The 9 Best Speaker Docks
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in December of 2015. If you're not satisfied with the sound produced by your smartphone or tablet, plug it into or pair it with one of these speaker docks for a better listening experience. Depending on the model, you can enjoy music from your personal library, a streaming service like Spotify, or a built-in radio. We've included options at a range of prices, so there should be one to suit every budget. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 11, 2021:
We nixed a couple older models that were overly expensive and hard to get your hands on. In their place, we've added the Altec Lansing IMW580 Lifejacket Jolt, which is really just a waterproof and dustproof boom box with a Qi wireless pad and Bluetooth connectivity. It's loud enough that it makes a good choice for backyard or pool parties, and it has the construction quality to last for years.
For bedside use, we still highly recommend the Anker Soundcore Wakey and Ampulla Masdio Light of Tree. The i-Box Smart Table is another interesting choice that would make a good addition to a modern living room. If you're looking to save money, the Azpen Dockall D100 is an easy-to-use option, but it doesn't get quite as loud as most others.
March 24, 2020:
In attempt to include modern items in what could be deemed an outdated category, we felt the need to broaden the definition of what can be classified as a speaker dock. We no longer feel that a speaker must physically plug into a device to be considered a dock, nor does it need to specifically have a cradle for the audio source. Instead, we believe that there are three criteria that an item must possess to fit the category. The product must be able to play music from an external source; be capable of providing a charge to a smartphone or tablet; and have somewhere to hold said devices, whether that be a cradle or simply a flat surface on which to place them. If they don't meet all of these criteria, then there really isn't anything to differentiate them from a simple Bluetooth Speaker.
If you have a Qi-enabled phone or tablet, you will probably be best served by a model that offers wireless charging, such as the iHome iBTW38, Azpen Dockall D100, i-Box Smart Table, Anker Soundcore Wakey, Monster Retro, and Cavalier Air. Since all of these options also offer Bluetooth connectivity, you can almost completely free whatever shelf, table, or nightstand you place them on from unsightly wires. That being said, all of the above speaker docks also have at least one USB port to charge devices that aren't Qi enabled. If you prefer a hard connection and have an Apple device with a lightening connector, you can look at the Bose SoundDock Series III, Richsound Research DS406, and Sony RDPM7IPN Lightning.
While all of the docks on our list can charge devices and play music, only the i-Box Smart Table also functions as a piece of furniture. Rather than having to buy a nightstand or end table and then place a speaker on top of it, you can just buy the i-Box Smart Table, instead, and you'll have one less piece of equipment cluttering your home. It features an integrated 4,000-mAh battery too, so you can move it out to your balcony or backyard to enjoy some outdoor time while you listen to your favorite tunes. That being said, if you consider a lamp furniture, which we don't, then you might say the Ampulla Masdio Light of Tree should also be lumped together with the i-Box Smart Table. Whatever you want to call it, there is no doubt that it is an attractive addition to any home and will also help you clear some clutter, since it doubles as a lamp in addition to being a speaker dock.
Of all the models we found, only the Cavalier Air integrates with Alexa for voice control. While we think many users will find this functionality useful, and the device itself does have an attractive design, you'll pay dearly for it, so we don't recommend it if you are dealing with budget constraints.
Speaker Docks: Your Charger Never Sounded So Good
You will often find a bit less output power in units that run on batteries, but you can use them anywhere and any time.
Even the best built-in phone or tablet speakers are weak in basic audio output ability when compared with genuine audio hardware. Fortunately, there is an entire category of devices designed expressly to pair with your smartphone and/or tablet to generate the power and quality of sound your otherwise impressive device deserves. A good speaker dock readily pairs with multiple types of smart device and delivers music and other audio with deep, rumbling bass notes, crystal-clear vocals and melody, and enough decibel power to fill a room or even an outdoor area with sound.
