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Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012: speakers and docks

Zach Honig

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Welcome to the Engadget holiday gift guide! Picking presents for friends and loved ones is never a simple task, and with thousands of options for each category, buying technology can be an especially frustrating experience. We're here to help. Below you'll find today's bevy of curated picks, and you can head back to our hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the holiday season. And don't forget to enter our giveaway -- leave a comment for a chance to nab AT&T's Samsung Galaxy Express.

Apple may have killed off the ubiquitous 30-pin connector, but that doesn't mean the dock is dead. Millions of older iPhones and iPads remain in use today -- and will for many years to come -- and Bluetooth and WiFi-equipped speaker rigs let you pipe in tunes regardless of your device's hardware port. Apple's Lightning adapter will also let last year's docks remain relevant, while standard 3.5mm inputs ensure compatibility with nearly any audio source. You should, of course, be aware of each system's connectivity before making a purchase, but don't let that previous-gen plug dissuade you from picking up an otherwise awesome setup. As always, we're happy to assist as you sort through the selection -- here are our top finds for every budget, so queue up some tunes and blast past the break.

On the cheap

Soundfreaq Sound Rise

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 speakers and docks

The Sound Rise features a 30-pin connector front and center, yes, but an included cover serves to hide away the plug when using incompatible devices, while also providing a platform for your smartphone or MP3 player to rest. A USB port on the back lets you power your gadget as you stream audio over Bluetooth or pump it through the 3.5mm headphone jack. There's also an FM radio built in, should you have a hankering to pass the time listening to advertisements for pest control services and used car dealerships.

Key specs: 13-watt output, 30-pin dock connector, Bluetooth, USB power port.

Price: $100 from Target

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Berlin Boombox

The Berlin Boombox first caught our eye when it appeared as a Kickstarter project, and now this cardboard speaker rig is finally ready to ship. Roughly 85 bucks (plus shipping) buys you dual 5-watt speakers, a stereo amp and DIY assembly. It's a fun project for sure, and if it sounds great; consider that a bonus.

Price: €65 ($85) from Berlin Boombox

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 speakers and docks

iHome iA17

iHome may not be known as a premium manufacturer, but you're on a budget, so it's time to keep expectations in check. The iA17's banner feature is its color-changing shell, making this basic rig a fun fit for fashionable tweens. And, with iPod or FM radio wake-up options, it'll keep them on schedule, too.

Price: $60 on Amazon


JBL PlayUp

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 speakers and docks

Get the IOU pad ready -- this fantastic wireless speaker has a TBD ship date, though it's set to hit before the year is through. Designed alongside Nokia's new Lumia series, this colorful tub of sweet sound uses NFC and Bluetooth to pair with a phone without any need for screen taps or passcodes. While Nokia is pushing it as a Windows Phone accessory, it'll work just fine with recent handsets from most manufacturers, and it packs a standard 3.5mm input for pulling tunes from any gadget with a headphone jack. It looks great and offers excellent sound, so even though it isn't quite ready to ship, this sub-$200 speaker should be ready to rock soon.

Key specs: Rechargeable battery, 3-watt output, Bluetooth, NFC, 3.5mm input.

Price: €149 (about $194) by the end of the year

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Grace Digital Eco Terra (GDI-AQ2SI60)

The warm summer sun may have long since set on 2012's beach season, but it won't hurt to keep next year in mind. Eco Terra can survive both surf and sand while keeping your smartphone safe as well. Tunes come in through a 3.5mm jack, and four C batteries will keep you groovin' for a full day and then some.

Price: $122 on Amazon

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 speakers and docks

TDK A33 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker

Perhaps you're looking for a slightly more premium experience, with a smaller footprint and a rechargeable battery to boot. The A33 offers a weatherproof construction, but you wouldn't know it at first glance. Your Bluetooth device sends over tracks, while a built-in mic lets the rig double as a speakerphone when you need to put the fun on hold.

Price: $199 on Amazon

Money's no object

Bowers & Wilkins A7

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 speakers and docks

Want the best of the best? Well, you may need to take out a second mortgage. If you're willing to settle for the next best thing, Bowers & Wilkins has your back. The brand-new A7 flagship features AirPlay for wireless streaming from Apple devices with both WiFi and Ethernet connectivity. You'll also use your iPhone or iPad to get things configured, through a dedicated setup app. The attractive rig can be tucked away, but you'll probably prefer a more prominent presentation -- it'll look great on a fireplace mantel, office desk or kitchen counter, and thanks to AirPlay support, you can add it to all three for simultaneous streaming throughout your house. Budget shoppers may also consider the A5, which features similar looks and performance in a smaller, more affordable package.

Key specs: 150-watt output, WiFi and AirPlay support, 24-bit DACs, setup app.

Price: $799 from J&R

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Bose SoundLink II

This premium brand's latest tune machine offers completely wireless operation, with Bluetooth streaming from laptops, tablets and smartphones, and a rechargeable battery that nets eight hours of playback. You can customize it to your liking with folding covers in red, blue, purple, burgundy, black and tan.

Price: $299 on Amazon

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 speakers and docks

Samsung DA-E750

Not only does Samsung's vacuum tube-powered dock offer excellent sound, but it also looks fantastic. This modern take on classic design has premium written all over it -- especially on the price tag. Stream music wirelessly using Bluetooth, AllShare or AirPlay, or take advantage of the hidden dock that tucks out of view when not in use.

Price: $528 on Amazon


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Samsung Galaxy Express

Ready to take home one of AT&T's hottest smartphones? Today's offering is the Samsung Galaxy Express, which runs a snappy 1.5GHz processor and sports a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen. To enter for your chance to win, be sure to review our full guidelines, then leave a comment below.

The rules:

  • Leave a comment below. Any comment will do. Duplicate entries will be filtered out and discarded, so adding additional comments won't increase your likelihood of winning.
  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States and the District of Columbia, 18 or older! Sorry, we don't make this rule (we hate excluding anyone).
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. One winner will receive one (1) Samsung Galaxy Express.
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes a contact email. Social media contact details are not carried over into our system.
  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. AT&T, Samsung and Engadget/AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
  • The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.
  • Entries can be submitted until December 31st, 2012 at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!

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