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back to article Ten... wireless speakers

The iPod can take credit for creating an entirely new market for compact speaker systems, yet iPod sales are now starting to taper off as people move their music onto smartphones and tablets. No one wants their phone or tablet to be out of action while it’s docked inside a speaker system, so manufacturers are now adding wireless …

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Tch...

You could have said "*iPod* wireless speakers". I thought this was something interesting.

From a tech site, I'd have liked to hear how many of these support DLNA's "Play to..." function, to be useful with non-Apple kit too.

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iPod only?

The Altec Lansing one's about the only one I like the look of (visually, sonically, financially), and it's Bluetooth, so no problem with pretty much any modern phone.

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Pint

exactly what I was thinking... WHERE'S the DLNA gear???

Let me take a dump on all this iPhone dock crap. Either manufacturers haven't noticed that Androids are outselling iPhones, or they figure its too difficult to include a selection of swappable trays with micro USB connectors.

But how about - DLNA - it needs no stinking tray, so we could go back to more universally useful gear, like it used to be before the big Apple psychosis.

A good variation would be active studio monitors with those perfect frequency curves, each driver with its own amp, producing pristine sound beyond any of this consumer clap trap - for less money. (like KRK V4 or V6's, Alesis, M-Audio and similar are all reasonable and have way more accurate sound, cause they were made for audio professionals).

Combine that with a small DLNA receiver (renderer as they call them) and loose the need for a regular stereo alltogether.

When you come home, you can just pull the headphones out of your phone and toss it on the sofa, the speakers will just continue playing what you were listening to...

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Meh...

I'd much prefer an Airport Express and a reasonable amp and speaker package from our friend Mr Richer...

Cheaper than a lot of these and I'd bet it'd sound better than most as well.

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Unhappy

Don't know if its just me.....

But I just *hate* superfluous features.

I don't have an iPod or iPhone and, while many of these speakers will work with the non Apple kit I *do* have, it just grates my sensibilities that there is this prominent "dock" that I'm never going to use.

Even when they can be hidden away, you still know its there, but can't be used so, for me, the dock-free Altec Lansing has to be the clear winner.

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WTF?

What are you on about?

So if your car stereo has an audio-in jack you'll never use as you only listen to radio, that bugs you?! Actually half the buttons on my dash I've never wanted to touch, and the glove compartment is probably empty (never checked), time for a wobbly about that?

Unused options are just that, options.

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Facepalm

Of jacks and docks

I can use the audio in jack if I want to. I can use it with just about any audio source I can find.

I can use any of the buttons on the dash if I want to.

I can't use the iThing dock because my phone isn't an iPhone and my music player isn't an iPod.

To continue your car analogy. You can buy cars with built in bike racks. You can sling pretty much any bike onto them. It doesn't matter if I don't use the rack, my bike will fit it if I want it to.

If the rack was custom designed to fit the bikes from a certain manufacturer, and my bike is from a different manufacturer, then its not a matter of "don't use", its a matter of "can't use" unless I buy a new bike from that certain manufacturer.

What I would have to do is fit an after-market bike rack and ignore the factory fitted one, which would be an arsingly stupid situation.

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Although not technically a wireless speaker

Would have liked to have seen a sonos or squeezebox slipped into this review.

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other options...

You could also consider Sonos? it's a pretty slick wireless implementation for around the home.. or for something simpler I have a Sony SRS-BT100, great sounding and works with any Bluetoth A2DP device..

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Options to your options ;)

Logitech's Squeezebox players are cheaper than Sonos, but not quite as "plug-n-play". Also, their server software sucks if you run it on a NAS. It's basically an "ease versus cost" decision.

On pure speakers, Nokia's "Play 360" looks interesting too -- audio over Bluetooth or plug-in 3.5mm jack, and if you've got two, they negotiate wirelessly between themselves to form a stereo pair, which is kind of cool.

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Alert

Accurate reporting fail?

"The initial set-up process does require a wired Ethernet connection"... why does every review seem to say this about the Zeppelin? It is NOT TRUE. Set mine up last weekend without ever touching the Ethernet cable.

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FAIL

JBL On Air - don't even go there.

JBL On Air isn't worth the money - the sound quality is poor (sure, it's "good for a small unit", but is that why you're spending £330?), the unit feels plasticky and somewhat fragile, and the iPod dock which seems like such a pretty design just isn't accessible enough - you'll have to wiggle and tease your pod/phone in and out of it, and that's just silly.

Sad really, looked very promising!

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Unhappy

No "affordable" options?

I know "ten eye-wateringly expensive iPod speaker docks, some of which might have AirPlay" is more of a mouthful than the title you chose, but it would've arguably been more accurate :-(

Just for starters: if you want to round up some "wireless" speakers, where are the Bluetooth models? They're not all tinny £30 jobbies - Creative's D100 puts out surprisingly good-quality output over Bluetooth (A2DP), and if you shop around you can find it online for under £50. (I saw the D100 on sale for a short time in our local Currys for £35, and having tried one out in the store, I'm still kicking myself that I didn't go for it.)

