The Insider: MP3s in the dock, make sure you get it right
Saturday 11 April 2009
MP3 players have revolutionised the way we listen to music on the move. Speaker docks aim to take the revolution a stage further – allowing you to put your MP3 player at the heart of your home music system and clear away that pile of dusty old CDs for good. There are lots of cheap portable speaker docks on the market, starting from less than £40, but they're unlikely to do justice to your music collection and for excellent audio quality, you should expect to pay more.
First check compatibility with your MP3 player. "Virtually all docks available on the high street are designed for use with Apple's ubiquitous iPod," says Matt Bath, technology editor at Which? "But don't despair if you have an alternative brand of MP3 player, it will usually still work, but instead of nestling neatly in the specially-designed dock you may need to connect it via a headphone jack."
It's worth checking whether your MP3 player fits, especially if it's not one of the latest generation. It should say on the packaging which players the speakers will work with, but beware that iPod-compatible gadgets often work with the Classic and Nano models, but not the Shuffle.
In Which?'s latest test, the highest-scoring model was the Bower & Wilkins Zeppelin. Which? gave it a test score of 71 per cent and found that the sound quality was impressive, with bass notes sounding rich and warm. It's got a distinctive design and is fully compatible with the latest Apple products, but the "wow factor" comes with a hefty price tag (it's £399) and it is heavy and bulky, so you'll need space to accommodate it.
At the other end of the table the XtremeMac Tango Digital X2, from £85, scored just 27 per cent and was given a Which? Don't Buy rating. This flat-sitting speaker dock certainly bucks the trend in terms of design, with the docked MP3 player sitting on top rather than in front of a speaker, but functionality is limited and sound quality is poor. Testers said that music sounded shrill and distortion was audible.
If you don't want to splash out on a speaker dock, then connect your MP3 player to a hi-fi system using a 3.5mm twin stereo phono cable, which costs around £5. The sound quality will be better, even with a modest hi-fi system.
Where to buy? Searching online will often turn up cheaper prices for speaker docks and other MP3 player accessories. You can check stockists and compare the latest prices using Which?'s price comparison service www.whichcompare.co.uk
What to look out for: Questions to ask yourself
Is it compatible with your player?
Don't assume a dock will work with all music players, especially if you have an older model or it's not an iPod. Check what it says on the packaging. USB or FireWire connection? The very latest MP3 players from Apple can dock and play music through FireWire-based speaker docks, but they won't charge up.
How good is the sound quality?
None of the speaker docks Which? has tested comes close to hi-fi quality, but the difference between a good and bad loudspeaker can be considerable. Music is likely to sound distorted on very cheap speakers.
How portable is it?
If you can't easily move it around the house, you may as well connect your player to your hi-fi instead. Models that can be powered by batteries are ideal if you want to listen to music in the park or garden.
What is the battery life?
On the models tested by Which?, battery life varied from five to 25 hours – which could make a big difference if you're on the move.
The Insider is written by Which?, the independent consumer champion. For more information go to www.which.co.uk/speakerdocks. To get three issues of Which? magazine for a special price of £3, call 01992 822800 and quote INADVICE.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Authorities failing in hunt for 'most wanted' tax dodgers who owe HMRC £844m
How to protect your assets if the stock markets begin to head south again
A student's guide to financial survival: You don't have to drown in debt at university
Bargain Hunter: Kit yourself out in sports gear - at a healthy discount of up to 75%
Bargain Hunter: How to save money on train journeys, good music and a little fun
- 1 Miley Cyrus' homeless MTV VMAs date, Jesse Helt, is wanted by the police
- 2 36-year-old skeleton of dead baby found inside Indian woman
- 3 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
- 4 Homer Simpson has taken the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he has
- 5 The 13 obscure UK laws you didn’t know you were breaking
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Jeremy Clarkson is a cultural tumour and needs to be removed, says comedian Frankie Boyle
Air strikes? Talk of God? Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script after James Foley beheading
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£500 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Calypso Developer Calypso, J2SE, XML, ...
£35000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading financia...
£250 - £350 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is cur...
£23000 - £26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Executive / Client Services ...
Day In a Page
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony