A speaker is a music lover’s best friend. It makes your music rock out loud and clear while offering tons of hands-free and convenient features.
iPod and MP3 speakers and docks make it incredibly easy to play your music anywhere - your kitchen, the backyard, on a boat, and even while camping. Underneath their compact hubs, these speakers and docks are packed with tons of high quality audio features that bring out the very best sound in all your music.
Some speakers and docks require you to connect your smartphone or MP3 device directly using a line-in cable or a built-in docking cradle while others use Apple AirPlay or Bluetooth to wirelessly stream music from your device to the speakers. Some of these compact, multi-functional wonders can even charge your smartphone or MP3 player, wake you up in the mornings, or let you take a hands-free call.
Read on to learn more about iPod and MP3 speaker docks.
Types of Speakers and Docks
Whether you’re turning it up loud at the beach or keeping it down low for dinner with the in-laws, speakers and docks are a great way to play music using your smartphone, iPhone, iPod, MP3 player, computer or tablet. Speakers and docks come in all shapes and sizes, but usually fall into two categories: traditional or wireless.
Traditional Speaker Docks
Traditional speaker docks require you to plug your music device into the dock using either the built-in docking cradle or a line-in cable. Simply connect your smartphone or MP3 player to the dock and put some upbeat rhythm into doing boring household chores. Some models can even charge your device either using a USB connection or while your device is docked.
Wireless speakers let you stream your music straight from any smartphone or Bluetooth-enabled device via Apple AirPlay or Bluetooth A2DP connectivity. Some speakers may require your device to be right next to them while other models can maintain a wireless connection up to 30 feet away or more.
So what are the similarities and differences between AirPlay and Bluetooth speakers?
- Both technologies let you play your music from your smartphone, computer or tablet without docking your device
- With both, you’re able to play music and simultaneously use your device for other functions, such as web browsing and game play
- Works only with Apple devices such as the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Mac computers
- Requires a Wi-Fi network to stream music from your Apple iTunes library to the speakers
- Can send music, song information and album art to the LCD screen of any AirPlay-enabled speakers
- Compatible with any Bluetooth-enabled device including smartphones, MP3 players, iPhones, iPod touch devices, iPads, computers and tablets
- Works as long as a connection between the speakers and Bluetooth-enabled device is established
- Only streams music to the speakers
Choosing the right speakers or docks depends on your specific needs. Do you want something light that you can easily toss into your backpack? Or are you looking for a dock that will bring the house down with amazing sound? With these speakers and docks, which use either traditional or wireless technology, you’ll have plenty of options that will fit the size, portability and sound quality you want:
A portable speaker gives you the ultimate music-on-the-go experience, since it can fit into everything from your suitcase to the palm of your hand. These lightweight speakers focus more on being portable than delivering superior sound quality, but they’re still a great way to get a dance party going on your next camping trip.
Transportable Speaker Docks
If you prefer getting fantastic sound over super portability, then a transportable speaker dock will rock your world. Also known as a boombox, transportable docks can be slightly larger than portable speaker docks, but offer higher quality audio and louder volume than smaller docks. They’re great when you want to take your music with you from room to room or out to the backyard.
Shelf System Speaker Dock
A shelf system speaker dock can take the place of a permanent stereo system in your home and usually needs to be plugged into a power source. These large docks tend to have powerful speakers for impressive audio performance you can really rock out to.
Features to Look For
Once you’ve decided what type of speakers or dock suits your needs best, make sure you keep these features in mind while shopping:
The best way to know what a speaker or dock is really made of is to listen to it in action. Bring a variety of music with you when shopping and listen for a good balance of upper (treble), midrange, and lower (bass) notes. Watch out for speakers that feature bass or treble notes more prominently as this is a sign of low sound quality. Price might also be a factor if your budget doesn’t allow you to buy speakers or a dock at the higher end of the spectrum. These speakers and docks usually deliver fuller, richer sound quality that you might not get with lower priced devices.
Speakers and docks use either batteries, AC power or both in order to work. Battery-powered docks and speakers tend to run on either disposable batteries or a rechargeable internal battery. Speakers and docks that run on disposable batteries can become an inconvenience over time though, since you’ll have to buy and replace the batteries often. A disadvantage with speakers and docks that use AC power adapters is that you will always need to be close to an outlet. This limits the number of places you can take your dock or speakers, but at least you’ll never have to worry about the music getting cut short at your dinner party.
One of the advantages of having portable speakers is that they're easy to take virtually anywhere. These pint-sized music blasters are small and lightweight, and some models even offer the convenience of integrated Bluetooth connectivity. While these speakers are great to just toss in your bag as you head out for a picnic, you’ll likely need to bring extra batteries to keep the music playing all day long.
App-enabled accessories, or appcessories, work with your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad to enhance your speaker’s functionality. These accessories work with a software application, or app, that you can download from the Apple App Store onto your Apple device. For example, the iHome Connect app lets you use your device’s iOS interface as a control centre where you can adjust your iHome speakers' hardware settings and update firmware.
When you’re in the mood to listen to the current Top 40 hits, a speaker dock with AM/FM and/or Internet radio will come in handy. Listen to your favourite music, talk, sports, and news stations all in one convenient dock.
A speaker dock that can do double duty as a charging station will keep the music going all day long, virtually making awkward silences a thing of the past.
Instead of jolting yourself awake with the blaring screech of a buzzer, why not let your favourite song rouse you from dreamland? Speaker docks with alarm clocks let you set your alarm to wake you with any song on your iPod or iPhone. Some models can also play your song at increasing volumes to ease you out of sleep gradually.
Whether you’re cooking a roast chicken or doing the chicken dance across the room, a bright and clear LCD screen will help you figure out what song is playing no matter what you’re doing. Some models can even display album art, the time, and more.
Some speakers and docks come with built-in speakerphone capabilities for even more hands-free convenience. Your music automatically pauses whenever you take a call, so you can hear every word the caller says loud and clear.
A remote control lets you pause, rewind, skip and play back your music all while you sit comfortably on your couch. There are even apps that you can download to your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad that can turn your device into a remote that’s compatible with your speakers or dock.
Pump up the volume on your movies and TV shows using a dock or speakers that come with a video output. Connect your video-enabled device, such as an iPod touch, and then connect the dock or speakers to your television to watch videos on the big screen and get fantastic audio as well.
Versatile speakers or docks will have an AUX input that lets you connect other audio devices to it. It’s a great way to connect your computer to listen to a beat you just mixed or attach additional speakers to give your music even more firepower.
Digital Living Network Alliance (or DLNA) is a growing technology standard that lets you share media between any DLNA certified devices you own. Speakers and docks with this technology can wirelessly connect to your DLNA-enabled smartphone or computer, so you’ll be able to stream your music straight to the dock or speakers without physically connecting them.
Some speakers and docks have a USB port that lets you connect any USB-enabled device, such as a tablet. There are also models that can charge your device using this kind of connection.
Dock Extender Cable
If your dock’s cradle is too small to fit your iPad or you want to play your music on a traditional speaker dock while using your phone, a dock extender cable can help. One end of the cable plugs into the dock’s cradle while the other end fits into your iPad’s dock-connector port (it can also be used with iPhone and iPod touch), so you have a seamless connection that plays your tunes. Depending on the length of the cable, you can even sit away from the dock while simultaneously using your phone or tablet and playing music.