What's up, Dock?

The sight of a dancing iPod user, and particularly her white earbuds, is a genuine cultural icon. But it would be a mistake to overlook the iPod's nonportable applications. Most of your music collection might be on a 'Pod, but you don't have to condemn your tunes to the lowly fidelity typical of most 'buds. As many listeners are discovering, iPods work great at home (and in the office), too. Not surprisingly, manufacturers have responded.

Sure, you can plug your 'Pod into any playback system's analog input, but a docking station handles both audio and power more elegantly. Apple, in its infinite wisdom, puts a 30-pin connector at the base of most iPods, making them easy to dock to a home playback system. If you use one of these systems religiously, you get playback and recharging capabilities, and you greatly decrease the odds of misplacing your precious 'Pod. What could be better? Well, actually, something could be better. Not all iPods are created equal. In fact, there's vast incompatibility between the different generations and models. For that reason, various features in the docks reviewed here might or might not work with your 'Pod. Check with the dock manufacturer for compatibility. That caveat aside, docks really do raise the bar on what an iPod can do.

To survey the state of the art in iPod docks, we rounded up five models, each with a particular design or feature twist. We tapped the B&W Zeppelin, Canton DSS 303, Klipsch RoomGroove, Onkyo CBX-300, and Polk I-Sonic ES2. Then we docked our 'Pods, ditched our 'buds, and pricked up our ears.