Five top speaker docks for the iPad

Almost simultaneously with the launch of the Apple iPod, masses of speaker docks arrived leaving a confused consumers dizzyingly deliberating over which one to buy. Whilst the spawning of the iPod’s tablet sibling, the iPad’s speaker docks have been much slower to emerge and only now is beginning to gather up speed. From just over £50 to almost a grand, check out our top five speaker docking systems for the iPad that cater for every iPad owner’s budget.

Octiv-Stage

Scorche BassDOCK iPad Speaker Dock

You can tilt it, rotate it and cart the 2.1 sound system with 40mm stereo speakers around with you, meaning you can enjoy practically any viewing angle accompanied by smooth, crystal clear sound practically anywhere. Compatible with both the first and second generations of iPad, we assume Scosche’s latest innovatory delight derives its name from its 3 inch subwoofer, which delivers a rich and powerful bass.

Asides from transforming your iPad into a powerful and flexible complete entertainment system, the bassDOCK delivers 10 watts for a super-fast charge.

Pretty impressive for just $149.99.

iLuv iMM747

For those of us on a tighter monetarist leash, the iLuv iMM474 could be the answer. Looking fairly elegant all in black, this iPad speaker dock boasts a tweeter, mid-range driver a subwoofer to really blast out some noise. Another notable touch is that the iLuv features an adjustable docking wall providing the iPad with some valuable support.

At just £49.99 it’s not much of a gamble!

Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 8

Calling all posers, if you’ve got a spare £900 to blow on an iPad speaker dock then take a look at the Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 8. The Danish designer sure knows how to pull out all the stops in designing shockingly expensive gadgets and if you’re after impressing with mega-materialistic appliances scattered about the home then you’re definitely on to a winner the uniquely designed BeoSound 8. Audio-wise we’re not as instantly bowled over, although with a clog that consists of three adjustment switches that modify the bass boom according to its position in the room, we’re beginning to warm up to the audio capabilities of this top of the range iPad speaker dock.

Philips Fidelio DS8550

£250 now that’s a bit more ‘realistic’! It may not possess the aesthetical ‘wow’ factor of its Bang & Olufsen counterpart but the ‘SoundCurve’ concaved device will certainly hold its own in impressing the mates stakes. The Fidelio DS8550 promises to impress when switched on as well as Philips insist it has been design to deliver distortion free sound.

Altec Lansing Octiv Stage

At just £60 how can the Altec Lansing Octiv Stage really compare with its more expensive rivals? Well it doesn’t really, but if your after docking your iPad and filling the room with distortion-free sound at a volume without breaking the bank, then the Octive Stage’s cheap and cheerful dual full-range speakers may be just the job!

Stilo 2.1 speakers review: OTone! OTony! OToni!

It’s highly unlikely you will have heard of Otone as they are a bright new face in the world of home audio, looking to make a splash in the UK. However in a crowded market and with built in speakers getting better and better all the time, should you care?

Otone-Stilo-Pro

Well Otone have a three-pronged strategy to winning both your affections and a place in your living room: great sound, innovative design and low low pricing. We had a look at their 2.1 speaker set – the Stilo 2.1 Pro speaker + amp setup to see how it stacked up.

The Stilo Pros sound pretty good. I should mention it contains Otone’s patented “Vortex Drive™ System” but I’m not entirely sure what that means and am pretty sure it’s only designed to simultaneously confuse and impress me. But I do know they sound pretty good and hold up despite a variety of genres thrown at them.

The Stilo pro pack 75W total RMS which helps when you are going for a massive sound. The high-efficiency class D digital amp filters out unwanted high-frequency pulses, leaving a smooth low-frequency signal. The Stilo Pro comes with a standalone amp, which in addition to the standard power and volume controls that you’d expect, also allows fine adjustment for bass and treble, and can switch between 3.5mm and RCA inputs. The 3.5 mm inputs seem a little old-fashioned but they are pretty widespread and means you can hook your cassette walkman from the 80s up and it should still work. Handy if you’re having a retro c90 party.

For an RRP of £89.99 there’s a lot to recommend the Stilo 2.1 Pro. Take a look here.

Elipson Planet L: “Le style c’est Elipson même”

I’ve never been a fan of the phrase “style over substance”, in tech reviews as style (and in this context more specifically design) is such an important part of technology. To quote Buffon as people always do in these situations, “Le style c’est l’homme même”. So when I read that Elipson’s stylish high-end speakers were coming to the UK, I was delighted, as they look simply stunning.

Elipson-Planet-L

For those that don’t know, French manufacturer Elipson have made a nomme for themselves after registering design patents and developing new acoustic technologies in Europe for over 70 years. Its development started with a loudspeaker made up of a sphere and an ellipsoidal reflector (hence the “Elipson”).
If you’ve been in a recording studio or concert hall in France, the chances are high you’ve heard an Elipson speaker.

The Planet L’s feature a bass reflex enclosure made from an inert glass-fibre resin compound and finished in a choice of three piano gloss colours; red, white and black.

