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Choosing Speakers for your iPod, iPhone, and iPad
Want to listen out loud to music from your Apple portable devices? There are a plethora of powered speaker systems offering a variety of different form factors and connection options. What are you looking for? Extreme portability? Superior sound quality? Docking? Wireless connectivity? Not sure? Consider where and how you will be using your speaker system.
As you shop, you’ll see that we have three basic types of speaker systems for Apple portables. We carry iPod® speakers, which require wired connections, and two types of wireless systems: Bluetooth® speakers and AirPlay® speakers. We’ve got a few suggestions below about which the types might suit certain listening locations and habits.
The compact Cambridge Audio Minx Air 100 is small enough to be placed right on your desk.
iPod speaker systems tend to be quite compact, making them a comfortable fit for just about any space. However, there are a few design features that may make certain models better suited for some rooms.
Whether you're putting in extra hours to prepare for a big presentation or trying to rebalance your 401k, time spent in the home office can sometimes be a drag. An iPod speaker system can do a lot to liven things up. Most tabletop systems can fit comfortably in an office – on your desktop, bookcase, or filing cabinet.
Some systems include two small stereo speakers that flank your computer screen, making them a great option for your desktop. A few also include a separate subwoofer giving you fuller bass, plus that extra dose of energy you may need to make it through last quarter's earnings report.
The iHome iPL10 features a built-in FM tuner and two charging ports.
These systems are still compact enough to fit on a desk or side table, but offer fuller, clearer sound. While some of the smaller speakers are best for "near field" listening, high-fidelity speaker systems can fill a whole room with sound.
With an iPod-compatible clock radio, you can play some soothing music as you're falling asleep and wake up to your favorite song or radio station. Listen to the news or a podcast while you get dressed.
Some models also let you tune in and wake up to Internet Radio stations once you download the necessary app. [Shop Curtchfield's selection of wireless and iPod-compatible clock radios.]
The Cambridge Audio Minx Air 100 lets you stream wirelessly either with Apple AirPlay® or Bluetooth®
Many wireless portable speakers can work well in the kitchen. In addition to their small size, many feature rechargeable batteries. They won't use the power outlet you need for your stand mixer, and they can be easily moved out of the way. Water-resistant models will withstand a splash with no problem.
The UE Boom portable Bluetooth speaker's water-resistant, making it a great choice for deck or poolside.
Deck or patio
Portable wireless speaker systems are a great option for occasional outdoor listening – during dinner on the patio, or while you’re weeding the flower bed. A few iPod speakers — such as the Russound AirGo™ powered outdoor speaker — are more rugged and weather-resistant, making them a better option if you’d like to listen poolside or get in the groove while you wash your car.[Shop Crutchfield's selection of portable speaker systems.]
On the go
Power and playback time
Bose® SoundLink® Bluetooth® Mobile speaker II – Leather Edition
Some portable iPod speakers include built-in rechargeable batteries, while others work with regular batteries. A few models are even solar powered for easy recharging at your next family picnic, beach trip, or other daytime adventure. Once portable iPod speakers are fully charged or have fresh batteries, most models will provide between five and ten hours of playback time.
The BOOM Urchin comes with its own carabiner to clip to belt or backpack.
Size and weight
Portable iPod speakers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some are truly tiny and weigh a pound or less – easy to toss in a purse or backpack for impromptu music on the go. Others are larger and more ruggedly built, and may weigh up to ten pounds or more. These models will generally be able to play your music over a larger area, and will often provide better sound quality and more bass than smaller models.
The Bowers & Wilkins A5 powered speaker system connects to your Apple portable wirelessly, so you can place it just about anywhere.
Exceptional sound, tiny footprint
Is sound quality is important to you? Do you save your music files in a high-resolution format? Then you should consider a high-fidelity iPod speaker system. These systems are a great way to add audiophile performance to a small apartment, or any place where space is an issue. Hi-fi models still offer the same conveniences as other iPod speakers – compact size, a variety of connection options, and a few are even portable. Below, we’ve described the types of build and design features that set hi-fi systems apart.
