Docking Station: Review & Recommendations

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Welcome to our big docking station test 2020, where we present all the docking stations we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information for you
and also added a summary of the customer reviews in the network.

We want to make your purchase decision easier and help you to find the best docking station for you.

You can also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer you interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should pay attention to if you want to buy a docking station.

The most important facts in brief

  • Docking stations are equipped with a physical interface that allows you to dock your audio source to the speaker. This not only plays music, but also charges the battery of your mobile phone or tablet.
  • Docking stations are available in a wide variety of designs, both in a compact form for on the move and as a multifunctional variant for your own four walls.
  • Sound Docks are basically available from any consumer electronics retailer, either online or from your local retailer. The price range is relatively wide: from 20 euros to 500 euros and more.

Docking Station Test: The Ranking

1st place: Bose® SoundDock XT speakers

2nd place: JBL On Beat Sounddock for iPad/iPhone/iPod

Platz 3: Bose® SoundDock Digitales Musiksystem

Platz 4: i-tec USB 3.0-Doppel-Dockingstation

5th place: i-tec USB 3.0 docking station for tablets and notebooks

Platz 6: WAVLINK USB 3.0-Universal-Dockingstation

Platz 7: WAVLINK USB 3.0 Laptop-Dockingstation

8th place: Inateck USB 3.0 to SATA III dual bay hard drive docking station

Platz 9: ICY BOX IB-DK2241AC USB 3.0 Multi DockingStation

Advisor: Questions you should consider before you buy a docking station

What are docking stations and what advantages do they offer you?

Docking stations have been around for more than ten years, as they were one of the first compact speaker types for smartphones, MP3 players and the like.
Even though the former top dogs have now been somewhat ousted from the mobile speaker market, docking stations are still very popular because they offer many advantages.

Docking stations are compact speakers that can be used to play music from a smartphone or tablet.

The special feature of docking stations: they have a physical interface.

Via this interface you can now dock the audio source.

The advantage of this connection method is that not only music is played, but the battery of the smartphone or tablet is also charged during this time.

The respective interfaces are always only compatible with certain smartphone and tablet models.

You should therefore be clear before buying which device you want to connect to your docking station.

Especially newer models, however, have other connection options besides the physical interface, such as AUX or Bluetooth.

Depending on the design and performance range, the compact speakers are available for both outdoor and home use.

So you will find the right docking station for almost every purpose.

What are the main technical components of a docking station?

Like most other types of mobile speakers, docking stations can be defined by three main components:
Construction
The construction of sound docks is sometimes the most important feature.
Because it determines not only design, size, weight and outdoor capability.
The technical properties also depend primarily on the construction of the docking station.
Because especially with smaller models, manufacturers are quite limited when it comes to installing the technology.
This affects several factors, such as the type of loudspeaker, battery, physical and wireless interfaces and various additional functions.

Did you know that docking stations are from the time when mobile devices were big and heavy?
Certain components were not yet small enough to be built into the terminal device. That’s why docking stations were used to accommodate mass storage devices, optical drives or expansion cards, for example.

Speaker

As already mentioned, the type of built-in speakers depends primarily on the design of the docking station.

Depending on size, weight and design, broadband loudspeakers or tweeters, mid-range and woofers are usually installed, whereby the latter variant offers a clearly better sound experience.

The wattage of these models is also significantly higher and can easily match the performance of a compact stereo system.

Those who place more value on loud, clear and powerful sound will most likely find what they are looking for in larger docking stations.

Especially if you like to turn the speakers up a bit louder, you should consider the wattage of the docking stations.

A high wattage helps to ensure that the audio signal is still clear and powerful even at higher volumes.

Interfaces and alternative connection options

Especially for docking stations, the type of physical interface is crucial, as most connection types are only compatible with certain (smartphone) models.

Especially between Apple and Android devices there are big differences here, as different docking systems are used.

Alternatively, especially with newer models, alternative connection technologies are used in addition to the physical interfaces.

What is the sound quality of Sound Docks?