The specification boasts a powerful 2-way, 165mm coaxial driver with an integral 25mm soft dome tweeter. With no less than 4 clever mounting accessory options, the Planet L’s can be used for table, floor, wall and ceiling applications and can be purchased as a stereo pair for music or individually for multi-channel or commercial applications.

The Planet L loudspeakers are available from authorised UK retailers from 1st December at an SRP of £599 per pair and are the first products of an ambitious roadmap for 2011, including active wireless audio systems all with unique and iconic lifestyle designs.

Great Gifts For Travellers and Backpackers

If your friends are heading off on a round-the-world adventure, or you just know someone who loves their holidays, here are some ideas for the perfect present.

AW100-camo

Nikon AW100 rugged camera

Climbers, divers and skiers, can grab all the best shots with the Nikon AW100 – a ‘rugged’ camera that is shockproof, waterproof and freezeproof.  It has a 16-megapixel back illuminated CMOS image sensor; Action Control to allow one-handed operation and built-in Global Positioning System (GPS), electronic compass and world map.

Price: £279

From: High street stores

HD Hero2 wearable/mountable cameras

Active travellers can capture and share their high-definition videos while in action on the slopes, surfing or cycling with the HD hero2 camera, which has a high-performance 11-megapixel sensor, a totally redesigned wide-angle lens, plus Wi-Fi BacPac and Wi-Fi Remote products are slated for release this winter, so the HD Hero2 will enable video remote control. The removable polycarbonate housing means the camera is waterproof to 180ft/60m and protected from rocks and other hazards. Accessories include straps to attach the camera to your chest, a wrist strap and the option to attach the camera to a helmet.

Price £299.99

From: www.gopro.com

AirCurvePlay

AirCurve Play loudspeaker

Take your sounds with you with the AirCurve Play designed for the iPhone 4. Using the phone’s onboard loudspeaker and a clever coil design, the sound is amplified to 10 decibels, without the need for any battery power. The AirCurve Play sits in the rubber dock and can be propped up in landscape or portrait. It also leaves the Apple dock connector port free, allowing you to charge and sync while using the speaker.

Price: £14.99

From: www.firebox.com

Travel Scratch Map

Make a note of where you’ve been and what you’ve done with the Travel Scratch Map. The map has a gold foil layer over the top of it, so whenever you frequent a certain place anywhere in the world, scratch it off to reveal the underlying world in colour. Flip the map over and you’ll find the travel log feature, where you can plot your route, stick down photos, and note what music you listened to and friends you met and so on. The map comes in a sturdy tube that you can stick in your rucksack.

Price: £11.95

From: www.gizoo.co.uk

Bladefish

Bladefish Underwater Video Camera

Perfect for daredevils and intrepid explorers, this camera captures sporting successes and underwater finds  – and it’s small enough to tuck in your Speedos (without its waterproof case it measures a diddy 2 cm x 5.5 cm x 2 cm)! Waterproof to a depth of ten metres, it allows up to 2 hours of recording time whether you’re snowboarding or snorkelling. With its own special waterproof casing, it has loads of different adaptors to mount your waterproof digital camera – clip, strap or screw your camera wherever you want.

Price: £44.49
From: www.find-me-a-gift.co.uk

Scandyna Minipod gets a make-over

The original Scandya Minipod was Heralded as a design classic upon its release two decades ago now, boosting sale of over 100,000 units across the globe. So with that in mind, knowing they have a success story on their hands, maybe it is a surprise it has taken the Danish loudspeaker company so long to release a revamp of the product. Maybe they just spent a really long time perfecting the Mk II, but at any rate here it is, finally ready to be let loose on the general public.

Minipod

Available in a choice of red, white or black colours, the Minipod Mk II sports a host of new features and improvements over the original. According to the press release, the Mk II’s cabinet is an ‘amalgamation of three spheres to form one pressure-vessel, minimizing cabinet vibration, sound radiation and distortion, allowing sound waves to move more freely’.

We could also tell you that ‘ mid/bass driver has been redesigned and now features a new 4-layer aluminium voice coil to improve efficiency’. Or perhaps that ‘ the crossover has been upgraded to incorporate the new driver and, to make use of the improved bass response, the crossover point had been changed down to 2700Hz from 3000Hz’.

Yes that all sounds great, but we have a feeling that technical competence is not what would drive people to purchase the Mk II. No, let’s face it, the real reason people would be interested in buying the Minipod Mk II is because it looks bloody fantastic… With a recommended retail price of £549 for a pair of speakers though, it doesn’t come cheap, but if you are serious about turning your neighbours head, there really is nothing quite like it on the market.

For more information visit: www.scandyna-uk.co.uk

Orbitsound T12v3 soundbar: Surround sound magic

We’re always amazed by those single speakers (soundbars) that sit in front of TV and emit surround-sound from one speaker. They just don’t make sense to us. Still, this hurdle hasn’t stopped British manufacturer Orbitsound from producing their best-sounding soundbar to date: the T12v3.

