and comes with a smart RF remote. In the Music mode, the remote lets you adjust volume, change tracks and fast forward/rewind through songs from anywhere in the room. In the Navigation mode, it gives you full iPod functionality so you can browse by song, artiste or album and select playlists, slideshows and videos.
Additional features include OnePoint iPod connectors which provide the connection to your computer and AEMS (Advanced Energy Management System) which lets you use the system for up to 16 continuous hours at nominal listening levels with eight fresh D batteries (including NiMH and other rechargeable batteries).
The system charges your iPod without a computer connection even when the system is off and remembers your previous settings when the system is powered on. The touch controls are convenient—one touch to increase/decrease the volume and one touch to mute/unmute the system.
The Harman/Kardon dock is available for around $600.