Sound quality and output power of docking stations are determined by two factors: the type of built-in speakers and the interface type.
The decision as to which speakers are ultimately installed depends not only on the size, but above all on the design of the device.
After all, good sound needs volume. Since there are a large number of different versions with the most unusual designs, especially in sound docks, the sound quality can also vary greatly due to the design.
The more compact, outdoor-ready Sound-Docks are fitted with full-range loudspeakers mainly because of the lack of space in the housing.
Here, a speaker membrane is usually sufficient to produce an appealing stereo sound.
In addition, the entire frequency range is largely covered. Nevertheless, especially cheaper versions weaken audibly at the upper and lower end of the frequency spectrum.
Larger and higher quality docking stations on the other hand usually offer a 2.1 speaker system, b

These not only produce a larger sound volume, but also the particularly high and low frequencies are reproduced clearly and powerfully.

Nevertheless, there are hardly any restrictions in terms of built-in loudspeakers at the top.

High-quality soundbars with a docking function, for example, may well have more than six different speakers installed.

These then often shine with an impressive spatial sound.

Are there also docking stations with other interfaces?

Because the commercial boom of docking stations largely coincided with the iPod hype in the mid-2000s, for a long time there were almost exclusively sound docks with Apple’s 30-pin, 8-pin and Lightning connectors.
Later, however, most manufacturers reacted and also produced models with SD, USB, mini-USB and USB-C interfaces.
This made some docking stations compatible with most Android and Kindle devices.
Nevertheless, Apple interfaces are still used, especially in higher quality products.

Nevertheless, almost all current models have alternative connection options in addition to the physical interfaces.

These range from the classic AUX and jack connections to wireless transmission technologies, such as

Accordingly, such docking stations are only suitable for use at home.

What does a docking station cost?

Similar to the technical characteristics, the range of prices is relatively wide.
Entry-level models with basic technical equipment are available for around 20 euros.
Despite a compact design and quite passable battery life, such sound docks are rather only suitable for some background music in the park or garden.
Because the quality of the built-in loudspeakers usually leaves a lot to be desired.
People with an affinity for sound should therefore have a look at larger docking stations.
Not only are higher quality and more powerful speakers usually installed here, but the connection options and additional functions are also much more extensive.

Where can I buy a docking station?

Docking stations can be purchased from any consumer electronics retailer, whether on the Internet at amazon.de or redcoon.de or locally at specialist retailers such as Media Markt or Saturn.
If you are looking for a simple and, above all, inexpensive docking station, you might also find it at discounters such as Aldi or Real.
From time to time they offer inexpensive models in their assortment.
But if you are looking for a high-quality and powerful docking station for your own four walls, we recommend that you check with your local retailer before buying.
Here you can not only compare the design and size of the different Sound Docks, but you can also test the sound quality of many models.

For what use are Sound Docks well suited?

As large as the number of docking stations with different designs is, so is the range of applications for such loudspeakers.

On the one hand, there are sound docks with a compact, light and robust design that are battery operated and therefore well suited for outdoor use.

These models fit into any backpack or handbag and can therefore be easily transported from A to B.
Depending on the design, they are therefore ideal for the beach, lawn or garden.

If you want to make sure that your docking station is really outdoor-compatible, it should at least be certified according to IPX5.

On the other hand, there are docking stations that are considerably larger and heavier than their portable counterparts.
The advantage of such models is that much more extensive and high-quality technology is usually installed.
However, due to the increased power requirements, they usually require a power connection.
Therefore their use is mainly limited to indoor applications. Nevertheless, they are perfectly suited for living areas, balconies or terraces.

Did you know there’s a docking station for your toilet?
This docking station, specially made for the iPod, is integrated into the toilet roll holder and is called iCarta. So you can charge your device or even listen to music even in a “quiet place”.

Decision: What types of docking stations are there and which one is right for you?

As with many other compact loudspeakers, there are also special models in the docking station sector that are difficult to assign to one type due to their diverse characteristics.

Nevertheless, two different types of docking stations can be roughly defined:

  • Compact docks
  • Multifunctional docks

Both types have their advantages and disadvantages, yet they differ significantly in terms of application area and functional properties.

