Dock iPod Buyers Guide 2012
Feature: The Most Comprehensive iPod Dock Reviews on the Web
For a long time, the most annoying facet of portable music was the fact that you had to share headphones with other people. How many school trips did you go on where your mate, having smuggled in his latest shoplifted gangsta rap CD along, forcibly transplanted a greasy, wax-encrusted earbud into your ear (before turning the volume to a million decibels), just so you could hear some would-be ‘pimp-daddy’ brag about how he treats his ‘Hos’? If you’re anything like me, it was a lot.
All I learned from those rose-tinted days on the road with my playground chums was that it is really easy to predict the final outcomes of rhyming couplets in gangsta rap music, especially if the previous verse ends in the words ‘luck’, ‘pluck’ ‘truck’ or, of course, ‘suck’.
Whilst gangsta music is still the domain of middle class white kids (who are mainly frustrated by the fact that they can’t sing along to their favourite songs without sounding as horrifically racist as Nick Griffin on a night out in Nando’s), portable music technology has moved away from giggly teens in the back of a rented coach and has since been embraced by, well, everybody. From high-powered business tycoons to the unemployed, we all like a bit of music in our ears these days.
In fact, with so many tunes being stored on home computers, even the most hardcore of music hoarders now regularly thin out their ‘treasure troves’ as both a tidy revenue stream and a space-saving measure. I do it all the time. Now that you can take your entire collection with you wherever you choose to go, it’s not as important to have it at home gathering dust on your shelves.
The problem with ‘iTunes’ and its ilk comes when you want to play your music for somebody else. Perhaps a romantic dinner guest, who will be perplexed as the signature strains of ‘Let’s Get It On’ by Marvin Gaye don’t sound anything like as impressive when they’re drifting downstairs from the computer speaker in the study (and are thus barely audible).
This problem is readily solved by getting an iPod Dock, which is a portable speaker that houses your iPod (or Mp3 player) and reproduces the sound the same way a CD player or turntable might.
If you are looking to buy one of these beauties (and if you’re not then why exactly are you reading this feature?), then you’ll need to ask yourself some pretty tough and searching questions. No, I’m not talking ‘meaning of life type stuff’ (Stargate Fans around the world unite!), but issues of a more terrestrial nature.
First of all, how good is your hearing, really? You actually don’t need to shell out hundreds of pounds for the model that some science boffin assures you have the same playback that NASA uses when they’re jamming to The Ramones in between missions, but then, in contrast, you don’t want a tiny little box that will make Marvin sound like he’s still ‘getting it on’ in the study while you’re downstairs attempting to impress your dinner guest. As with most things, there is a healthy balance.
If you do have money to burn, however, I have two words for you, namely ‘valve speakers’, which will give you the cleanest sound you would ever need. Having said that, if you’re budget is a little closer to mine, then opting for something between £50 and £100 will work out just fine.
Another thing to do is find out for sure that the dock you’ve chosen will definitely connect to your portable device, just because the Amazon description says that it fits ‘most’ MP3 players, this doesn’t mean that it necessarily works with yours, and some companies would not consider that a valid reason to return an item.
Once you’ve chosen the product that you like, your next step should be price comparison. iPod Docking Station prices tend to veer sharply between ridiculously costly and comparatively cheap, often from site to site or shop-to-shop, this is one time where it really does pay to shop around. Also, Sites like Amazon usually have a ‘customer review’ section, so have a look and see what previous owners are saying about your potential purchase.
Ultimately, that’s about it. There’s not much more to buying an iPod dock than that. If you have any questions, or you’ve spotted something we’ve missed out, then by all means drop us a line and we’ll do our best to get back to you. If we don’t hear from you, then we’ll assume that we’re doing a good job, (even if we actually suck), so do let us know.
Gear4 Houseparty 4
RRP Price: £59.99
GEAR4 have released a budget version of one of their best selling docks, a dock that was already quite reasonably priced in the first place. That they have done this without any loss of quality to the main function of the product is commendable indeed.
The HouseParty is a splendid device, as we discussed in the review of the app-ready version, the speakers are of relatively high quality and the device is solid and reliable without being especially flashy. At around £50 - £60, this is a dock that is well worth the money.
RRP Price: £199.99
One thing I can say without any doubt at all is that the SoundDock is a great device. Designed carefully and cleverly, it’s a really nifty piece of kit (can I get away with saying ‘nifty’? It’s a nice word, I think. Lets see if we can bring it back over the next few reviews!) and it sounds like a dream. All the many design nuances of the previous models (some of which you’ll only get with Bose) are present and accounted for, with some new ones chucked in for good measure. Sonically, we just can’t fault it.
RRP Price: £34.99
The design is awesome; this is definitely one of the cooler docks on the market today. It has an old school ‘ghetto blaster’ appeal that will delight fans of proper Hip Hop as well as anybody born in the 1980’s, but having said that, the look isn’t too studied, or overdone. This is no mere nostalgia design; the S715i is sleek, contemporary and badass. In that order.
This dock also boasts an impressive eight hours of rechargeable battery time, which means that you are not likely to run the power down that much. Rechargeable batteries are also better for the environment, so brownie points there as well.
Gear4 Streetparty 3
RRP Price: £24.99
The StreetParty 3 is a very capable and practical model. Its well worth the asking price and won’t disappoint. Don’t get this if you’re setting yourself up as a DJ for weddings and bar mitzvahs, but if you’re looking for a solid, dependable speaker that is both portable and extremely low maintenance, then this is far and away the best one in its price bracket. It’s simple to use and does its job extremely well.
Gear4 Houseparty 4 Evo
RRP Price: £79.99
The playback is beautiful, the customizable options are more than welcome and the design is smart and pleasing. GEAR4 are a good manufacturer of affordable electronics that are still highly reliable. Maybe this one doesn’t have the great sound of the Bose models, but it also doesn’t have the inflated £200 price tag either. If you’re looking for a mid-high range product, but you’ve got a very set budget in mind, then look no further than this nifty bit of kit.