Micro and Mini sound systems versus Dock

The iPod Dock and Other Things

One of our readers,  13 year old Craig wants to know why we don’t do reviews, especially on docking stations.  Unfortunately as we don’t retail products and neither get support from resellers or manufacturers in this beautiful land of ours this can be pretty difficult unless we go out and buy the stuff ourselves.

Castle Knight 1
Castle Knight 1

What I can tell you is that over the years a common problem picked up is dirty or broken contacts in the dock which although replaceable does make it a weak link in the interface.  Line inputs are a better way to go but now that from Bluetooth 2.0 and up, wireless seems to be the cheaper and more practical way to go.   Docking stations are still popular but the home user wants more exciting permutations.

Mini components – the Aiwa range

If one looks at mini or micro Hi-Fi the killer was the Aiwa range. The P/C/R/L80 range was truly superb.  Aiwa was taken over by Sony and that was that. Hale Devices Inc., a USA company bought the rights to use the name in 2015. Frankly I have never heard any iPod docking station that could compete with the quality of the legendary Aiwa mini-stack systems. Much of the Aiwa boom boxes of the day were also very well regarded.  Shame on you Sony!

Gain Clone – LM3886 to TDA7293 TDA7294

For the DIYer clan I do believe the Gain Clone amplifier (yours, possibly with original National Semiconductors chip) – an IC amplifier, chips now including the TDA7293/94 and the Castle Knight 1 or 2 is a really incredible choice. In South Africa the cheapest retailer for these speakers was Govan Mani in Durban.  (I don’t see them listed any more).

Not wanting to re-invent the wheel, the Castle Knight range features well with tube amplifiers as well but the TDA7293/94 I found to have the most impressive whack and quality – plenty of info on the net about these chips.

Now, how to dock?  

Logitech make quite good quality Bluetooth receivers and are available at TakeaLot , Loot, Geewizz etc.  Note that many of them are not battery powered. The non-battery powered version is shown below. Model PN 980-000912

Startech BT2A

Audio Engine B1 at Ultrasound.  These go for about R 4 000.00.  Ouch.

Monoprice 107364 Bluetooth Music Receiver

Logitech Bluetooth Receiver
Logitech Bluetooth Receiver

Lastly, the DIY type may want the module only which can be obtained at Yebo Electronics for about R250.00

TDA7492P 25+25 Bluetooth receiver and amplifier
TDA7492P 25+25 Bluetooth receiver and amplifier

The 25W + 25W stereo module shown above can be purchased from Yebo and DIY Electronics in Durban

Alternatively import your own through BangGood.

No surprises here in the Micro and Mini sound systems versus Dock comparison wars because there is, well, no comparison.  Although by and large retail still see docking systems for iPod and the like being very popular our own interest veers to what the home tinkerer is spending his money on.

Like any sound system an integrated system has disadvantages.  By adding your own speakers, amplifier and BT receiver one can overcome many of the disadvantages of integration.  But do add a line pre-amplifier with tone controls.

Lastly, the older Lepai or Lepy amplifiers are still available on eBay or many Asian ecomm retailers.  Be aware of some pitfalls and enjoy.

[Editor’s note:  We don’t deliberately single out specific retailers in our market. We do try to support the smaller retailer and those that have given us exceptional service].

TDA7293 and TDA7294 Chipamps

Further reading:

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