Therefore, you should first decide for which needs you want to purchase a docking station.

In the following we will introduce you to the two types with their characteristics and advantages and disadvantages, which should make it easier for you to make the right decision.

What distinguishes compact docking stations and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Compact docking stations differ from the other types mainly in size.

Most models fit easily into any backpack or handbag and can therefore be easily transported from A to B.

In addition, the design of these speakers is usually kept simple and compact, making them less susceptible to shocks or weather conditions.

Nevertheless, they cannot compete with most Bluetooth speakers in terms of outdoor suitability.

Most models are only partially dust, dirt and water repellent.

Furthermore, many compact docking stations also leave a lot to be desired in terms of sound quality.

There are two reasons for this: on the one hand, sound needs volume to develop properly. However, the volume is not given due to the small case.

On the other hand, smaller models are mainly fitted with lower-power loudspeakers due to the lack of space.

They are particularly weak in terms of volume and sound quality.

Advantages

Easy to transport
Mostly very reasonable battery life
Good models for little money

Disadvantages

Sound quality rather below average
Few connection and connection possibilities
Mostly only limited outdoor capability

The connection and connection possibilities are also quite meagre with many compact variants of docking stations.

Apart from the physical interface, many models hardly have any alternative connection options such as AUX or Bluetooth.

But if you don’t want to start a multimedia show on the lawn, even the limited possibilities should be quite sufficient.

What distinguishes multifunctional docking stations and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

As the name suggests, the technical equipment and additional functions of most multifunctional docking stations are much more extensive than those of their smaller colleagues.

This starts with the type of speakers installed. Multi-function docks usually convince with a 2.1 stereo system or more.

This not only provides a clear and powerful stereo sound, some models even produce an impressive surround sound.

Also the connection and connection possibilities do not come here too briefly.

In addition to the physical interface, most models have wireless connection options such as Bluetooth, WLAN or Air-Play.

This not only makes it more convenient to connect to the device, but also improves the transmission quality in many cases.

Advantages

Good sound quality
Many connection and connection possibilities
Appealing construction methods and designs

Disadvantages

Almost always require a power connection
Much more expensive than the compact docking stations
Only suitable for indoor operation

Despite this, or perhaps because most multifunctional docks are only suitable for indoor use, they often stand out for their high-quality workmanship.

This ranges from unusual shapes to special materials such as wood, glass or fine piano lacquer.

However, if you are looking for a portable speaker for outdoors, this is not the place for you.

This is because most multifunctional docking stations require a power connection due to the increased energy consumption, making them suitable for indoor use only.

Purchase criteria: You can compare and rate docking stations based on these factors

In this section we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate docking stations.

In this way we would like to make it easier for you to find the optimal device for you.

You should consider the following factors before buying:

  • Sound quality / volume
  • Connection possibilities
  • Type
  • Price
  • Battery capacity
  • Power consumption
  • Additional functions

Sound quality / volume

The sound quality is sometimes the most important factor, since it is ultimately about music speakers. The type of speakers installed is the most important factor here.

While smaller models mainly use full-range loudspeakers, the larger models use tweeters, mid-range and woofers.

The latter models therefore reproduce both very high and very low frequencies with clarity and punch.

Tim AschermannEditor at CHIP Online
A subwoofer, or also called “bass box” and “low frequency loudspeaker”, serves to amplify the sounds in the low frequencies between 20 and 120 Hz. It can play the barely audible bass, which is not in the frequency range of normal speakers. Thus a subwoofer provides a better sound quality and is indispensable especially in home cinemas. Besides the 2.1 sound system, the subwoofer is also built into many other sound systems, such as the 5.1 home cinema system.
(Source: praxistipps.chip.de)

In addition, due to the higher wattage, such docking stations also allow higher volumes without having to sacrifice sound quality.

So if the sound of the speaker is a basic factor for you, you should rather go for larger models.

Connection possibilities

The physical interface is also an important factor, as it is the reason why docking stations differ from other compact speakers.

