Last updated: August 11, 2021

Welcome to our big docking station test 2021. Here 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 customer reviews on the web. We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best docking station for you. You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy a docking station.




The most important facts

  • 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 compact form for on the go and as a multifunctional version for your own four walls.
  • Sound docks are generally available from every consumer electronics retailer, whether online or at your local specialist dealer. The price range is relatively wide: from 20 euros to 500 euros and more.

The Best Docking Station: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a docking station

What are docking stations and what are their benefits?

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

Docking on a device not only plays music, but also charges the battery of mobile phones and the like. (Picture source: 123rf.com / 54301633)

Docking stations are compact speakers that can be used to play music from a smartphone or tablet. The special thing about docking stations: they have a physical interface. The audio source can now be docked via this interface. The advantage of this connection method: not only is music played, but the battery of the smartphone or tablet is also charged during the process.

The respective interfaces are 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. Newer models in particular also have other connection options in addition to the physical interface, such as AUX or Bluetooth. Depending on their design and performance, compact speakers are available for both outdoor and home use. This means you can find the right docking station for almost any purpose.

What are the main technical components of a docking station?

As with most other types of mobile speakers, three main components can be defined for docking stations:

Construction

The construction of sound docks is sometimes the most important feature. This is because it determines not only the design, size, weight and outdoor capability. The technical properties also depend primarily on the construction of the docking station. For smaller models in particular, manufacturers are quite limited when it comes to installing the technology. This affects several factors, such as speaker type, battery, physical and wireless interfaces and various additional functions.

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

Loudspeakers

As already mentioned, the type of built-in speakers depends primarily on the design of the docking station. Depending on the size, weight and design, usually full-range speakers or tweeters, mid-range speakers and woofers are installed, whereby the latter variant convinces with a clearly better sound experience. The number of watts is also significantly higher in these models and can easily reach the output of a compact stereo system. Those who value 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 pay attention to 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 connections

Especially with docking stations, the type of physical interface is crucial, because most connection types are only compatible with certain (smartphone) models. There are major differences here, especially between Apple and Android devices, because different docking systems are used. Alternatively, especially with newer models, alternative connection technologies are installed 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 on the size and, above all, the design of the device. Because here, too, good sound needs volume. Since there are many different versions of sound docks with the most unusual designs, the sound quality can also vary greatly due to the construction. In the case of the more compact, outdoor-capable sound docks, full-range loudspeakers are installed mainly because of the lack of space in the housing. Here, one loudspeaker membrane is usually enough to produce an appealing stereo sound. In addition, the entire frequency range is largely covered. Nevertheless, cheaper versions in particular audibly weaken at the upper and lower ends of the frequency spectrum. Larger and higher-quality docking stations, on the other hand, usually offer a 2.1 speaker system consisting of two midrange tweeters and a subwoofer.

High-quality speakers are a basic requirement for clear and balanced stereo sound. (Picture source: pixabay.com / Jabbacake)

Not only do they produce a larger sound volume, but also the particularly high and low frequencies are reproduced clearly and powerfully. Nevertheless, there are hardly any upper restrictions in terms of built-in speakers. High-quality soundbars with a docking function, for example, can easily have more than six different speakers built in. These then often shine with impressive surround sound.

Are there 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 sound docks were almost exclusively available 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 also made some docking stations compatible with most Android and Kindle devices. Nevertheless, Apple interfaces continue to be installed, especially in higher-quality products.

Nevertheless, almost all current models also 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 Bluetooth, WLAN or Air Play. In the case of the latter two variants, however, it should be noted that an active home network must be available in order to establish a connection. Accordingly, such docking stations are only suitable for use at home.

For what use are sound docks well suited?

As large as the number of docking stations with different designs is, as broad is the field of application of such speakers.

On the one hand, there are sound docks with a compact, lightweight and robust design that are powered by a rechargeable battery and are 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, sunbathing lawn or garden.

If you want to make sure that your docking station is really outdoor-ready, 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 they usually have much more extensive and higher-quality technology built in. However, due to the increased energy requirements, they usually need a power connection. This restricts their use mainly to indoor areas. Nevertheless, they are perfect for living areas, balconies or terraces.

Did you know that there is a docking station for your toilet? This docking station, specially made for the iPod, is integrated in the toilet roll holder and is called iCarta. This means you can charge your device or even listen to music even when you're in the "quiet room".

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

As with many other compact speakers, there are also special models in the field of docking stations that are difficult to assign to one type due to their diverse features. Nevertheless, two different types of docking stations can be roughly defined:

  • Compact docks
  • Multifunctional docks

Both types have their advantages and disadvantages, but they differ considerably in terms of application and functional characteristics. Therefore, you should first decide for what purpose you want to purchase a docking station. In the following, we present the two types with their features, 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 construction of these speakers is usually kept simple and compact, which makes 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 conditionally dust-, dirt- and water-resistant. In addition, many compact docking stations also leave a lot to be desired in terms of sound quality. There are two reasons for this: firstly, sound needs volume to develop properly. However, this volume is not given due to the small housing. Secondly, because of the lack of space, smaller models mainly use lower-performance speakers. These are weaker, especially in terms of volume and sound quality.

Advantages
  • Easy to transport
  • Mostly very acceptable battery life
  • Good models for little money
Disadvantages
  • Sound quality rather below average
  • Few connection and connectivity options
  • Mostly only conditionally suitable for outdoor use

The connection and connectivity options of many compact docking station models are also rather meagre. Besides the physical interface, many models hardly have any alternative connection options such as AUX or Bluetooth. However, if you don't want to start a multimedia show on the sunbathing lawn, the limited options should be completely sufficient.

