FOGEY 5 iPod Speaker Docks

Dec 06, 2011 No Comments by

It needs saying before we get going – none of these speaker docks is exactly cheap.  While the Klipsch is least pricey at £80, all the others are over £300.  They are as close to pukka hi-fi as you’ll get where iPods, iPhones and their like are concerned. And therein lies an immediate issue: If your digital music files are MP3 or some other low bit-rate codec these docks will only amplify that lack of quality.  If, on the other hand, your music files are rendered in a ‘lossless’ codec such as .flac or Apple Lossless your ears will thank you.   If you’re after a dock for a kid’s bedroom see the Fogey Find at the bottom.


B&W Zeppelin Air

To the dispassionate eye the Air version of B&W’s Zeppelin looks no different from the previous, airless, model.  Because it isn’t.  All the new gubbins is inside, invisible.  As well as being a conventional dock it also allows you to stream music through the Zep wirelessly, in much the same way as a Sonos system does, but using Apple’s Air Play.  Whether you find this useful or whether it’s an example of the dreaded ‘feature creep’ (whereby new features are added to products for little obvious consumer benefit) is up for discussion. The range is a mystery (lost the will trying to find this info on the B&W website) and we suppose it could be handy if you want to stream tunes while being able to keep your iPhone in your pocket to take/make calls. The standard Zep started life at £499 and so does the Air version.  Aside from the Air Play addition the innards have also been beefed up for better sound, although note that wireless sound quality is not as good as when your iPhone or iPod is stuck in the dock.  Should you want to use a non-Apple device your only option is to run a cable from the headphone socket to an aux input on the back of the Zeppelin.  “The Zeppelin Air sounds great, functionality is much improved and sound quality is a step ahead of the original,” said What Hi-Fi? And Cnet concluded: “If you’re willing to blow £500 on a speaker for your iPhone, iPad or iPod, the Zeppelin Air is the best option out there.”

Around £499.  More info here B&W Zeppelin Air


Arcam rCube

Some elements of the rCube’s design are purely practical – it sits discreetly on a shelf (albeit a deep one) or in a quiet corner and is only 200mm x 200mm x 200mm.  Unlike the B&W Zeppelin it’s not shouty about its looks, which is probably just as well.  It is also wireless but one of two dongles needs plugging in to your iPhone/iPod or a USB port on your computer/laptop to achieve such connectivity.  Wireless range is claimed to be 10 metres.  In terms of sound quality Arcam and B&W have both been top-end noise merchants for years.  “The sound as a whole is gorgeously complete, with no undue emphasis on one particular area. Vocals in particular sound great on the rCube, sitting atop the audio very nicely,” said Tech Radar/MacFormat.  “At £500 the rCube isn’t cheap, but its acoustic performance is unmatched, its form factor minimal and its functionality way beyond that of its rivals,” said Trusted Reviews who rated it as superior to the Zeppelin.  It can also be run off batteries so you can lug it to your next woodland rave.  In black or white.

Around £350.  More info here Arcam rCube


Philips Fidelio DS9000

Much of the aesthetic appeal of the DS9000 is around the back – lovely curved smooth-grained wood – but it’s not bad up front either.  Consumers should thank B&W for this because it’s unlikely anyone, least of all Philips, would have made such a handsome device were it not for the Zeppelin having upped the design ante.  iPods were mass; who’d fork out half a grand for a speaker dock?  It’d be like building a heated garage for your Skoda Fabia.  But that’s the thing with iPods and iPhones – they are now classless, like the Mini, the VW Beetle and Heinz Ketchup.  The richest nob in the world could drive/eat those and no one would turn a hair.  So statements have to be made in other ways and that’s where premium, show-off docks come in.  But you have to wonder at Philips – creator of the CD and famous for….what?  They seem to be moving out of audio-visuals (they’ve recently stopped making TVs) to concentrate on lighting and other, safer domestic appliances.  Somehow, rather like Ford, there is no cachet to the Philips name, and never has been.  So chapeau, then, to whoever pushed the DS9000 through to production.  It may be the last time the company makes anything quite so beautiful.  Compatible with both iPod and iPad (the docking area is wide enough to accomodate an iPad), it pumps out 50 watts per channel and has two 1-inch tweeters backed up by two 4-inch woofers.  Philips makes 34 (count ‘em) speaker docks and the DS9000 is top-of-the-range.  “Tracks are reproduced faithfully, without the distortion effects or colouration less confident speaker docks so often feel the need to employ to stand out from the crowd,” said Trusted Reviews.  “The Philips Fidelio DS9000 certainly delivers when it comes to sound quality. With the dynamic bass engaged, it accurately delivers bass, giving real punch to music,” said Pocket Lint.