Personally, I've never seen the point of an iPod dock that costs three times the price of the iPod docked into it, but maybe I just lack imagination...

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Re: No "affordable" options?

Yeah, I'm with Tim here. Even a bit in the box at the top of the first page indicating the price range would have been handy. As it is, I had to click through five pages of kit and read all the summary boxes to find out there wasn't a single model that I could even begin to afford.

I mean, it's only a wireless speaker. I have a San Francisco Smartphone and a no-name chinese Android tablet that, combined, cost less than the cheapest of these speakers. And I guarantee I'll get a lot more use from the phone and tablet.

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Go to Costco

If you want affordable sound then funnily Costco is the place to be, they've had decent prices on ipod docks for several months now.

I got a Gear4 SoundOrb Aurora for all of £40 - took it to Greece on Holiday and it was brilliant, an ipod dock with a wireless sub and the sound is pretty good, amazing for the price.

The same place also does wired systems for £100 by Roth and Fatman, both include speakers and a Hybrid-valve amp and sound awesome.

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Interesting option :-)

Sadly, I'm pretty sure there isn't a Costco in our neck of the woods, but I'd go take a look if there were...

Another possibility that could make a good review, is Bluetooth (A2DP) audio adapters. I have a JBL On Tour portable speaker unit (it's been reviewed here in the past), which I like a lot, and have sometimes thought of connecting it to something like a Belkin Bluetooth Music Receiver. These sell for about £20 online if you look around; I would then be able to stream audio from my Nokia N8, without having to plug the N8 directly into the JBL.

I've heard the sound quality can be variable, and that sometimes WiFi and Bluetooth don't get on too well, but at least this way I'd get to "keep" the On Tours.

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FAIL

All these constant 80% reviews......

.....dont really help.

Are we just surrounded with lots of average products?

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FAIL

Sonos

Yep, you missed the Sonos, although expensive, its bloody clever.

I'll have them all over my house soon.

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Titles are for Toffs

Yeah, why are these things so expensive for relatively simple devices with some small speakers in plastic enclosures.

You should do some reviews of 'budget' equipment, especially given the economically challenging times we live in.

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Anonymous Coward

iOS5 and Bluetooth

As Bluetooth A2DP support in iOS 5 seems to have expanded to include AAC codec it'll be interesting to see devices using it.

Bluetooth is usually much cheaper that AirPlay to license and implement.

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FAIL

Are you kidding?

These are not wireless speakers. They are mp3/ipod docking stations... Sheesh... Here I thought I was going to read a reveiw on genuine wireless speakers. I was very dissappointed.

shame on you....

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Mine were £40 from Tesco...

... although I was cagey about spending £40 on Tesco own brand speakers. I must admit to being very pleasantly surprised. Transmitter connects via 3.5mm audio jack into the switch, so broadcasts from whichever of the various sources is selected, and no problem at all over the width of the lounge, to the two independent wireless speakers, which do manage to do stereo.

Other than the bulky wall-wart power adapters, which I guess are not uncommon, there's very little to dislike for the money.

For AirPlay wireless, a second hand Airport Extreme plugged into Harman Kardon Soundsticks does very nicely, for £150.

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Speaker phone functionality?

It might have been nice if you'd at least mentioned in passing whether any of these had speakerphone functionality. A wireless speaker for streaming music from a phone is of zero interest to me, though I can see how it'd be interesting for someone with a small music collection who didn't care too much about quality, but I've thought for a while it'd be nice to have a speaker sitting on my desk which I could pair my cellphone with and take calls on while I'm at home. Seems a bit of a waste not to at least _mention_ it.

To contribute to the above debate about various ways to transmit music wirelessly - one thing that grinds my gears is few sites seem to entirely understand Bluetooth streaming. It's really not enough to just talk about 'Bluetooth streaming', because there's at least two ways to transmit audio over Bluetooth, and the difference is significant. Bluetooth's audio profile has the concept of using different codecs; Bluetooth's just the transport. Some devices support only the SBC codec. No-one stores their music in SBC format, so when streaming in SBC you lose battery power on the device as it has to do the work of transcoding, and you lose quality a) because you're probably transcoding from one lossy format to another and b) because SBC's a pretty poor codec from a quality perspective. However, it's also possible within the Bluetooth spec to stream audio over Bluetooth *in MP3 format*, if the devices on both ends are capable of it. If the song is stored as MP3 on the phone, no transcoding is needed - the phone just squirts the song as-is straight out over Bluetooth. This saves power and also should give you identical quality to a wired connection. It's therefore rather important when you're talking about Bluetooth streaming to know if both the devices you're working with are capable of MP3-over-Bluetooth streaming, but manufacturers and reviewers never seem to manage to provide this information...

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Arcam rCube

I did some reasonably careful listening tests before committing, and was pretty impressed by Arcam's rCube.

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