Makers of mp3 docking stations are finally getting the message that their customers are wanting better sound quality from their devices and we have seen some excellent releases in 2011 to prove that very point.
There is still an awful lot of dross out there, so if you’re in the market for a new docking station for your iPod or music player, this list should help point you in the right direction.
So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are our favourite docking stations of 2011…
B&W Zeppelin Air
The original Zeppelin from Bowers & Wilkins came out some years ago and was long overdue an update, so we were very interested when the B&W Zeppelin Air hit the shops earlier this year. At £500, it certainly isn’t cheap, but B&W have managed to create an award winning docking station, that when combined with Apple’s AirPlay, doesn’t require a dock at all.
The B&W Zeppelin Air offers a large, blimp-shaped design that is minimalistic and stylish, with the dock strapped to the very front-middle of the device. It’s pretty big though and because of this you will probably prefer to give it a permanent home in your living room rather than carting it around with you.
The sound quality is excellent. There four 25W speakers and a 50W speaker housed under the front panel which combine to create a rich, warm sound with a rumbling bass and balanced mids and hi-s. AirPlay works well – although it’s Apple only – but you’ll need a decent Wi-Fi connection in your house to appreciate it fully.
Get it here – B&W Zeppelin Air from £599
Monster Beats by Dr Dre Beatbox
Monster’s Beats range has in the main been concentrated on excellent earphones and headphones, but it’s no surprise to see them flexing their considerable muscles in the mp3 docking station world. Priced from around £213, the Beats by Dr Dre Beatbox is a typically impressive device, with extremely loud and clear audio output.
As is the case with the Dr Dre range, the Beats Beatbox has been created with bass-heavy music in mind and you will get the optimum effect by playing your hip hop, modern pop, dance and R&B tunes through it – we would say it was best avoided, though, if you’re music collection is made up of 70′s acoustic folk.
The Monster Beatbox comes with a comparitively reserved design will look great in most living rooms – and if you are lucky enough to have a large house, this device is more than capable of filling it with music – and although slim on features, is bound to be on a fair fe Christmas lists this year. Subtle? Hell, no. But if you want to make a big noise, this will do the trick nicely.
Grab it here – Monster Beats By Dr Dre Beatbox
Philips Fidelio SoundRing
Another mp3 dock you can control wirelessly with Apple AirPlay, the Philips Fidelio SoundRing might look like a Dyson bladeless fan, but is actually a uniquely-constructed speaker system for your iPod, iPhone or iPad.
Priced at around £250, the SoundRing is available in two different models – one with a rechargable battery, making it great for portability, and one without that just plugs into the mains. It’s compact, comes with Philips’ free Fedelio app for finding new music and features an AUX-in connection so you can hook up to any of your other audio equipment.
The sound quality is great, with some seriously heavy bass and balanced upper-ends pinging the audio nicely into every corner of the room. It’s something different than the norm that performs well – but we would only really recommend it if you have access to AirPlay, to ensure you are getting the best out of it.
Get it here – Philips Fidelio SoundRing
Logitech Clock Radio Dock S400i
With bagfulls of features and a budget-freindly price of £80, the Logitech S400i is an iPod speaker dock and clock radio all wrapped up in a small, compact unit. We reckon it’s just the ticket for your bedside table.
The dock can be used with all generations of iPhone, iPod Touch, iPod nano and even the 6th-gen classic iPod and if you don’t own an Apple device, then just plug in to the 3.5mm audio in which is located around the back.
The sound quality is good at lower volumes and although it won’t have your neighnbours cursing your new purchase, it does a perfect job for a bedside table. Manufacturers are often getting things wrong when it comes to more budget-friendly audio gear, but we think Logitech have got it spot on with the S400i; it’s easy to use, well-priced and nicely constructed.
Grab it here – Logitech Clock Radio Dock S400i
Denon CEOL RCD-N7
Denon are renowned for their top drawer audio products and the CEOL RCD-N7 is no exception. At £5333, it’s not a cheap device, but it so much more than ‘just’ and mp3 dock; it has a CD player, a radio, a USB port and comes equipped with external speakers, as well as connection to your other devices with Apple’s AirPlay.
It’s a strongly constructed device with a quality feel to it and will look great wherever you keep it, although it’s solidity and strength means it is a tad heavy and not ideal for moving from room to room. But the best thing about it is the sound quality.
Offering booming bass, clear, singing mids and skippy, crunchy high frequencies, we loved the Denon CEOL RCD-N7 for all kinds of music. The CD player is incredibly handy if you haven’t got rid of/digitised your old favourites and the AirPlay connectivity works a treat. If you can afford one, it’s worth getting.
Get it here – Denon CEOL RCD-N7