Orbitsounds-Soundbar

The new Orbitsound T12v3 may not have the most memorable name (compared with Pioneer’s Soundwing), but the engineers promise that its performance will stay with you, even if the name doesn’t. The new bar boasts “even greater sound clarity, improved bass response and extended volume range” than the old model.

Specifically, the new Orbitsound should offer a smoother, tighter bass response thanks to an improved subwoofer. The main speaker drives also include higher quality components which produce a more rigid, balanced, cleaner sound stage. Oh, and the whole is system is more powerful.

Another benefit of the T12v3 (and all soundbars), is that they produce surround-sound without the limitations of a “sweet-spot”. Traditional surround-systems produce one-direction sound which creates one location that’s good for listening at the expense of the rest of the room.

Audiences seem to be noticing the difference, too – in less than a year, UK sales of the T12v2 soundbar already rivalled those of more established brands.

That’s only going to increase as the company has been working closely with giant retail partners including John Lewis and Harrods, as well as signing a deal with Widget – the UK distributor that introduced the TomTom to our shores.

As a soundbar, it looks as you’d expect it: a bit like the flatscreen TV it’s supposed to sit in front of. It’s got a high-gloss finished with a metallic speaker grill to give the device a premium finish. The grill should also ensure the sound is more acoustically transparent, too.

The T12v3 soundbar costs £299 and will be available from September 2011.  For more information about the Orbitsound and the T12v3, visit www.orbitsound.com.

Pioneer’s new micro-stereo systems

Pioneer has launched four new micro-stereo systems into the European market, with enough variation between the models to help you find your ideal micro-music machine.

The range – X-HM10, X-HM20DAB, X-HM70DAB, XC-HM70DAB – was built on the back of the success of the X-HM50 micro-system that was introduced last September.

Pioneer-Micro-Stereo

Every system in the range caters for all of your CD playing needs, while also remembering those of us who live in the 21st century: each one has a front-mounted USB port.

The USB support isn’t great, however, allowing the playback of MP3 or WMA files. That’s not the widest format support we’ve ever seen. Still, most files come in MP3 anyway, so it’s probably not a deal-breaker.

For every model except the X-HM10, you’ll also find an iPhone/iPod docking slot integrated in the top of the cabinet, for both playback with charging.

All of the systems are extremely similar in size, with each device measuring 21.5cm wide. The two premium offerings are slightly taller (11.1cm to 9cm) and have a little more depth (32cm vs. 30cm).

There’s not much else to say about the entry-level X-HM10 (£129.99), other than its speakers output at 2x15W.

Things get more interesting with the X-HM20DAB (£199.99), however, which throws in DAB radio, higher-grade speakers (complete with a 5cm tweeter and 10cm woofer) and the iPhone/iPod docking capability, as well as support for the iPad via the USB port.

Topping Pioneer’s micro systems line-up is the X-HM70DAB (£449.99) – with premium features like internet radio and home network music playback. That means that not only are all the world’s internet stations at your fingertips, but also music from a PC or media server connected to the same LAN can be played via DLNA.

Speaker-wise, the X-HM70DAB’s speakers have a built-in 12cm woofer, and output at an impressive 50W (each). It’ll also be available without speakers, as model number XC-HM70DAB (£349.99).

Music on the move from boomCAN or Gumball portable speakers

There’s not much point having all this portable kit, if you’re stuck with a very unmobile speaker if you want to listen to tunes, games and videos without using headphones.

BoomCan

So listen out for the Scosche boomCAN, a portable speaker that is only slightly bigger than a film canister (if you remember those in these days of digital cameras). It means it’s about 2.5 inches high and less than 2 inches wide.

The boomCAN plugs into a 3.5mm headphone jack, so is compatible with pretty much any portable media player. And its in-built rechargeable lithium-ion battery offers up to 7 hours of music playback. It is also possible to daisy chain multiple boomCANS together.

“With the boomCAN we designed a portable, affordable, speaker perfect for dropping into a backpack before a camping trip, holiday abroad or day at the beach,” said Kas Alves, executive vice president of Scosche Industries.

It may be small, but its makers claim it is big on sound – pumping out your music thanks to a 40m driver

The Scosche boomCAN is available in silver, black, red and silver for £19.99 from Square Group retail outlets.

iPod-speakers

If you’re looking in this budget, you might also consider the Veho Gumball Portable Speaker. This nifty piece of kit is coated in a matte black rubberised coating and when closed, take on a ball shape – hence the name presumably. Unclip it and it opens up to reveal two 2.2 Watt speakers.

The built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery (which can be charged from the mains or via a PC or Mac using the USB connection) will offer up to five hours of playback and there is a 3.5mm jack with dual volume control.
The Gumball speaker is compatible with iPods, iPhones, MP3 players, mobile phones – anything with a 3.5mm headphone socket, in fact.

Available from www.gizoo.co.uk for £14.95.