Around £300.  More info here Philips DS9000


Monster Beats Beatbox

Dr Dre conquers the world.  Who’d have thunk it?  Hip hop to headphones to millions of HTC’s squids (the Taiwanese phone company paid $300 million for a share in the Beats brand in August 2011).  The geekerati are ever so sniffy about the bass-heavy Beats headphones (with some justification) but even such naysayers are quite taken with the Beatbox. It doesn’t sport the same iconic design as the Beats headphones but it’s a chunky lump that churns out 200 watts of racket.  “Acoustic tracks won’t sound their best on the Beatbox, but rock, pop and hip-hop are fired out with delirious enthusiasm,” said Trusted Reviews.  But not all reviewers were so positive and this is one of the vagaries of aggregating opinion; even if it’s opinion from ‘experts’ who trade on an informed understanding, reviews of audio, especially, are incredibly subjective.  What Hi-Fi?, for example, hated the Beatbox: “This harshness [in the higher frequencies] makes the system virtually unlistenable, and gives vocals an uncomfortable-sounding sibilance and sharpness.  So, while the Beatbox excels in some areas, all that good work is undone by the horrific treble.”  Ouch.

Around £300 or less.  More info here  Monster Beats Beatbox


Geneva Sound System Model S

Committed sleuths among you will have surmised that Geneva is a Swiss brand.  But let’s not hold that against them.  The Model S is the smallest in a range of speaker docks that share the same design but get bigger and bigger right up to the XXL (which is probably regarded as pocket-sized in the US).  Whatever size fits your bill all are as close to the Apple aesthetic as it’s possible to get without hailing from Cupertino.  When docked, ‘iPod’ glows red from underneath the top right corner of the speaker mesh and when the iPod/iPhone is removed, the motorized PowerDock spins closed to protect it.  The unit can sit on four rubberized feet or a sleek alloy stand.  Inside there are two 3-inch full-range drivers powered by two digital Class D amplifiers giving 30 watts combined output.  “A discreet-looking, talented speaker dock that can push class-leaders all the way,” said What Hi-Fi?  “Simply put, the Model S is great. The unit itself is eye-catching, the touch-sensitive buttons—particularly the scroll wheel—are clever, and the sound quality is excellent,” said Macworld.  In piano lacquer finish of white, black, red or silver.  There’s a version with a DAB radio built in that’s around £80 more expensive than the basic Model S which has FM only.

Around £300.  More info here Geneva Sound System


Klipsch iGroove SXT

If you can think back to before the dawn of time (ie the introductory paragraph to this Fogey 5) you might recall the ‘low bit-rate MP3 files will have their sonic crapness amplified by a decent quality boombox’ caveat.  A tactic for avoiding such horrors is to buy a dock that doesn’t pretend to be the dog’s audio bollocks and doesn’t cost as much either.  Which is where the Klipsch iGroove SXT comes in.  If we can overcome the notion of personal ‘grooving’, this is a decent bit of kit for under £80.  “The Klipsch iGroove SXT packs a mean punch for a small device. It’s just 30cm long and light enough to sit comfortably on most shelves, but its audio quality is surprisingly detailed,” said Tech Radar/MacFormat.  What Hi-Fi? gave it the maximum five stars and on Google Shopping there are over 140 reviews which average 4.5 stars – which is a lot and good.  And just in case you’re a bit of technophile who’s reading this by mistake here’s some blather from the Google Shopping summary of the SXT: “A true two-way system, the iGroove SXT achieves accurate, detailed sound by way of dual 2.5-inch woofers in a ported enclosure, premium crossovers and dual 3/4-inch MicroTractrix horn-loaded tweeters.”  So, there you have it; no dumbing down here.

Around £80.  More info here Klipsch iGroove SXT


Fogey Find

Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere 2

It was tempting to put the Kicker iKick iK501 in here; it’s butch, loud and portable and perfect for any antisocial teenage goth – but it’s around £160 and that’s a lot to shell out on a gift that will only cause you pain if its recipient still lives in your house.  The Pure-Fi Anywhere 2, as the name suggests, is mains and battery powered and neat enough to be lugged to a barbecue or hoe-down and costs only £70 or thereabouts.  This is partly because it is an audio fossil that was launched in 2007.  But it still does now what it did then, is still being made and is compatible with all iPods and iPhones (so far as we can tell…).  There are niggles, though: During battery operation a power-saving auto shut-off kicks in when the unit can’t ‘hear’ anything being played.  However, quiet moments in music can cause the unit to switch off.  Logitech recommend turning up the volume on the source (iPod or iPhone) to maximum and moderating the volume on the unit but this doesn’t seem to cure the problem.  How often this might be an issue is up for discussion.  Life of said battery is very good at 10 hours or more and the unit “combines 5.1 cm (2″) active and 7.6 cm (3″) pressure drivers for surprisingly deep bass.”  The Logitech on-line store has this product for £129 but it’s nearly half that on Amazon.  In black or black.

Around £70.  More info here   Logitech Pure-Fi