And caution is advised here, as the respective interfaces are only compatible for certain smartphone, tablet and MP3 player models.

While Apple devices only work with 8-pin, 30-pin and Lightning connectors, most Android devices, for example, require a mini-USB or USB-C interface.

Nevertheless, especially newer and higher quality models are equipped with alternative connection possibilities.

These range from AUX and jack plugs to Bluetooth or air-play functions.

You should therefore also be clear which device you want to connect to your docking station.

Type

The construction of the loudspeakers is also an important point that you should consider.

Not only does it determine how large or heavy the docking station is, it also has a major impact on the sound quality.

In addition, the design of compact docks also determines to what extent they are suitable for outdoor use.

If they are only partially resistant to dirt and water, you should be careful with the speaker outdoors.

With multifunctional docks for home use, outdoor suitability is not important, the design is often the decisive factor here.

The loudspeakers are available in the most diverse forms and variants, with the most diverse materials and paint finishes.

Price

Basically the price of a docking station often gives you a good indication of the quality of the respective speaker.

Nevertheless, there are numerous models with a long battery life and quite appealing sound quality for relatively little money on the market.

Nevertheless, the price range for docking stations is wide, ranging from 20 euros to 500 euros and more.

Especially when the sound quality of the speakers should not be neglected, you usually have to dig deeper into your pocket.

Battery capacity

Logically, this point only concerns compact versions of docking stations that are battery operated.

While there are big differences between the various models, especially in terms of sound quality and connectivity, the range of fluctuation in the respective battery life remains within limits.

Especially in newer models, the battery life is considerable, even cheaper devices already manage 10h and more.

Nevertheless, before using the docking station outdoors for a longer period of time, one should reconnect it to the power outlet at home or take a battery pack with one.

The recharging time should also be considered. This can easily take several hours.

Power consumption

This point, in turn, only concerns multifunctional docks, as most models require a power connection due to the increased energy consumption.

Therefore the power consumption must also be taken into account.

This mainly depends on the performance of the built-in speakers. Even in standby mode the consumption can still be several watts.

You should therefore, if possible, switch off the docking station completely after operation.

Additional functions

The models differ greatly in terms of additional functions.

While compact docking stations score points with features such as radio or alarm function, the multifunctional devices are distinguished above all by their versatile connection options.

Worth mentioning here are the various wireless connections that allow easy integration into the home network.

This allows the speaker to be easily connected to other technical devices, such as a television or laptop.

There are also useful applications for higher quality docking stations, such as EQ apps.

This allows you to change the sound characteristics, for example, by emphasizing certain frequencies and adapting them to the conditions of the room.

Trivia: Worth knowing facts about docking stations

Why are most docking stations only available with Apple interfaces?

The reason for this is mainly to be found in the past. Docking stations have been around for more than 10 years.

Nevertheless, demand for the compact loudspeakers was still low, especially at the beginning.

It was only with the iPod hype between 2005 and 2010 that the sound docks also experienced an upswing.

To be compatible with the popular iPod models, the docking stations were initially equipped almost exclusively with Apple’s 30-pin and later with the 8-pin and Lightning interface.

It was not until a few years later that most manufacturers reacted and also installed mini-USB and USB-C interfaces, making many docking stations compatible with smartphones from other manufacturers

Nevertheless, you still have a clear advantage in most models with Apple devices.

Especially high-end speakers are still only compatible with iPhone, iPad or iPod.

What alternatives are there to the Sound Docks?

Bluetooth speakers, for example, are a suitable alternative to the compact docking stations, especially if you are outdoors a lot and can’t do without the right music.

Even though the compact sound docks are usually not inferior to many Bluetooth loudspeakers in terms of sound quality, the latter are mostly more suitable for outdoor use.

Due to their robust construction, most Bluetooth speakers are not only shock and scratch resistant.

Thanks to resistant rubber, plastic or fabric covers, many models not only withstand dirt and wind, but in many cases are even waterproof.

There are also alternatives to docking stations for your own four walls.

If you’re not convinced by the sound of the multifunctional docks, there are soundbars or compact stereo systems with an optional dock.

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