Review: Griffin Technology Dock Adapter for iPod shuffle
Pros: A first-of-kind adapter that enables second-generation iPod shuffles to recharge or play audio when connected to iPod speakers with Universal Dock wells. Simple control switch lets you toggle between audio and charging modes. Convenient for travel purposes, integrates elegantly into existing accessories.
Cons: Because of Apple design restrictions, shuffle can’t charge and play audio at the same time. Caused slight misbehavior in one tested speaker system. Less elegant audio and charging alternatives are either free or very inexpensive.
If you want to charge your second-generation iPod shuffle, Apple’s solution is simple: use the shuffle’s packed-in Dock. Similarly, if you want to connect your shuffle to most iPod speaker systems, there’s another easy answer: use an auxiliary audio cable. Your total cost’s going to be around $2, assuming that the audio cable didn’t come packed-in with the speakers you purchased. But as inexpensive as these options are, they’re not optimal: ideally, you could dock the new shuffle in any iPod speaker system and recharge it there. That’s where Griffin’s Dock Adapter for iPod shuffle ($20) comes in.
The good news is that Griffin’s Dock Adapter does two things: it allows you to charge your shuffle’s battery, or play audio through any existing Universal Dock-equipped iPod accessory, including most current model iPod speaker systems, and some non-Universal Dock systems such as Bose’s SoundDock, but not Altec Lansing’s popular iM7 or iM9. Better news is that it does both of these things properly: at the right volume, the shuffle sounds quite good through existing iPod speakers, and the Dock Adapter properly charges its battery just as Apple’s computer- or wall-connected Dock can. Unfortunately—an Apple design limitation, and neither Griffin’s nor any third-party developer’s fault—the shuffle can’t charge and play audio at the same time. Instead, a two-position switch at the Adapter’s base toggles between charging mode and audio output mode, so you can either listen to the shuffle through speakers, depleting the battery in the process, or charge the battery. It could be a catch phrase: “that’s what you get for picking the shuffle over a nano.”
As with Apple’s own Dock, the shuffle needs to be inserted upside down in the Dock Adapter, which means that its volume controls will be upside down, and its track backwards and forwards buttons will be in reversed order. When the Adapter’s in audio-out mode, the buttons will work, allowing you to manually toggle tracks, play/pause status, and the shuffle’s volume level. As with similar adapters for the first-generation shuffle, you’ll need to manually set the new shuffle’s volume to an audible level, and accept the fact that remote control accessories will only affect the speakers’ volume, and won’t be able to control the shuffle’s tracks or play status. Cue a repeat of the catch phrase.
The only problem we had with the Dock Adapter was a very small one. During testing, we noticed that use of the Adapter caused the capacitive touch panel on Logitech’s AudioStation to misbehave: volume up or down presses always resulted in the volume going down, though the other buttons worked properly and AudioStation’s remote still fully controlled the system’s volume. Since we experienced no issues with other systems, and remote control access wasn’t impacted, we consider this to be a rare situation, and not one that significantly diminishes Dock Adapter’s appeal.
As noted at the start of this review, Griffin’s Dock Adapter may not be the cheapest way to push power to or pull audio from your iPod shuffle—it could stand to be a bit less expensive, the primary reason for our flat B-level recommendation—but its convenience factor is undeniable: being able to leave the shuffle in a single dock for audio playback, control access, and charging is a much better option than having to disconnect different cables from its headphone port - and having it sit alongside or awkwardly on top of a system without an iPod dock. Packed away, it consumes less space than Apple’s included Dock, which makes it handy if you’re taking portable speakers on the road. If you have a shuffle and want to enjoy some of the best speaker docks already out there without connectivity hassles, consider it a worthwhile addition to your accessory library.