What's happened to the powered speaker market?

Michael Brown

Have you noticed how many speaker docks have hit the market since the iPod whipped the MP3 player market into a froth? It reminds me of the “multimedia” speaker market of the 90s, when everyone and their uncle introduced a three-piece powered speaker system for the PC. This time ‘round, it’s one-piece speaker systems with cradles to accommodate digital media players.

Smart manufacturers, including Klipsch, are agnostic about the devices they support. Klipsch’s iGroove HG, for instance, leans heavily toward Apple’s iPod, but you can plug nearly anything into it. My gripe is that so many companies that used to build great PC speaker systems have either abandoned the market or not introduced new product in an eternity. (Okay, Bose and Altec Lansing recently shipped new systems; but we didn’t think much of either.)

The funny thing is, a good 2.0- and 2.1-channel speaker system will deliver better fidelity than nearly any speaker dock. I see a huge opportunity for new companies to make a splash in this space. Audioengine is a good example: Their Audioengine 5 delivers knockout sound, and all they needed to do to make it compatible with a portable media player—any portable media—is to build a USB port (for charging the player) and a second 1/8-inch audio input into the top of one cabinet. Look for our full review in the May issue of Maximum PC.

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