Cambridge SoundWorks PlayDock MP3

Cambridge SoundWorks PlayDock MP3

PlayDock.jpgMP3 players are all about taking your music everywhere you go, but headphones don’t cut it when you want to rock out with a crowd. And while many companies offer MP3-player speakers, Cambridge SoundWorks’ PlayDock MP3 Audio System is the best go-anywhere MP3 speaker system we’ve tested.

The PlayDock can host several brands of MP3 players (including Apple’s iPod and iPod Mini, Dell’s Pocket DJ, and most of Creative Labs’ Zen models), depending on which neoprene “glove” you attach to its top.

One stub cable provides power to the MP3 player, and another plugs into the player’s headphone jack (the iPods use only the headphone jack). While AC-powered, the device will charge Creative and Dell players (but not the iPods).

Aside from its terrific sound, the feature that sets this speaker system apart from the pack is its portability; scratch that, “luggability” is more accurate. The PlayDock sans MP3 player tips the scales at 13.5 pounds, thanks to the presence of the humongous rechargeable 12-volt battery in its base. You can leave the unit plugged in when you’re at home, and then unplug it when you’re ready to hit the road. The battery delivers about eight hours of play time at moderate volume, and it can be recharged from any partially charged state without worries of overcharging or developing “memory” issues. A large handle integrated into the top makes the unit easy to carry, and huge rubber feet on the bottom give it a firm grip on most any surface.

Most importantly, the PlayDock is a joy to listen to. Two separate amps deliver 7 watts each to 2.25-inch fiber/resin cone drivers, while a third amp delivers 15 watts to a center-mounted, 3.25-inch, polymer subwoofer. All three speakers are magnetically shielded. Listening to an MP3 version of Robert Earl Keen’s “Long Chain” (ripped at 320kb/s constant bit rate), we were impressed with the system’s dynamic range: The PlayDock delivered the song’s dirge-like bass and heart-rending mandolin without blunting its twangy vocal harmonies.

The PlayDock MP3 is a fabulous audio solution for music lovers on the go.
Michael Brown

Month Reviewed: September 2005
Verdict: 9



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