Speaker Review: Digital Innovations Universal Speaker Dock for Android
Editor's Rating (1-5): 4
What's hot: Good audio quality, super high volume and very nice bass.
What's not: No actual dock to put your device in, 3.5mm and microUSB cables are short.
Reviewed by Tong Zhang
Digital Innovations makes a wide variety of computer and mobile accessories. Their latest Universal Speaker Dock for Android offers 2.1 stereo audio, a built-in sub-woofer and works with any device with a 3.5mm audio jack. Though the dock is billed as an Android speaker dock, it works very well with laptops, tablets and other devices as well.
The design of the Universal Speaker Dock for Android is quite simple. The unit measures 12.5 x 4.2 x 5 inches and weighs 3.06 pounds. Two 3-watt speakers dominate the front of the speaker dock behind the black speaker grill, providing 2.1 stereo sound. There is also a 3" 10-watt sub-woofer built into the speaker dock and it provides powerful bass boost. The Universal Speaker Dock has a small LED light behind the plastic cover and the IR port lives next to the LED light in the front. The Universal Speaker Dock has an opening on top for you to prop up your phone, a portable media player or small tablet. Even though Digital Innovations markets the speaker for Android devices, the speaker doesn't have a docking station in the top opening area. You can prop up your device in it so that it won't fall, and that's about it. The opening area is a bit too deep for phones with narrow bezels, as a result, the front plastic cover blocks a sliver of your phone's screen. One advantage of this deep opening area is that you can prop up a 7" or even 8.2" tablet in portrait orientation, and it will sit in the docking area steadily.
The Universal Speaker Dock for Android does offer Android or any devices with a microUSB connector an easy way to charge and play back media via its short microUSB cable. The dock has two cables coming from the opening area: a 3.5mm audio cable and a microUSB cable. Both have short length, though the 3.5mm audio cable is about twice as long as the microUSB cable. You can connect your Android device to the microUSB cable while it's sitting in the docking area, and your phone will stream audio through the speaker and get charged in the meantime. This is a pretty sweet design. For devices that don't have a microUSB port, such as the iPhone 4S or laptop computers, you can use the 3.5mm stereo audio cable. As with Android phones, the iPhone 4S or other mobiles can sit in the docking area while streaming music through the speaker via 3.5mm stereo audio cable, while laptop needs to be pretty close to the speaker as the built-in cable is a short leash.
The Universal Speaker Dock has a group of control buttons on the top right corners including power on/off, play/pause, mute, skip/back and volume control buttons. They are big and easy enough to use. The package also comes with a small remote control that liberates you from using the controller button from across the room. And for Android devices, you can also use the SONR app (free on the Android Market) to turn your device into a remote control when connected to the 3.5mm audio cable. The app is currently in beta though and it didn't work with new devices including the Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX and the LG Spectrum in our tests.
For a small speaker dock, the Universal Speaker Dock from Digital Innovations impresses with good audio clarity, very loud volume and a powerful bass. The 2.1 stereo sound has surprisingly good range and well tuned EQ. It's also surprisingly loud when working with phones and even more with laptops, and you will likely use half of the full volume when you are not having a dance party in a giant room. Audio keeps its clarity and integrity even when the volume is at eardrum busting loud, which is quite amazing for a speaker this size. The Universal Speaker Dock has a powerful bass as well. It certain can bring out the beats and help create special sound effects, but the clarity on the bass is less impressive as it has more muffled sound.
We tested the Universal Speaker Dock for Android with a variety of phones including the Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX, the LG Spectrum, the iPhone 4S and laptops including the HP Envy, and found the dock worked all very nicely. Here are some of the details we found in our tests:
When playing instrumental, orchestra and symphony pieces on phones: The Universal Speaker Dock sounded clear and spacious. Each instrument had its own voice, even if it was quieter or thinner sounding on the tracks. Audio separation was very good, and we could hear each instrument rings out and works together with others. Bass sounded powerful but less clear.
When playing rock, pop, R&B songs on phones: The speaker sounded really nice playing band music as each piece and vocal worked very nicely together. The range of stereo output was more than enough for most tracks and the extra bass power added more character in these genres.
When playing movie and games on laptops: Wow! When you have bigger audio drivers and output to work with, the Universal Speaker Dock shines even more. We tested movie playback and found the special effects really ring out on this speaker. We played Skyrim on an HP Envy 17 notebook, and we were absolutely impressed by its clarity and precision in realizing all the music and sound FX in the game. The audio package in Skyrim sounded better via the speaker than some headphones we've used.
The Universal Speaker Dock for Android from Digital Innovations is a great speaker for those who have a netbook or a laptop that has low audio volume and quality. It needs to be plugged into power to work and it comes with a 100-240V world AC Adapter. It works nicely with any mobile device that has a 3.5mm audio jack or a microUSB connector, but to fully realize its potential, you can use it with your laptop or desktop machines. The speaker dock doesn't really have a docking port and blocks some screen real estate on phones, but it's big enough to hold any phone or a small tablet. We love the audio quality and power of the speaker, but would like to see a few tweaks on the design.
-Universal Speaker Dock for Android -AC charger -Remote control -Quick start manual
Technical Specs: -2 speakers, 3 watts; a 3" sub-woofer, 10 watts; total of 16 watts of 2.1 stereo sound -Headset size: 12.5 x 4.2 x 5 inches -Headset weight: 3.06 lbs. -AC adapter: 100-240V