If you are heading back to school, out on the road, or just can’t stand the tinny sound the built-in speakers on your devices makes, then a Bluetooth speaker is a must-have accessory. I wanted to share three such speakers I’ve been using for the last couple of months. All three work with most Bluetooth-enabled devices, and include rechargeable batteries and a line-in for directly connecting to devices. But the similarities end there. The size and features are different, but more importantly, the prices for each vary greatly, as does the sound quality.
Geneva Sound System Model XS
The Geneva Sound System XS speaker reminds me of the travel alarm clock my Uncle used to take with him to Europe. The clock component folded neatly into the case to snap shut, completely protecting it in the hard shell, while also providing the built in stand for it when in use. Interestingly, for a speaker, this works really well, creating a deeper sound field. The clock motif is continued by the fact that the speaker also has an LED clock cleverly integrated behind the speaker grill, as well as a built in FM receiver. This one is the complete package.
The speaker is the largest I reviewed (157mm × 102mm and 114mm tall when opened) and weighs in at 500 grams (just over a pound). But its sound is the most impressive, with a rich sound field created from the 2 × 1″ tweeters and 2¼” woofer, giving it a frequency range of 80 Hz to 20 kHz. The battery life is pretty good 8 hours of continuous play on a single charge.
The controls are soft-touch with red backlights, making them easy to see, but not providing the best tactile feedback. Interestingly, when you are setting up the Bluetooth, you hold down the “M” button until “…the display shows ‘blue.'” That is, the word ‘blue’ appears in red letters on the front. ‘Nuff said.
Because of the shell case and clock, I see this device as being a great travelers speaker if you want to rock out in your hotel room — especially if you are going international and don’t want to futz with chargers asoften.
The Braven 625s looks like a high-tech scientific instrument, with industrial grill front and shock absorbing hard rubber bumper. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a thing of beauty, but beautiful in the way someone in love with a cyberpunk aesthetic will appreciate more than, say, someone into flowers.
The Braven is a solid 16 cm by 6.5 cm by 4.6 cm, weighing in at 330 grams. The duel speakers produce 6w total output of solid sound. What’s amazing is that this comes with 16 hours of continuous play battery life. I charged it when I first got it about a month ago and have been using it every morning while getting ready, and haven’t had to recharge it yet.
Did I mention that it comes with an LED flashlight? That’s right, it has a flashlight that plugs in to the USB port. Now you just have to figure out how to hack that into a strobe light, and you have everything you need for your own outdoor rave.
The controls are a little difficult to get at, and are black on black, so you pretty much have to memorize them ahead of time, but you can use it to control calls on your iPhone or Skype on your iPad.
If you are a student heading off to college, this is probably the speaker for you. The sound is good, and it’s got a durable construction that should be able to stand up to even the roughest of roommates.
Looking something like the Legion of Doom’s Hall of Doom base from Challenge of the Super Friends, the Satechi BT is a tiny portable wireless speaker with a big sound and a built in mic. Measuring only 68.5mm square and 42mm tall, it weighs in at a slight 94g but still carries an amplifier frequency range of 280Hz–16KHz.
Once you pop open its expandable bass tower, this thing can really pump up the volume. You can daisy chain multiple speakers together for an even bigger sound. The Bluetooth was a snap to set up (as long as you can remember the code ‘0000′), and I enjoyed using it to boost the sound from my iPad in the bedroom and kitchen. As soon as the paired device came in range of the speaker, it would almost immediately pick up and start to play.
I did find the controls a bit awkward at first, but got used to them quickly. The battery is charged through a USB cable and has a 6 hour life, and a couple of days of stand-by power.
I’m thinking this device would be a must for professionals on the go who have group meetings where speaker phones are not always available. As a portable speaker for conference calls, I loved it. Imagine running your meetings off your iPhone with one of these little things sitting on the table. I compared it to the built in speaker on my iPhone, and everyone I spoke with said they heard the difference, and I certainly could hear them more clearly.
Of the three speakers, I have to say the Braven 625s has my vote for best all around Bluetooth speaker. While travelers may appreciate the built-in case of the Geneva, and the Satechi is a great portable speaker for conference calls, the robust sound field, incredible battery life, and rock-solid construction of the Braven make it an everyday Bluetooth speaker that can’t be beat.
NOTE: Review products were provided to GeekDad by the manufacturers.