New iPod docking stations let you share the music with everyone in the room
(MONEY Magazine) – Some iPod users are leading a double life. When they're on the go they have their portable player by their side, but at home they're still dealing with a collection of loose CDs. If only they knew there are iPod-ready speaker systems that let you use your player in a room as well as with a pair of earphones.
The way these systems work is simple: Most are built as a single unit, with an iPod dock in the center and attached woofers and tweeters on either side. Insert any iPod in the dock (which will also charge it) and you can control the iPod the same way you do when it's in your hand. Some models include a remote control, so you can adjust the volume or switch to another track from the comfort of your couch.
The payoff is huge. You don't have to shuffle through shelves of CDs. You don't have to switch out magazines or carousels full of disks. Are these systems going to replace a home theater? No, but in an office, a kitchen, a bedroom or even a small living room, they can produce a big sound while taking up far less space than the traditional CD-amplifier-loudspeaker setup, and they don't need any cables.
For professional assistance, I checked in with engineer-producer Elliot Scheiner, who has won five Grammys and has worked with Steely Dan, The Eagles, Sting--pretty much everyone. In his words, each machine should have a "full frequency response" (balanced low, mid and high ranges), nice "stereo imaging" (distinguishable sound from both left and right speakers) and a "punchy" low end (boomin' bass).
As he listened, Scheiner wore a satisfied grin. "I found all five to be very, very good. I didn't expect this category to perform as well as it did," he says. But the fact remains that some speaker systems sounded better than others, and some offered more modern conveniences (a remote control, for instance, or an auxiliary input for devices besides iPods). Which model was music to both our ears and our wallets? Listen up.
HOW I DID IT To keep things as realistic as possible, Scheiner and I listened to an iTunes-purchased copy of Donald Fagen's "Nightfly" (which Scheiner engineered) on each system.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Our winner, the Klipsch iGroove HG, has all the bases covered.
• It offers the full sonic range, with a punchy low end and good stereo effects.
• It has a remote control, as well as inputs for a DVD player or other device.
• It is compact and has an attractive design that looks good in any room.
Try moving your speaker unit around the room to find the sound that you like best. Placing it in a corner, for example, can produce a very different effect from setting it up in the middle of the room.