iPod speaker recommendations?
January 4, 2005 12:25 PM   Subscribe

I want to buy some speakers for an Ipod. Altec Lansing and Bose have both made speaker sets that use the docking port, so that's kind of cool, but are the speakers worth it? The Bose ones in particular are $300, which seems really high. Anyone have any experience with these? Or is it just better to buy some regular powered speakers and plug them into the earphone jack?
posted by jasper411 to Technology (26 answers total)
I heard the Bose setup at a Bose store during xmas shopping and I thought it sounded terrible. While it was a crowded shopping day and not ideal quiet home conditions, it sounded like a crappy $30 clock radio to my ears.

I've always loved the design of the dock/speaker setup and the idea of coming home and sliding my ipod from my car, into my living room and hearing the same song continue, I think a simple mini-headphone-to-RCA cord leading to my stereo is a better option.
posted by mathowie at 12:29 PM on January 4, 2005

I'm not an audiophile or anything, so take this with a grain of salt:
The small speakers are never going to sound as good as your stereo, of course, so if running an aux-in cable to your stereo is an option, that's the way to go.

I bought the Altec Lansing speakers, and I am happy with them. They're very small and portable, and I think they sound good for the size.

The Bose speakers sound a lot better, but they are a lot bigger too, if portability is a concern for you, as it was for me. And then there's the price.

If the Bose speakers actually sound like shit to experienced audiophile ears, then the Altecs might sound even shittier, I dunno.
posted by agropyron at 12:35 PM on January 4, 2005

From what I've heard, the $500 Bose Wave sounds much better then the Ipod Bose thing. Granted, I heard it in a loud and large Apple store, but it didn't sound that great at all.

The Bose Wave is smaller, has an input jack, a CD player, and sounds a lot better. It is $500 though.
posted by chaz at 12:35 PM on January 4, 2005

I too heard the Bose one and I felt it didn't live up to my expectations of the brand.

A friend of mine has the JBL Duet and they sound great.
posted by mds35 at 12:36 PM on January 4, 2005

Oh, the Bose speakers also come with a remote that controls your iPod. The Altec speakers have no remote at all. Another factor to consider.
posted by agropyron at 12:36 PM on January 4, 2005

If anyone has any suggestions for this fellow, I'd also like to hear them. I have an ipod and would love to have something in my house which would connect to it which would sound great and not take up too much space.
posted by chaz at 12:37 PM on January 4, 2005

I agree with Matt, I would not go for a special iPod setup, instead choosing a standard receiver + speakers (which is what I'm doing right now).

I've been really looking into a new speaker setup, with the eventual goal of either buying a huge jukebox or streaming audio from my PC through an XBox... really not that different than what you are doing. The problem I've been running into is that most my music sounds like crap. Even though I try to download at 256Kbps at least, any high end speaker really show you up and make you wish MP3s were never invented.

If you go to a Bose store or whatever, make sure to bring your iPod or at least a CD with songs you intend to play. Yes that live Dave Matthews CD sure sounds great, but you really need to listen to it with the kind of music you'll use.

What I'm doing for my setup is going for an Onkyo stereo receiver plus some Energy C-3 or C-5 (depends on where we end up moneywise). Big thanks to Jarius for steering me in the Energy speaker direction. I was really unimpressed with what the local audio stores were trying to push on me.

Be careful. Those $300 Bose cheapers will sound really cheap once you hear a nice $800 setup.
posted by geoff. at 12:39 PM on January 4, 2005

I heard the Bose unit in a Bose store and it sounded great. If it sounded terrible to in a mall environment, I would bet that it sounds fine at home.

For what it's worth, I own a Tivoli PAL radio, which I bought to use with my iPod. It sounds great, uses rechargeable batteries, is very portable, and also gets radio reception. I think it's the best speaker solution for the iPod. You can take it on trips, to the beach, to different rooms of your house, and so on; the batteries last (for me) a full day. It's also about $100. I have a real stereo too, and the PAL is a great addition.
posted by josh at 12:41 PM on January 4, 2005

Second here for the Altec-Lansings. I'm no audiophile either, but they are a good compromise and a no-nonsense solution. You could spend less money (or more), but unless you're anal about audio, you will probably be pleased with the performance and convenience of the unit.
posted by ulotrichous at 12:42 PM on January 4, 2005

Please, don't buy Bose. All advertising and brand, no sound quality... go for Altec Lansing.
posted by reklaw at 12:59 PM on January 4, 2005

Let me clarify my comment: I bought the Altec Lansings as something to use when I'm travelling. I would not recommend them for your home audio solution. They are great for packing around though.
posted by agropyron at 1:02 PM on January 4, 2005

Go to an Apple store and try 'em out for yourself! The Apple Store has these setup and they want to make the sale. I walked in to one of the local stores here in Seattle and one of the sales folk insisted that I turn it up so I could try it out. You're not going to know if you like it until you try it out.

My experience with Bose products has been mixed. The sound quality is excellent as is the customer service. The prices are too high and the materials are questionable.
posted by glyphlet at 1:27 PM on January 4, 2005

My parents have the bose unit. I was amazed at it.

a) It Just Plain Works. We were swapping our ipods out (everyone in our family has one) and playing each others music and using the remote and it just works.

b) To my non-audiophile, tone-deaf ears, it sounded great. It handed the acoustics of my parents kitchen, with tile surfaces and wood surfaces, well. It completely filled the room, and it's shoved in an awkward corner next to the refrigerator. It drowned out the neighbors yapping dog, and that was something even the big stereo in the family room couldn't do.

