Sometimes you need a bit more power than those shiny white earbuds that come with your iPod can offer.
That’s where an entire audio sub-industry has sprung up, catering entirely to iPod owners who want to “dock” their music box somewhere and jam to a room-filling sound that’s not mashed into their ears.
Blast and The Boston Globe recently tested five of these docks: the Altec Lansing inMotion Max at $199, the Logitech Pure-Fi Express Plus for $78, the compact iHome iH4B for $39.99, the Cambridge SoundWorks i765 for $299, and Wayland-based Sprout Creation’s all-wood Vers 2X at $199.
As a bonus, Blast also tested the Boston Acoustics Duo-I at $199 and the iHome iH51BR at $149.
For professional advice, we turned to Dariusz Dobrolinski, is co-owner of the tiny yet historic Q Audio store on Vassar Street in Cambridge, which claims to be the worlds smallest hi-fi store and one of the original distributors of CD players in the US in the early 80s. Dobrolinski said the Altec Lansing inMotion Max was the best item on the list, and we agreed.
“It sounded the richest,” Dobrolinski said. He warned us not to jump at the deepest bass or the highest treble, which some inexpensive systems tend to crank up to make up for their lower quality components.
“If you want to buy a docking system, don’t look for something that has bass and sizzles, it may impress you, but later on you will notice you don’t get the midrange and that’s where all the instruments and all the voices are,” Dobrolinski said. “Bass is not critical unless you want to fill a huge room, but none of those systems are designed for huge rooms.”
The Altec Lansing and Cambridge SoundWorks models were all very similar, though. They sounded great, look great, and come from brand names that are known for generally building their products to high quality specifications.
The iHome name has gained a lot of ground in the last three years. You often see these functional alarm clock iPod docks in both luxury hotels and college dorms. They generally sound good and have useful wakeup features like dual alarm clock times and, of course, the ability to wake up to your favorite songs blasting from your nightstand. The iH4b’s compact size and low price makes it a great value for dorm rooms and bedrooms. It has a good sound on a small footprint.
The Vers 2X is a great choice people who want something different. It doesn’t have a radio or really any other features except an iPod dock, but it’s an attractive, well-built speaker system.
Dobrolinski said that you should also focus on how the product looks. Style is important. He also said that you’ll want your dock to have a remote control so you’re not getting up all the time to tune it.
Individual products on Page 2