If you’re planning on getting away from the unpredictable British weather this year or just taking a trip to the countryside, then you might be packing a phone complete with all your favourite music.
An eye-mask and headphones might be good for the long car ride, but if you need a way to share your tunes around the beach towels or picnic blanket, then perhaps one of these mobile audio powerhouses might fit the bill.
We’ve chosen a varied assortment of docks, some better suited to iOS devices, some with connectivity in mind and some that you wallet will barely notice. With portable audio solutions like these, it’s important to choose the right tool for the job and some features make more sense than others given your travel plans.
Just like the real mau5, KitSound’s Mau5head portable speakers pump out a surprising amount of audio punch for their size. Available in a red, black or chrome, these little single-driver speakers are a fun way to boost your smartphone’s audio output and immortalise one of the most popular DJ’s of the past year.
In addition users can attach one of these little speakers via the provided key ring and the Buddy Jack lets you effectively daisy chain as many speakers together as you’d like for even more sound. You can grab one for £24.95.
SuperTooth DISCO 2
This monolithic bluetooth speaker sits just over 18 centimetres tall, boasts an incredible 1500 standby time and retails for around £70. The design; with its tucked-in waistline make it easy to pick up and set down and despite its size, it feels extremely light in the hand.
What’s more SuperTooth claim that it can pump out audio louder than any other bluetooth speaker in its class and we’ve tested it first hand to find out just how loud it can be (very, is the answer). The whole thing is easily controlled by the six backlit buttons mounted on the DISCO 2’s top and it can also take a line-in on the back should bluetooth not suit your needs.
Gear4 StreetParty Size 0
Those looking for a powerful system that doesn't take up your entire bag might want to check out Gear4’s StreetParty Size 0. If you’re wondering where the ‘Size 0’ name comes in, it’s thanks to the dock’s svelte profile which measures in at just 16mm thick, it’s also a little taller than an iPod Touch at 124mm high, 220mm wide and weighs 320g.
Gear4 offers the Size 0 in black, grey, pink, blue and green, which makes it the most colourful dock in our lineup. The Size 0 stands using a fold-out base which also houses a connector for your iPhone and hardware volume controls either side. There’s an AUX connectivity in the back for other smartphones. What’s more, if you decide to keep your dock at home it can be powered from the mains rather than from four AAA batteries.
The Size 0 small frame packs a lot of punch - those small drivers are very loud, although we were disappointed with the weak bass tones throughout the range, which is particularly evident when you push the volume.
Pricing for this small and stylish speaker unit is steep at £69.99, although also a carry case, mains power lead and remote control are supplied.
House of Marley Chant
Bob Marley’s legacy continues with a new range of eco-responsible music systems, including Chant, a portable music system made from twisted bamboo and recycled plastic. Love or loathe the design, it’s totally different to anything we’ve seen. Measuring 279x279x105mm and weighing over 454g in total, Chant is certainly too big for the average suitcase, but the custom fit canvas carry bag ensures it’s easy to carry to the park and it can be clipped to a bag.
We’ve not had a chance to test Chant properly ourselves, but from the demonstrations we’ve seen (and of course heard), sound quality was good. Chant is compatible with any device which utilises a 3.5mm jack and you’ll be able to charge it via USB. It launches in the UK later this year and will retail for £49.99.
iLuv Modern Box
If affordability is at the top of your list, iLuv’s Modern Box is worth considering. This diminutive speaker system also serves as an adjustable cradle for your smartphone and although it may not have the edge over its competitors with regards to aesthetic design, its simple functionality and its proportions work well with most smartphones. Modern Box is also the smallest system of the bunch at just 168x63x34mm and it's light, although with three AAA batteries it still feels sturdy and weighted.
For the price you can’t features are limited to a 3.5mm audio jack that stows away when not in use. The speakers pack a decent punch for the price, but don’t expect spades of power from the small stereo drivers. Modern Box wins for value and at £14.99, will cater to the majority of people.
If premium products are your thing, then the Jambox by Jawbone will be right up your street. At £159.99 it certainly isn’t cheap, but you get a product with a premium look and feel, plus some big sound. The Jambox is available in a black, blue, grey, red, special edition orange/graphite combination or white and each colour sports a different grille pattern, so choose wisely.
Although size-wise the Jambox stands at just 155x57x40mm and weighs 347g, the sound, particularly with regards to the bass tones is impressive. Jawbone has kitted the Jambox out with the capability to accommodate two Bluetooth devices ranged up to 33ft simultaneously, or connect to smartphones using a 3.5mm jack. There’s also an Li-ion battery which charges via microUSB and provides up to 10 hours of playback. The premium price grants you one more handy feature, an in-built microphone for hands free calling, should the mood take you.
Nokia Play 360˚
Nokia’s Play 360˚ speaker system is a single upturned driver, designed to pump sound out equally in all directions. It’s simple design is distinctly Nokia and comes in black, white or blue. Proportions for the Play 360˚ measure 110x110x124mm and it weighs 514g, with easy to use hardware volume buttons on the front.
For £100 you get a range of streaming options, a simple Bluetooth connect button, AUX connector on the back for use with any 3.5mm jack into your smartphone and NFC connectivity, which pairs smartphone to speaker, just by holding it against the top of the system.
It’s able to deliver a better overall sound quality than the Gear4, although at full tilt the maximum volume of the 360˚ is weaker than most of the other competitors. As with the Jambox, the Play 360˚ makes use of an integrated Li-ion battery which charges via microUSB, however performance clocks in at an impressive 21 hours.