When looking for the ideal speaker dock for broadcasting audio beyond your phone's built-in speakers, you can rest assured that most options will be sufficient for a playroom, kitchen, or dormitory, but if you want to fill large rooms or a yard with sound, look to the higher-end, higher powered models. Also, note that some docks are designed to look sleek and simple and blend in with the decor of a space, while others are stylized statement pieces designed to stand out. Many docks draw power exclusively from an AC electrical cord, while others can run on batteries. You will often find a bit less output power in units that run on batteries, but you can use them anywhere and any time.
For many of us (rapidly becoming most of us), our smart device has become an extension of our bodies, used multiple times per hour and seen as necessary for successful execution of our everyday activities. Thus, it makes sense to think beyond a speaker dock that merely plays audio when so many docking stations offer multiple additional features. If you already treat your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy as your phone, calendar, web browser, gaming tool, and personal assistant, then look for a dock that offers features ranging from a clock, to a radio or an alarm, and beyond. It only makes sense to maximize the usefulness of your phone by pairing it with a device that boasts many capabilities itself.
Don't forget that it is as a charger that many speaker docks will get their most frequent use. While obviously larger and less portable than a simple cable connected to the wall, as the go-to charger for powering up your phone or tablet while you're at home, a dock has the benefit of being nearly impossible to misplace. Using your speaker docking station as the home base charger perched by your bedside, on your kitchen counter, or wherever you need charging the most often is a good way to ensure you never go looking for that misplaced power cord again.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Owning a great speaker dock is exciting; few things elevate the mood of a party or make enjoying your favorite tunes more fun than high-quality audio that's both loud and clear. But if you're like most people, you are likely listening to your music at a volume exceeding levels most experts regard as safe.
In other words, you can often turn a speaker up to a setting too loud for its own components, depending on the recording levels of the audio you are playing.
Groups ranging from OSHA to the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that an excess of volume, especially when endured for an extended period of time, can be injurious to your aural health, and that is true both in acute and in chronic cases. Simply put, listening to music that is too loud for too long can and likely will damage your hearing, and might lead to lifetime hearing loss.
Multiple-hour exposure to volumes exceeding 85 dB can damage hearing, as can short-term exposure to sound measured at more than 120 dB. As many speaker docks can produce sound measured near this level, their use can lead to noise-induced hearing loss if they are not used with discretion.
In fact, when played at or near their top volume capabilities, most speaker docks (indeed most audio amplifying equipment of all types) actually lose quality due to the distortion caused by audio clipping, a lack of quality resulting when a speaker cannot supply sufficient power to amplify the sound signal being sent to it. In other words, you can often turn a speaker up to a setting too loud for its own components, depending on the recording levels of the audio you are playing.
The Best Hack for Temporarily Improving Smartphone Sound
There are few better ways to enjoy great audio power and quality from a smartphone than by connecting said device to a speaker dock. But if you have ordered your dock and are waiting for it to arrive, or if you are away from home and are missing the audio quality to which you have become accustomed thanks to said dock, there some easy hacks you can use to enhance the audio quality and power of your phone's built-in speakers.
The simplest, most affordable and effective way to do this will come as a surprise, but it is simply to place your phone in a rigid paper cup with the speakers facing upward.
The simplest way to improve the audio output of your phone or tablet is to place the device flat on a hard surface that will not dampen or absorb any of the sound it transmits. This can be a wooden table, a tile floor, or any other acoustically reflective surface. But to truly amplify the sounds produced, you need to concentrate them. The simplest, most affordable and effective way to do this will come as a surprise, but it is simply to place your phone in a rigid paper cup with the speakers facing upward.
The conical shape of the cup directs sound waves up and out, while the rigid paper walls will absorb only minimal noise, allowing sound waves to reverberate clearly. For tablets, consider using a larger cardboard bucket (such as is common for popcorn) to achieve the same results. Those nearby will notice a marked increase in its perceived sound volume and clarity, though, obviously, there's is no comparison against the quality of sound produced by using a speaker dock.