Smart cabinet design
Small speaker systems are easy to fit into almost any room, but it takes a clever design to make one that produces full, spacious, and engaging sound. Hi-fi iPod systems take advantage of every inch of space inside their speaker cabinets, effectively fitting big-speaker sound in a much smaller package.
Some systems use specially designed bass ports for better low-end response. Others use passive radiators to reinforce the bass. These drivers aren’t powered by the system’s amplifier. Instead, they move in response to changes in air pressure caused by the main woofer.
Many hi-fi iPod speakers use smart technologies to fit big sound in a small space. Sony RDP-X500IP pictured, from the outside (left) and an inside look at speaker drivers (right)
The Focal XS 2.1 powered speaker system includes a separate subwoofer for fuller bass.
Achieving defined, precise sound can be difficult for compact speaker systems. Some hi-fi iPod systems overcome that challenge by using separate drivers to play different frequency ranges. For example, some include separate tweeters for crisp highs, plus separate woofers for better mids and mid-bass. Also, although some systems may appear to have all their speakers housed in one cabinet, they actually have internal dividers to prevent acoustic cross-interference.
Samsung’s DA-E750 boasts a vacuum tube preamp and class D digital amplifier for rich, warm sound.
Many hi-fi iPod speakers include separate amplification for each driver, ensuring clearer, cleaner power and audio signals. A few models go a step further – such as bi-amping the built-in speakers, or employing high-quality class D digital amplifiers.
Circuitry that improves the sound of your music
Compressed music files like MP3 and AAC are undeniably convenient, but they lack the warmth and detail of the original recording. Some hi-fi iPod systems feature sophisticated circuitry that can improve the sound of your digital music files. Look for digital signal processing that restores some of the richness and clarity that compression takes away. Or choose a model that can bypass your iPod’s relatively low-quality DAC (digital-to-analog converter), and instead send audio signals to its own built-in high-quality DAC for more accurate, full-bodied sound.
How to connect a speaker to your Apple portable device
Apple’s proprietary AirPlay technology makes it a snap to listen to music stored on your device, as well as music streamed from compatible apps like Pandora® and MOG. Just make sure both the speakers and your device are on the same Wi-Fi® network. See our Intro to Airplay for more info.
Speakers with Apple AirPlay let you easily stream music from your iDevice. The Bose® SoundLink® Air digital music system demonstrates this feature above.
Many wireless iPod speakers use Bluetooth® technology to allow you to listen to any audio being played by your Apple portable. Some Bluetooth-capable models also feature “talk” buttons, so that you can use it as a high-quality speakerphone system.
|Range||The range of your Wi-Fi Network||30 feet|
|Device compatibility||Apple devices only||Any mobile device that has Bluetooth audio streaming capability (A2DP)|
|Sound quality||Good||Fair to good|
|Portability||Some models can be easily carried around the house, but most aren't small enough to take on the road||Some models are small enough for easy travel|
JBL’s OnBeat Xtreme lets you dock your device with either vertical or horizontal orientation — great for watching video.
Many iPod speaker systems include dock connectors that can accommodate your iPhone® or docking iPod. Some even give you enough room to dock your iPad. Note that you may need to purchase an adapter to connect newer Apple devices with a Lightning® connector to iPod speakers that use the older 30-pin connector.
The iHome iHM89 rechargeable portable speakers make a direct connection to your device's headphone jack.
Use the headphone jack
Although it may not seem as high-tech as the other connection routes, using your device’s headphone jack opens up some additional options, such as hi-fi desktop speakers. These speakers offer true stereo separation for better imaging — placing the speakers a few feet apart creates the illusion that the band you're listening to is playing right in front of you.
A number of portable and tabletop iPod speakers can also connect via the headphone jack. Note that you’ll likely need to provide your own stereo minijack cable to connect your device.