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

As the name suggests, the technical features and additional functions of most multifunctional docking stations are much more extensive than those of their smaller counterparts. This starts with the type of built-in speakers. Multifunctional docks usually have a 2.1 stereo system or more. This not only enables a clear and powerful stereo sound, some models even create an impressive surround sound. The connection and connectivity options are also not neglected here. In addition to the physical interface, most models have wireless connection options such as Bluetooth, WLAN or Air Play. This way, it is not only more convenient to connect to the device, the transmission quality is also better in many cases.

Advantages
  • Good sound quality
  • Many connection and linking options
  • Attractive construction and design
Disadvantages
  • Almost always require a power connection
  • Quite a bit more expensive than the compact docking stations
  • Only suitable for indoor use

Despite this, or precisely because most multifunctional docks are only suitable for indoor use, they often stand out due to their high-quality workmanship. This ranges from unusual shapes to special materials such as wood, glass or elegant piano lacquer. However, if you are looking for a portable loudspeaker for outdoors, you have come to the wrong place. This is because most multifunctional docking stations require a power connection due to the increased energy demand, making them only suitable for indoor use.

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate docking stations

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 device that is best for you. You should consider the following factors before buying:

  • Sound quality / volume
  • Connection options
  • Construction
  • Price
  • Battery performance
  • Power consumption
  • Additional functions

Sound quality / volume

The sound quality is sometimes the most important factor, since it is ultimately a matter of music speakers. Here, the type of built-in speakers is the most important factor. While smaller models mainly use full-range speakers, the larger models have tweeters, mid-range speakers and woofers. The latter models therefore reproduce both very high and very low frequencies clearly and powerfully.

Tim AschermannRedakteur bei CHIP Online
A subwoofer, also known as a "bass box" or "woofer", serves to amplify the sounds in the low frequencies between 20 and 120 Hz. It can play the barely audible bass that is not in the frequency range of normal speakers. Thus, a subwoofer provides better sound quality and is indispensable especially in home cinemas. In addition to the 2.1 sound system, the subwoofer is also installed in many other sound systems, such as the 5.1 home cinema system. (Source: praxistipps.chip.de)

Moreover, due to the higher number of watts, such docking stations also allow for higher volumes without having to sacrifice sound quality. So if the sound of the speaker is a fundamental factor for you, you should rather opt for larger models.

Connectivity options

The physical interface is also an important factor, as it is the reason why docking stations differ from other compact speakers. And be careful here, as the respective interfaces are only compatible with 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, newer and higher-quality models in particular are also equipped with alternative connection options. These range from AUX and jack plugs to Bluetooth or Air Play functions. You should therefore be clear about which device you want to connect to your docking station.

Construction

The design of the speakers is also an important point to consider. Not only does it determine how big or heavy the docking station is, but the sound quality is also largely influenced by it. 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 handle the speaker with care outdoors. In the case of multifunctional docks for the home, outdoor suitability does not play a role, but the design is often the decisive factor. The loudspeakers are available in a wide variety of shapes and versions, with a wide variety of materials and finishes. https://www.instagram.com/p/BlD0LCBHuMt/?tagged=sounddock

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 on the market with long battery life and quite appealing sound quality for relatively little money. Nevertheless, the price range for docking stations is wide, from 20 euros to 500 euros and more. Especially if the sound quality of the speakers is not to be neglected, you usually have to dig deeper into your pocket.

Battery performance

Logically, this point only applies to compact versions of docking stations that are battery-operated. While there are great differences between the various models, especially in terms of sound quality and connection options, the range of variation in battery life is limited. The battery life of newer models in particular is considerable, and even cheaper devices can last 10 hours or more. Nevertheless, before using the docking station outdoors for a longer period of time, it is advisable to plug it in again at home or take a battery pack with you. The recharging time should also be taken into account. This can easily take several hours.

Power consumption

This point only applies to multifunctional docks, as most models require a power connection due to the increased energy demand. Therefore, the power consumption should also be taken into account. This depends mainly on the power of the built-in speakers. Even in standby mode, the consumption can still be several watts. If possible, you should therefore switch off the docking station completely after use.

Additional functions

When it comes to additional functions, the models differ greatly. While compact docking stations score points with features such as a radio or alarm function, the multifunctional devices are characterised above all by their diverse connection options. Worth mentioning here are the various wireless connections that enable easy integration into the home network. This means that the loudspeaker can easily be connected to other technical devices, such as a TV or laptop. In addition, there are also useful applications for higher-quality docking stations, such as EQ apps. You can use them to change the sound characteristics, for example, by emphasising certain frequencies and adapting them to the conditions in the room.

Facts worth knowing about docking stations

Why are most docking stations only available with Apple interfaces?

The reason is mainly to be found in the past. Docking stations have been around for more than 10 years. Nevertheless, especially in the beginning, the demand for the compact speakers was still low. It was only with the iPod hype between 2005 and 2010 that sound docks also experienced an upswing. In order to be compatible with the popular iPod models, the docking stations were initially equipped almost exclusively with Apple's 30-pin, or later with the 8-pin and Lightning interface. It was only 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, even today, most models with Apple devices have a clear advantage. High-end speakers in particular are still only compatible with iPhone, iPad or iPod.

What alternatives are there to sound docks?

Especially if you're out and about a lot and can't be without the right music, Bluetooth speakers, for example, are a suitable alternative to the compact docking stations. Even though the compact sound docks are usually not much inferior to many Bluetooth speakers 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 are even waterproof in many cases. There are also alternatives to docking stations for your own four walls. If the sound of the multifunctional docks doesn't convince you, there are, for example, sound bars or compact stereo systems with an optional dock.

Image source: Christie / flickr.com

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