Lately I’ve noticed more and more of my friends using their BlackBerry devices as a music player. The advantage is obvious. Instead of toting around a BlackBerry and an MP3 player, they get the functionality of both in just one device. Heavy listeners might run into power problems, but an extended life battery should help offset that. Part of the iPod’s draw, though, is the selection of external speakers and docks available for it. If the ability to dock your iPod is holding you back from ditching it, check out the available options for docking your BlackBerry. There are two primary ways to connect your BlackBerry to a speaker dock. You can either use a Bluetooth connection, or otherwise use the 3.5mm headphone jack. I personally prefer the latter, as in my experience it produces better sound quality. The ultimate choice, of course, will be up to the individual.
Blueant M1 Bluetooth Speakers
We’ll start with a good example of why Bluetooth can sometimes provides excellent sound quality. Cooper reviewed the Blueant M1 Bluetooth Speaker dock last year, and he came away impressed. When it comes to sound quality I trust Cooper’s judgement. He just has an ear for these types of things. It sounds good even at high volumes, though as with most small speaker units it usually starts crackling once you near the max level. If connected by Bluetooth, your handset can also act as a remote control for the unit. Apparently, as Cooper tested it, the iPhone couldn’t do this> That’s a key to remote docks like this. The further you can get away from the unit, in this case about 10 meters, the better. You can also connect it via 3.5mm headphone jack, so if you’re like me and like that sound quality better you do have the option. If you’re looking for quality at any price, you can get the Blueant M1 Bluetooth speakers for $159.95 at the BBGeeks Store. Or, I should say, you can get them normally. They appear to be unavailable at the moment. In the meantime, here’s a price list from a Google product search.
A few weeks after reviewing the Blueant unit, Cooper examined the Motorola EQ5 portable speaker system. You can tell right off, by the price, that it won’t measure up to the Blueant system. Yet it still pumps out the tunes, so perhaps it fits better for someone not wanting to spend $160 on a speaker system for her BlackBerry. If you’re just looking for something to fit in your workspace, or to take places where there are no electrical outlets, the EQ5 could provide a serviceable solution. As Cooper notes in the review, the sound quality isn’t that great over Bluetooth. The sound doesn’t crackle until you get to max volume, but it still isn’t great. You can, however, use the 3.5 jack and, surprise surprise, get better sound out of the unit. It also doubles as a speaker phone, kicking into gear even as you answer a call while it’s playing music. Still, the unit isn’t exactly cheap. You can get the Motorola EQ5 speaker system for $99.95. For the casual user, it looks like a good way to save $50 over the Blueant unit.
BlackBerry Remote Stereo Gateway
Maybe you already have a stereo system and just want to play your BlackBerry through it. Maybe you also want to have your BlackBerry in hand, as to control the track listing, rather than leave it plugged in on top of the stereo. If this is the case, then you might want to go with an option a bit cheaper than a new docking station. The BlackBerry Remote Stereo Gateway connects to your device via Bluetooth. It then sends the audio via 3.5mm jack to any stereo. You might need an adapter for that 3.5mm cable, though, as most good stereos have a jack for a larger plug (if they have an input jack at all). If you don’t mind setting a playlist and leaving it, perhaps you don’t need this. You could just connect directly via the 3.5mm jack instead. But the Gateway does give you remote capabilities, always a plus. You can get the BlackBerry Remote Stereo Gateway for $49.95. That does seem a bit expensive for a remote control, though.
Cignias NAO Music System
If you’re in the market for a high end speaker system, this might be the one. The Cignias NAO Music System carries four speakers that divide 50 watts of power. In other words, you might not need that big old stereo system. Pump your tunes through this and the entire house, perhaps even the neighbors, will hear your exquisite taste in music. There are two excellent ways to take advantage of your BlackBerry with the NAO Music System. First, you can stream music right from your device to the speakers via Bluetooth. That works if you’re a one-device kind of user. If, on the other hand, you still prefer to dock your iPod, you still might have use for the NAO Music System. If you dock your BlackBerry and have a Wi-Fi enabled BlackBerry you can control the unit remotely. This includes seeing basically everything on your iPod, from artists to albums to playlists. Again, this is for the serious audiophile, so those looking for a cheap solution need not apply. You can get the Cignias NAO Music System for $299. Also make sure to download the BlackBerry NAO remote app.
Mini Portable Speaker Pod
We go from the gung-ho to the simple and cheap. Maybe you don’t need an enormous docking system. Maybe you just want better audio quality on your speakerphone, or a slight upgrade in audio quality from your music. The Mini Portable Speaker Pod could be your solution. It’s a collapsable gadget, meaning you can store it almost anywhere. At 1.5×2 inches, it will fit in tons of nooks and crannies. It provides just 2 watts of power, but is that really unexpected? That’s an upgrade over your internal speaker, and that’s the entire point of this gadget. It also comes with both 2.5mm and 3.5mm jacks, just in case you have that tiny abomination that came on the 88xx series BlackBerry devices. You can get the Mini Portable Speaker Pod for just $24.95. As always, we want to hear what you use for a speaker dock. There are plenty out there, so let us know.