Speaker Options for Your iPad mini

By Edward C. Baig, Bob LeVitus

You can connect just about any speakers to your iPad mini, but if you want decent sound, you should look only at powered speakers, not passive (unpowered) ones. Powered speakers contain their own amplification circuitry and can deliver much better (and louder) sound than unpowered speakers.

Prices range from well under $100 to hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars. Most speaker systems designed for use with your computer, iPod, or iPhone work well as long as they have an auxiliary input or a Lightning connector that can accommodate your iPad mini.

Desktop speakers

Logitech makes a range of desktop speaker systems priced from less than $25 to more than $300. But that $300 system is the Z5500 THX-certified 505-watt 5.1 digital surround system — surely overkill for listening to music or video on your iPad mini, which doesn’t support surround sound anyway. The point is that Logitech makes a variety of decent systems at a wide range of price points. If you’re looking for something inexpensive, you can’t go wrong with a Logitech-powered speaker system.

Another option is Audioengine desktop speakers. They deliver superior audio at prices that are reasonable for speakers that sound this good. Audioengine 5 is the premium product priced at $349 per pair; Audioengine 2 is its smaller but still excellent sibling priced at $199 per pair.

They’re available only direct from the manufacturer, but the company is so confident that you’ll love them that it offers a free audition for the speaker systems. If you order a pair and don’t love them, return them within 30 days for a full refund.

Bluetooth speakers

Like Bluetooth headsets, Bluetooth speakers let you listen to music up to 33 feet away from your iPad mini. They’re great for listening by the pool or hot tub or anywhere else you might not want to take your iPad.

There are plenty of favorable reviews for the $149.99 wireless Jambox by Jawbone, a rechargeable speaker that offers very good sound despite being able to fit into the palm of your hand. You can connect via Bluetooth or its auxiliary stereo jack. A bonus: Jambox doubles as a decent-enough speakerphone.

Jawbone has also introduced the Big Jambox. Quick quiz: What do you think that means? Right, a bigger version of the Jambox with bigger sound. Of course, at $299.99, it also carries a bigger price, and it’s a bit less portable than its diminutive sibling. And because this isn’t a one-size-fits-all society, Jawbone more recently introduced the Mini Jambox, which comes in multiple colors, and commands $129.99.

Another option to consider is a big rival to the Big Jambox, the Bose SoundLink wireless mobile speaker, which fetches a similar price.

Finally, you might consider Ultimate Ears’ Boom wireless speaker/speakerphone ($199.95) which also has a popular following.

AirPlay speakers

The newest type of speakers you might choose for your iPad mini support Apple’s proprietary AirPlay protocol, which takes advantage of your existing Wi-Fi network to stream audio and/or video from your iPad mini (or other compatible iDevice) to a single AirPlay-enabled speaker or audio/video receiver.

The biggest differences between AirPlay and Bluetooth speakers are

  • Bluetooth can stream music only in a compressed form; AirPlay can stream music (and video) uncompressed. So, a speaker with AirPlay should sound better than a similar speaker with Bluetooth.

  • Bluetooth’s range is roughly 30 feet; AirPlay’s range is up to 300 feet. You can’t extend Bluetooth’s range; Wi-Fi range can easily be extended with inexpensive routers such as Apple’s AirPort Express ($99).

  • iTunes (on your computer) can use AirPlay to stream audio or video to multiple speakers or audio/video receivers, with individual volume controls for each device; Bluetooth streams to only one device at a time.

Docking your iPad mini with an extender cable

Because the iPad mini is much larger than an iPod or iPhone, you can’t just dock the iPad mini into a speaker system designed for the smaller devices. All is not lost if you’re partial to those speakers and still want to connect the iPad mini.

CableJive, RadTech, and others sell dock extender cables, which allow you to use your iPad with any docking device no matter how small or which connector it uses. Apple also sells a 30-pin–to–Lightning adapter cable, allowing you to connect an iPad to one of these speaker systems.