Let’s face it – most iOS docks are pretty interchangeable. Shake the closest digital tree and watch it rain a multitude of docking stations, sound bars, speakers, and just about anything that promises to easily graft onto your portable phone, tablet, and whatever else. The problem is that most of them are crap, cheaply built and cheaply sold, almost none delivering on their dubious promise to help ‘enhance’ sound quality above their device defaults. So where does that leave something like Coby’s Bluetooth iPad Docking System? In a pretty good place, actually, especially if you’re looking for bigger, louder, and better-than-decent quality sound on the cheap.
Essentially a miniaturized sound bar – indeed, it shares the same model numbering scheme as its bigger Coby cousins, the Docking System brings Bluetooth powered sound enhancement to your favorite tablet, phone, or other compatible device-of-choice on the cheap. The Speaker’s design is actually pretty great, with a generous brushed aluminum-colored tubular base that’s a 9.6” in length, capped by two grilled speakers on both left and right for full stereo output. Keeping the base steady are two mini rubber pegs nestled comfortably under both speakers, stabilized further by a flat base in the center that also houses the Speaker’s On/Off switch, 3.5mm input jack, and a mini-USB charging slot. A detachable – stand keeps things even steadier for heavier use and is recommended, even if it does look like a shoe horn. The top-side hosts the ‘dock’, which sports a 4” x 1.5” rubberized cradle that easily accommodates most of today’s smartphone and tablet devices with a circular cut for access to iOS device’s Home button.
Includes everything you’ll need for fast ‘n easy connections right out of the box, including the Speaker itself, a mini-USB charging cable, and even a short 3.5mm cable to help connect it to all those non-Bluetooth devices that could use a boost. Also included is a handy carrying pouch to help add a sense of portability to the Speaker, though considering the lopsided thinness of the bag and the bulkiness of the Speaker did make me feel a bit like a mugger looking to bop someone over the head while carrying it.
There really isn’t much to using the Speaker; flip it on, pair it up, and you’re good to go. The only variation would be opting to use it with a non-Bluetooth 3.5mm device, which overrides the Bluetooth defaults. Pairing the Speaker was simple, even to multiple devices (though you can only use one at time). Docking your Bluetooth device to the base is really more for style and convenience than anything, though if you’re planning on flipping through your music library you may just want to keep your device close by – there’s no volume (or media) controls on the Speaker whatsoever, meaning everything is controlled via the connected device.
Coby promises you’ll get at least 5 hours of continuous play time and I won’t argue with that, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover the Speaker auto-switching to standby when I forgot to switch it off after switching off my docked iPod Touch the night before.
What’s funny is that, despite Coby specifically targeting the Speaker for the iPad crowd, Apple’s slate is the least improved by using it, as the iPad’s built-in speaker system is more than adequate for making all those tunes and movies come alive by itself. But iPod Touches, iPhones, and other Bluetooth-equipped players are completely transformed by it – tinny sounds boom and volume is expanded exponentially as the Speaker adds a noticeable layer of bass and enhanced treble that puts onboard speakers to shame – and then some. I’ll be honest – this isn’t high-fidelity sound enhancement by any means, but considering the price that’s not a real problem.
No frills, yet plenty of thrills are what you’ll get with Coby’s Bluetooth iPad Docking System, a fine mini-soundbar speaker that – despite the name – isn’t just built for Apple’s iOS slate but any Bluetooth or 3.5mm device that could use an audio boost. Stylish, built tough, and blessed with substantially enhanced stereo output that’s easily bigger, louder, and more enjoyable than any device’s default mobile speaker out there. Sadly, its iPad namesake seems to be the least affected by the louder sound, though pair the Speaker with a iPhone, iPod, or other Bluetooth and/or 3.5mm device and get ready to be impressed. Best of all, it’s cheap in the best way possible, meaning you’ll get more aural boom for your buck than with the majority of alternatives. If you don’t mind its slightly heavier weight and bulk, chances are you’ll like what you hear.