Skullcandy, a company most known for its headphones, also makes a speaker dock that works with iPods and the iPhone. When I took the Skullcandy Pipe Speaker Dock ($40) out of the packaging, I wasn’t expecting much. The dock is tiny, and it can barely support the iPhone without falling over backwards. Even so, this speaker dock packs a surprising amount of quality into a small and affordable package — if you’re willing to accept its many limitations.
The dock is about the length of a pencil, and it can run on AC power or four AAA batteries. I was initially skeptical about the chrome design, but the Skullcandy Pipe Dock doesn’t look out of place on a desk or nightstand, and it has a very small footprint. However, it attracts fingerprints like mad, so try to avoid touching it if you can. The included remote is light and feels cheap, but it works well as long as you point it directly at the dock. I had no trouble using it to adjust volume, skip between songs or pause my music.
Now, here’s the rub. Even though the Skullcandy dock is marketed all over the Internet as a speaker for iPods and the iPhone, it’s not ‘Works with iPhone’ certified, meaning you have to put your iPhone into airplane mode to prevent interference. If you don’t, you’ll hear GSM buzz and static on a regular basis. This is a drag since you obviously can’t receive calls when the phone is disabled. I even get buzz when using the dock with my iPod nano if my iPhone is nearby.
So, you can’t make or receive calls on your iPhone when using the Skullcandy dock, or use Internet radio apps like Pandora, but the dock does work well when the iPhone is in airplane mode. Given how low my expectations were, I was pleasantly surprised with the sound quality. This is no audiophile’s speaker dock, but for a tiny, $40 dock the sound is much better than expected. Music is warm and rich at moderate volumes, although you’ll want to avoid loud or bass-heavy music, as the bass is pretty thin.
It also seems that the range between volume levels is too wide, as there were many times when the volume was either too soft or too loud and I couldn’t get it quite right. There’s also an extremely faint, but noticeable, static between songs, but it’s not noticeable when playing soft music. Overall, though, I was very happy with the sound and found the dock to be a great desktop companion.
We can recommend the Skullcandy Pipe Speaker Dock, but only for those who want a cheap speaker dock to play in a small office or dorm room, and who don’t mind putting their iPhone into airplane mode. Everyone else should spring for a more expensive dock that’s ‘Works with iPhone’ certified.