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Cheap iPod/iPhone Speakers Buying Guide

If you're just starting to shop, don't let the music snobs in your life fool you. While there are certainly low-quality speakers that make music sound like it's coming from a tin can, the best cheap iPod speakers deliver plenty of boom for your buck.

By all means, resist the temptation to jump on the bargain-basement deals of the no-name brands. For a price that's a steal compared with Bose and other high-end systems, you can get sound and style from a respected brand that rivals speakers costing five times more.

Our picks for the best cheap iPod/iPhone speakers are the iHome iD55 (starting at $76) and the JBL Flip (starting at $85). The iHome iD55 speaker dock, which accommodates iPads, as well, offers very good sound for its low price. The JBL Flip connects wirelessly to any device with Bluetooth and delivers excellent audio quality. We also like the OnBeat Micro from JBL (starting at $100), a small speaker dock that's surprisingly loud given its size. The portable, 2-inch Cube speaker from NuForce (starting at $99) is even smaller yet plays clean, clear audio. The Vizio VSD210 (starting at $76) sounds as good as far pricier docks, according to online reviews, but users report it has a tendency to break down.

Note that Apple doesn't make any of these cheap iPod speakers. Although some manufacturers seek reflected glory by incorporating the i-style into their marketing, these are not Apple products. Some are worth your money, others aren't; an imitation of the Apple branding in and of itself is not a seal of quality.

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On the other end of the spectrum are speakers such as the Bowers & Wilkins A7 (starting at $500). Its price is jaw dropping, but so are its volume and audio quality, reviewers say. It also streams music wirelessly, via Apple's AirPlay technology, rather than relying on a cable or dock connector. The cheap iPod speakers on our list may not offer the same features or performance as the best iPod speakers, but they deliver very high quality for the price.

Here are several factors to consider before buying:

  • Sound Quality. Don't expect small iPod speakers to sound like full-size speaker systems. Cheap iPod speaker docks are notorious for lacking good bass. Still, we found speakers that deliver crisp, clear sound, even at higher volumes.
  • Connectivity. Is the speaker compatible with your iPod or iPhone? What about other music devices you own? Will you need an adapter or cable to connect? All the speakers we chose can connect to just about any iPod, iPhone, iPad, or MP3 player via a simple 3.5 mm cable plugged into the headphone jack. Some models we looked at are dock-style speakers with built-in connectors. At one time these would have all been 30-pin connectors, but Apple has introduced a new nine-pin Lightning connector for the latest generation of iPhones, iPods, and iPads. Be sure to note whether your device has a 30-pin or Lightning connector before buying a cheap iPod dock. The market is also moving toward wireless speakers, some of which lie within the Cheapism price range.
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  • Ease of Use. Our research found that cheap iPod speakers can be a bit quirky, but in general they are relatively user-friendly. Setup, controls, and navigation should be straightforward and will definitely affect your enjoyment of any iPod speaker system.
  • Power and Charging. Some speakers have rechargeable batteries and others use AA or AAA batteries. These make the speakers portable, but be sure to note the expected battery life. Cheap iPod docks can also charge your device even as the music plays, although generally only when plugged into an AC outlet; battery power won't do the trick.
  • Style. Cheap iPod speakers come in many shapes and sizes, from large docks to tiny blocks. This is purely a matter of personal preference.

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