If you're looking for something even semi-portable, get the altec lansing. If you're looking for something for kitchen or bedroom or office that's going to mostly stay where it is, then get the bose ... it's worth the price.
posted by SpecialK at 1:48 PM on January 4, 2005

Still a rumor, but there is talk of Apple selling their own iPod speaker setup, similar to the setups discussed here...

Even then, I vote for incorporating the iPod into either an existing stereo setup, or barring that, buying powered speakers and the iPod dock. Who knows when you'll just switch to Airport Extreme?
posted by sdrawkcab at 1:52 PM on January 4, 2005

I'm not a major audiophile, but a family member got the Bose/iPod set up for Christmas and it sounded great to me. I also liked that it charges the iPod as it sits plugged into the speakers.
The remote was nice, too.
posted by jdl at 1:56 PM on January 4, 2005

I'm surprised that no one has yet posted the iPodlounge reviews of the Altec Lansing, Bose, and others.
posted by matildaben at 2:13 PM on January 4, 2005

I gotta say that I bought two people the Altec Lansing InMotion speakers this Christmas, and both people have been thrilled with how good they sound. I heard them when one of the recipients opened them up on Christmas day and plugged 'em in, and I agree -- they're surprisingly good-sounding, and completely, totally perfect for anything less than a home stereo setup. And the price -- around $110 on Amazon -- can't be beat.

(And I'm with reklaw: Bose is more about marketing than quality. That's not to say that the equipment sucks, just that it's highly overvalued.)
posted by delfuego at 2:17 PM on January 4, 2005

I will second the Tivoli PAL units (there's regular PALs which come in bright colors and then there's a white / silver iPAL unit).

They're pretty cheap, $129, they're durable (the non iPAL ones are weatherized) and they. sound. very. good. They bass response is deep and rich and mids and highs are good. They're also decently loud for their size (though by no means huge) -- you could provide tunes at a pool party but just barely.

The battery power and sweet sweet design (mmmmm.... big nobs) are just extras.
posted by zpousman at 2:44 PM on January 4, 2005

We have a Tivoli Model One, which runs a little cheaper than the PAL units, and I just plug in the iPod with the phone jack. It sounds fantastic and we have barely tested the volume on it and can fill our (albeit small) apartment with sound.
posted by stefnet at 4:04 PM on January 4, 2005

All other things being equal, I've found that the line out signal from the dock connector provides sound quality superior to that of the headphone jack. For those of you who are interested in running the iPod through your home stereo, you may want to consider solutions that take advantage of the dock connector.
posted by joaquim at 4:22 PM on January 4, 2005

I've got an iTrip FM tuner that I bought for the car originally, but it works just fine on the home stereo as well. No wires, no hassle.
posted by furtive at 4:55 PM on January 4, 2005

re: the whole Bose thing: the 'it's all marketing, and it sounds like crap' assessment is one you will definitely hear. Personally I really like the way they sound; I even have a Bose speaker system (with the 5 tiny double cubes), and I'm not an audio dumbass; I've heard a lot of speakers and am not some freaky basshead.

The Bose sound = spacious, a little murky, not very punchy: sort of ambient, in a way. My Bose system does not sound good for doing things like watching movies (or, rather, it sounds awesome, but not as awesome as the setups of some other people I know). Personally, for music listening, I think it's excellent.

You should definitely try them out, but again I'd recommend the PAL. Buy it and save the rest of your money for a real stereo someday.
posted by josh at 6:07 PM on January 4, 2005

No. Not worth it.

You want a decent quality set of speakers for your ipod? Find a good used amp (if it's not an integrated amp, make sure the ipod can drive it - probably not) and a good pair of large used speakers. The whole thing will cost you between $100 and $400 and will far outclass those dinky speakers.

The key is to research the model you are buying and visually inspect it.
posted by azazello at 1:15 AM on January 5, 2005

(of course in this case, sonically, too - hook the ipod up and see how they sound before buying)
posted by azazello at 1:16 AM on January 5, 2005

from what i've heard the bose setups in the stores sound good because the back room has $10,000 worth of electronics balancing the sound for those specific speakers. never trust the store setup. just because it sounds good in the store doesn't mean it will sound good at home. that's why the bose speakers are always in some special little room, pre-set to sound good in that room, with you in the perfect spot to listen to them.

on the other hand i have an el-cheapo set of altec lansing PC speakers at home and they sound pretty good. decent bass; i can feel the breeze coming out of the bass unit when i put my hands or feet near it. sound quality doesn't seem to suffer when i crank it, and it doesn't have to be loud to sound good. i don't have an ipod (yet) but given what i've heard about bose quality (used to be good, now they're just little tinny-sounding thin-shelled plastic money-pits) i'd go for the altec lansings.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:23 AM on January 5, 2005

All other things being equal, I've found that the line out signal from the dock connector provides sound quality superior to that of the headphone jack. For those of you who are interested in running the iPod through your home stereo, you may want to consider solutions that take advantage of the dock connector.

i do this and it suits my needs well. it is sold as the "Apple iPod Stereo Connection Kit with Monster Cable" officially. the kit comes with a dock and a Monster cable to connect to a home stereo. iPod comes out of my pocket, into the dock, turn on the receiver, and then, surround sound!
posted by kathryn at 2:38 PM on January 5, 2005

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