Microsoft Audio Dock – low-cost USB-C dock with conference sound (review)
The Microsoft Audio Dock is very good at what it does – a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 dock (10Gbps) with 60W upstream charging, up to two 4K@60Hz monitors, and Microsoft Teams-certified mics/speakers.
But, step too far outside its comfort zone, and you will wish you bought a dedicated Thunderbolt 3 or 4 dock sans mics/speakers. Here is why?
Pretty well all the 2021 and 2022 Microsoft Surface range supports Thunderbolt. That is a 40Gbps interface versus USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 at 10Mbps – 25% of Thunderbolt’s throughput. Not only that, but it has other PCI bus constraints that can overload the 10Gbps connection.
This has one HDMI 2.0 for up to 4K@60Hz (50Hz in Australia). A second USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 with alt DP mode will also support a 4K@60Hz if your monitor has a USB-C port, or you can buy a USB-C to HDMI cable (make sure it is 4K@60Hz capable* – many are not).
The other ports include a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 data only with 5V/1.5A/7.5W downstream power (USB-C 3.2 is usually 5V/3A/15W) and a USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 Port with 5V/1.5A/7W downstream power.
In simple terms, it has limited expansion compared to a Thunderbolt dock.
Australian review: Microsoft Audio Dock Model 2024
|Price||RRP $459, but most IT stores are selling it for $299|
|Microsoft Store, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys, and other IT retailers|
|Country of Manufacture||China|
|Company||Microsoft is an American multinational technology company with headquarters in Redmond, Washington. It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services.|
|More||CyberShack Microsoft news and reviews|
We use Fail (below expectations), Pass (meets expectations) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. We occasionally give a Pass ‘+’ rating to show it is good but does not quite make it to Exceed. You can click on most images for an enlargement.
Dual Monitors* – not as easy as it sounds
The HDMI Port is a no-brainer – it works well. The second monitor from the dedicated USB-C alt DP 1.2 port must support Multi-Stream Transport (MST – it is a Windows 10/11 thing), High Bit Rate 2 (HBR2), and Display Stream Compression (DSC – most decent USB-C monitors do).
It would not work on a monitor about four years old. We tried a few USB-C to HDMI cables (including a Microsoft one). So, if you need dual monitors, make it a condition of sale that it works, or you can return it.
Dual 4K@30Hz and 1080p@60Hz monitors were fine – it is a bandwidth thing. And I guess this reveals why Microsoft made it – as a Teams-compatible device running one screen.
PS – It likely will not work on macOS.
First Impression – Pass
It is a speakerphone with benefits. Very corporate in black woven fabric and quite squat at 167.6 x (Width) x 80.2 (Depth) x ) 81 mm (Height x 650g. A 1m USB-C cable peeks out from its rubber base, which doubles as cable storage. You attach the 15V/6A/90W power brick to the back.
On the top are +/- volume, play/pause, mic mute and a Teams button. There are no LED indicators –either on or disconnected from the power.
Port speeds are shared – Pass
The USB-C cable shares the 10Gbps between all ports. 4K@60Hz, 8-bit, compressed requires 9Gbps, but Windows is smart and essentially only transmits the changes to the screen when you are in Word or Email, etc. It is when you play video that the bandwidth is needed.
You have three other ports, all capable of 10Gbps, but in reality, you will get only about 500-1000MBps (.5 to 1Gbps) if you use the other ports simultaneously for monitors, sound etc. That is the fundamental difference between Thunderbolt and USB-C docks.
If you use it on USB-C 3.1/2 Gen 1 (5Gbps), it supports 1 x 4K@30Hz.
Sound – two different beasts – Pass
It is a mono system with a forward-firing 15W woofer and a 5W tweeter. Microsoft claims music mode is 70Hz to 20kHz. Video conference mode is 200Hz to 8kHz. Microsoft claims 90dB SPL – about 80dB at 1m and loud enough for a small huddle or boardroom.
It defaults to music mode, and when you want conference mode, you must be in Teams or Google Meet etc.
There was no 20-50Hz low-bass (not expected). Mid-bass starts at 50Hz and quickly climbs to 80Hz before flattening to 6kHz. There is an unexpected dip at 2.5kHz, where the speaker similar cannot handle the white noise, but it quickly bounces back. From 6kHz, it slowly declines to 20kHz.
What does this mean?
Mono, forward-firing (not 360°) with enough mid-bass to satisfy but lacking any oomph. Mid-range is flat (good), but the low-mid-high-treble is slightly recessed, meaning you are missing that crispness from string instruments and cymbals. In short, music tends to be dull. But use the Conference mode, and it shines at clear speech.
You can read more How to tell if you have good music (sound signature is the key – guide).
Mics – Pass
Two Omni-directional microphones are good to about 3 metres. We suspect one mic is for noise reduction as it does not record in stereo.
When used in an MS Teams meeting, the host said our voice was loud and clear.
CyberShack’s view – Microsoft Audio Dock – low-cost USB-C dock with conference sound
Don’t let me discourage you, especially if you can get it for $299. It is a competent USB-C dock with speakers, which is perfect if you have the use case of it.
That is in the huddle room (not enough for a traditional board room) or at home, where you want to run one large monitor off your 60W upstream charging laptop.
And another use is screen mirror on Android Smartphones and tablets that support alt DP USB-C 3.1 gen 1 (tested). These include some Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets supporting DeX and Motorola Edge supporting Ready For. These will not have any issues using the upstream power.
We did not test with iPad or iPhone.
A Thunderbolt dock is better for expansion if you have a Thunderbolt-equipped laptop.
There are many brands, but we recommend the Plugable TBT3 Thunderbolt 3/4 docking station range – UDZ-96W, UDC3-96W, UD1-85W or UDC1-60W (review).
The prime benefit is that most models have dual monitor ports (UDZ has 2 x DP and 2 x HDMI or use one of each) – something many other brands lack. They are well-made, and we have been using them for several years.
Rating Explanation – Microsoft Audio Dock
- Features: 80 – it is a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 dock with decent conference-class mics and speakers.
- Value: 70 – At RRP$459, it is not great value – at $299, it is
- Performance: 80 – As a USB-C dock, it meets all performance expectations but don’t overextend it. You can use it on USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) with one 4K@30Hz monitor.
- Ease of Use: 90 – plug and play, and it is nice that it supports Android with alt DP as well
- Design: 80 – basic black and squat – very corporate
Microsoft Audio Dock$459 but seen at $299
- All-in-one USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 dock with mic/speakers
- 60W upstream charge perfect for most laptopses
- Teams certified mics/speaker
- Clear voice is good, but music tends to dull
- No for heavy use
- You can get better value/features from a Plugable Thunderbolt dock