Polk Audio miDock Studio Portable Speaker Dock review: Polk Audio miDock Studio Portable Speaker Dock
In the ever-growing product line of iPod-friendly speaker docks, most manufacturers have opted to include a plethora of additional features to increase the attractiveness of their units. Polk Audio, however, has remained loyal to the notion that an iPod speaker dock should be just that. The company's miDock line includes three models: the diminutive miDock Portfolio ($100 list), the medium-size miDock10 ($180), and the miDock Studio ($230), reviewed here. For better or worse, all three eschew the bells and whistles found on many of the iPod-friendly speaker systems offered by rival manufacturers.
The first thing you'll notice about the miDock is its spartan, minimalist design. It looks almost like a second-generation version of the Apple Hi-Fi, with a swept-back front side and the iPod dock locked into the front face (rather than sitting on the top). The miDock feels sturdy and can fit on most shelves or tabletops. At 5.8 by 17.13 by 7.69 inches, the miDock Studio will likely be a bit overwhelming for most nightstands. Black grilles cover the two front speakers while the sides of the miDock sport handles for easy transportation (again, another design element borrowed from Apple's speaker rig). The two-tone white-and-black color scheme means it should blend with either color iPod. The only controls are on the unit's top: a four-way rocker switch for song navigation and volume, and a power button.
The miDock Studio comes with iPod dock adapters that will fit any iPod with a dock connection. And yes, this includes the third-generation iPods, infamous for their mysterious incompatibilities with the majority of third-party iPod speaker docks. For world travelers, the miDock includes various power adapters that will meet the requirements of power standards across the globe. Should you want to use the miDock without being tethered by a power cord, it will cost you a whopping eight C-size batteries. If you opt for rechargeables, you'll need an outboard charger; the miDock can't recharge the batteries, as some of the Tivoli Audio products do.
The miDock can control track changes on your iPod, but that's about it--changing music, along with all the other functions of the iPod, must be done manually. We found that the included credit card remote felt cheap and flimsy. The bubble-membrane buttons don't give a lot of feedback, so it's tough to know how hard to press. Even more discouraging, we found that the buttons didn't always work, resulting in instances where we had to press a button multiple times in order for a signal to be sent.
In terms of sound quality, the miDock compares with most other midsize speaker dock systems. Played at a normal level, the sound is rich and clear. However, when we pushed the miDock to higher levels, the sound became distorted and clouded. The unit doesn't include any kind of equalizer or audio modifier, so your sound quality will rely on how well your music is encoded. One caveat we detected with the model that Polk Audio sent us was a fair amount of hissing from the right speaker while the unit was idle. We're not sure if this affects all of the miDock units or just our review sample, but it is worth noting. Also, the miDock has no display support whatsoever, so you'll need to squint at your iPod's small screen to make your music selections.
As for connectivity, the miDock is strictly bare-bones. In addition to the line input--which allows it to work as a speaker for pretty much anything--the back panel also includes a headphone jack and a 30-pin iPod connector. The latter port lets you sync your Windows or Mac PC to the iPod while it's cradled in the miDock. Unfortunately, photo and video playback isn't supported by the miDock.
While the miDock performs exactly as advertised, you may want to consider comparably priced models such as the iLuv i199. Not only does it support your iPod, but it adds AM/FM clock radio, CD player, USB, and Bluetooth connectivity to the package. Likewise, the Sharp iElegance DK-A1 offers an AM/FM clock radio along with a more striking design than the conservative looks of the miDock.