Whether it is music, an audiobook, a podcast, audio from a movie or a game or any other audio coming from an iPhone or iPad, the quality of audio is much, much better when coming from a nice external speaker instead of the small built-in speaker on those devices. In January of 2013, I reviewed the dockBoss air, a great device that adds Bluetooth to an older speaker with a 30-pin connector designed to work with the iPod and the pre-iPhone 5 versions of the iPhone. I love that product because it lets me use my new iPhone (or iPad) with my Bose SoundDock Portable speaker, a great portable speaker that has a 30-pin connector. Indeed, even if my iPhone 5s could physically connect to the Bose SoundDock, I prefer to have a wireless connection so that I can keep the iPhone close to me to use it and to control the audio.
Last month, CableJive improved the dockBoss air, and the company sent me a free review unit to test it out. The improvements are really nice, enough to justify this second look at the product. Before I go on, however, you might want to start by reading my review from earlier this year because almost everything that I said back then applies to the new version of the dockBoss air. Today, I will focus on what is improved.
Better sound. CableJive says that the new version offers clearer audio, and in my tests this was definitely true. I will admit that I never noticed a real problem with the last version of the dockBoss air, but comparing the two, I can tell that there was a slight hiss in the background with the old dockBoss air — most noticeable between songs or during a quiet portion of music. I don't hear any hiss at all with the new dockBoss air. I'm not sure what CableJive did to achieve this, but it is a very nice improvement in sound quality.
CableJive also says that you get more volume with the new version. Both versions were more than loud enough for me, but if volume makes a difference to you, then that's another advantage of this version.
Easier pairing. With the prior version of the dockBoss air, you had to enter a code — 0000 — every time you paired your iPhone to the device. The new version eliminates that requirement. Just select the dockBoss air in your Bluetooth preference, and the devices connect. If you leave the room and get far enough away to be out of range and lose a connection, the connection occurs automatically when you get back in range.
Sometimes the pairing is almost too good. Earlier this week, I was upstairs in my house listening to a podcast on my iPhone when suddenly I couldn't hear anything. Upon looking at my iPhone screen I saw that the iPhone had found the dockBoss air located downstairs, connected, and was playing my podcast through the speaker that was so far away that I couldn't even hear it. It was easy enough to change the audio output back to my iPhone, but I'm surprised that the Bluetooth connection even worked that far away.
Remote control. My BoseSoundDock has a remote control with eight buttons: Off, play/pause, volume up, volume down, next song, previous song, next playlist and previous playlist. With the prior dockBoss air, the buttons that controlled the Bose itself worked fine (off, volume up, volume down) but no controls were passed through to the iPhone. With the new dockBoss air, play/pause, next song and previous song are all transmitted via Bluetooth to your iPhone. (There is no support for the next playlist or previous playlist buttons — which, by the way, are buttons that I have never wanted to use anyway.)
If you keep your iPhone in your pocket when you are listening to a speaker, you really don't need a remote control because you can control everything from your iPhone. But there are also times when you want to keep your iPhone someplace close to your speaker — for example, you may want to be able to walk outside or far away but not have a connection lost between your iPhone and the speaker, which is annoying to anyone else listening — and in those circumstances it is useful to have the remote in your pocket instead of the iPhone.
Other changes. The old version of the dockBoss air didn't make any sounds to provide feedback for what it was doing. The new version includes pleasant sounds as indicators of activity. There is a short series of tones when you first connect the device to your speaker, there is another one when you connect via Bluetooth, and another one when you disconnect. I like those short audio cues just so that I know that everything is working. Physically, the newer version is slightly larger than the older version, and on the back it says "8.13" to signify that the new version came out in August of 2013. In the following pictures, the new model is the one on the right:
CableJive refers to this model as V2, which I suppose means version 2, of the dockBoss air, but I think that this is actually the third version. As I noted in my prior review, the original dockBoss air had trouble working with some Bose speakers (including mine) but a revised version fixed that problem. But whether this is the second or third version, just make sure you buy the model that is advertised as having better sound, easier pairing and support for remotes and you'll be sure that you are getting the right model.
The dockBoss air was already a really useful product, one which gives new life to older speakers with 30-pin connectors — great news for those who previously spent hundreds of dollars on a nice speaker. The improvements in this new version of the dockBoss air make it an ever better product. Indeed, if you can find an older iPod/iPhone speaker on sale now that companies are starting to come out with speakers with Lightning connectors and built-in Bluetooth, it might even be a better deal to get a discounted older speaker and a dockBoss air instead of a more expensive newer speaker. I'm including both an Amazon link and a CableJive link below; the Amazon description says that it is this newer version ("New model as of August 28th, 2013.") so you should be safe buying it from Amazon.