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What’s Up? Docks, Suppliers Say

New York — The forms and functions of iPod docking stations are multiplying like rabbits, as are the number of suppliers trying to tap into the high-volume, high-margin phenomenon.

Newcomers include iLive and nostalgia-electronics supplier Crosley. Their products are competing with an expanded Jamo selection and new models from Klipsch, Directed Electronics and others.

The companies’ new iPod-charging docks include:

  • the first minisystem-type docks with AM/FM tuners. One is from newcomer iLive, which tosses in a DVD/CD player.
  • the first iPod-docking AM/FM/CD boombox and under-cabinet AM/FM radio. They’re also from iLive.
  • the first home dock that accepts iPods and multiple (more than two) Sirius plug-and-play tuners. It’s from Directed.
  • the first 50s-jukebox-style dock. It’s from Crosley.
  • a dock that operates as a tabletop stereo system but also integrates with a distributed audio system to distribute iPod music throughout the house. It’s from Jamo.
  • one of the first docks to use NXT flat-panel speaker technology. It’s the Directed model, and it joins a Kensington model launched late last year.

The supplier of the iPod-docking AM/FM stereo minisystem will announce the product later this month. It will feature 80-watt total RMS power at 10 percent THD and incorporate a two-way speaker system. It will also features composite- and S-video outputs to display photos and video on a connected TV from select iPods.

The unit will dock with iPods, recharge them and allow for remote IR control of iPod functions with included remote. It will also feature auxiliary input for use with other-brand MP3 players, but the remote won’t recharge those or control MP3 player functions. It will ship in September.

Here’s what other companies are offering. Most weren’t fearful of sharing their plans before the products go on sale at retail:

Crosley: Percolating bubble tubes and neon lights adorn the $249-suggested iJuke, a 50s-jukebox-style dock that will be available exclusively through Linens-N-Things in early fall. Its 18-inch by 12-inch by 9.5-inch frame features side-firing stereo speakers with DSP to wrap listeners in sound. It features Apple’s universal dock system and iPod charger. The included remote, which can be stored inside a back storage compartment, delivers full iPod menu control.

Directed: The $149-suggested Soloist universal media dock, which incorporates NXT flat-panel speakers, is the industry’s first docking station to mate with more than two satellite-radio plug-and-play receivers (all from Sirius) and with iPods.

The Soloist mates with “many” Sirius SKUs, including headphone models, whereas the current Executive Desktop Dock mates with only two Sirius SKUs, the Sportster and Sportster Replay tuners. In another difference, the current model requires an optional iPod cradle kit for use with iPods, whereas the Soloist will ship with iPod connectivity.

The current model will be discontinued when the Sportster models sell through.

To accommodate Sirius tuners and iPods, Soloist features two embedded connectors, one for new Sirius tuners and headphone portables, and the other one for iPods. Three swappable plastic inserts support either a Sirius radio or iPod and cover the unused connector.

In another difference, the Soloist is a one-piece system, whereas its predecessor featured a base and two separate speakers. Other features include: alarm clock with snooze button to wake up to Sirius or iPod music, 2×10-watt Tripath amplifier, front-panel aux in, rear-panel auxiliary in/out and USB port.

The rear-panel auxiliary out provides analog stereo audio and composite video if a four-way adapter cable is plugged in. This allows the user to output video from a docked iPod player that is video-capable.

iLive: The GPX division has begun shipping its first five iPod docks: an AM/FM/CD boombox, a desktop speaker system, an alarm clock, an under-cabinet AM/FM radio and a 2.1-channel AM/FM/DVD music/video system.

The boombox is the first iPod-charging boombox dock with AM/FM/CD. Klipsch’s $199 iJam boombox, unveiled last year, features AM/FM tuner but no CD player.

iLive’s DVD-equipped tabletop system differs from Polk’s $599 iSonic tabletop AM/FM/DVD system in that it charges iPods and connects to iPods via Apple’s proprietary multi-pin connector. Polk’s system mates with iPods, but like many tabletop radios, the HD Radio-equipped, XM-ready iSonic makes the iPod connection via a stereo mini-jack input, doesn’t recharge iPods and doesn’t double as an iPod stand.

Additional iLive product details were unavailable.

Jamo: The audio company’s first one-piece tabletop system, the $219-suggested i200, is due in September in black or white. It’s 15 inches wide and 5 inches tall, and it comes with keyholes for wall-mounting.

A current model, the $399-suggested i300, comes with separate left-right speakers and a subwoofer.

The new model, which also features auxiliary input for other-brand MP3 players, features a subwoofer output for connection to powered subwoofers, but the output also doubles as a connection to the JamoLink multiroom audio system to distribute iPod audio throughout the house.

The i300 is available at CompUSA and BrandsMart USA. The i200 will be available at Target, CompUSA and other retailers.

Klipsch: The audio-specialist company applied a high-gloss black finish to a current dock, lowered the price to a suggested $250, increased dynamic range, and called it the iGroove HG. It’s available through mass retail merchants such as Best Buy, Circuit City, Apple, Target and Canada’s London Drugs. Klipsch’s specialty retailers also have the option to sell it.

The original iGroove, a silver model, was launched at $279 and might be re-priced for different distribution channels.

Unlike most docking stations, the iGrooves securely hold iPods and other-brand MP3 players, though they don’t recharge other-brand MP3 players. Those MP3 players must be connected via a stereo mini-plug. Both iGroove’s come with remote-to-control system functions such as volume and access all iPod functions, but the remotes don’t access the functions of other-brand MP3 players.

The devices feature two-way speakers with ported woofers. They’re the only docks to use horn-loaded tweeters, which direct sound slightly to the left and right to increase stereo separation.