Were you one of the lucky people who received a new iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone 5 over the holidays? Looking for a good-sounding, portable speaker system but put off by the whole Lightning connector issue? Maybe you’re in the Android camp and tired of Apple’s mobile devices getting all the attention when it comes to high quality audio accessories. The good news is Bluetooth streaming audio is platform-agnostic; the standard works with pretty much any mobile device you can throw at it. And the choices are getting really compelling. Case in point, the Vers 1Q Bluetooth sound system. A 3-inch cube made of natural wood, the 1Q literally fits in the palm of your hand, sounds great (looks even better), offers compatibility with any Bluetooth-equipped device and even provides 10 hours of portable sound thanks to a built-in, rechargeable battery. All for $119.99, which makes the 1Q a steal.
I’m somewhat of a collector of “Made for iOS” speaker docks, but with Apple’s move to ditch its longtime 30-pin connector port with the latest generation of iOS devices, the decision to go with a speaker dock has become less of a no-brainer. I’m starting to favor the wireless streaming route and Bluetooth seems the way to go. Sure, Apple has its own AirPlay standard, but Bluetooth works with pretty much anything — there’s less chance of being burned down the road and even though my household is pretty Apple-dominated, my friends and family are all over the roadmap. There are even some BlackBerry users in the mix. Bluetooth speakers mean I’m not the sole DJ; no apps, wires or Wi-Fi network permissions to fuss with. Wired recently did a rundown of 11 portable Bluetooth speaker systems, but there was one missing from the list: the Vers 1Q Wireless Sound System.
While I’ve had the opportunity to play with competitors like the Jambox and Big Jambox, I’m particularly enamored with these 1Q Bluetooth speakers. There’s a lot to like about them — which helps to explain how they blew past their $10k Kickstarter funding goal, hitting nearly $195k. I’m a fan of products that incorporate natural materials and the Vers cubes come in wooden finishes like the Walnut and Bamboo in the photo. They’re tiny at just three inches on a side and that size plus the wood case really makes them stand out in a crowd. Despite that compact form factor, they still pump out very impressive sound. A single 2-inch, full range driver takes up most of the front face. It’s powered by a 6.5W amplifier. With a bass port in the back, the Vers 1Q produces surprisingly decent sound that stays distortion free right up to maximum volume. Don’t expect booming bass, but I found the low end to be solid and if the highs drop off slightly, you can always tweak this using your smartphone or tablet’s EQ settings. Bluetooth pairing was an exercise in simplicity and you can plug in a device if you don’t feel like taking the few seconds required. Battery life has been solid. It’s rated at up to 10 hours and I’m seeing times in this range — even longer when the volume is at lower levels. Range is rated at 30 feet.
For the past week, I’ve been listening to music streamed from my iPhone to a Vers 1Q sitting on a bookshelf instead of using the stereo system hooked up to my primary work computer, and it’s been quite capable of filling my office area. I certainly haven’t felt as though I’m making a listening sacrifice. An added bonus has been the ability to scoop the cube up and carry it into the kitchen for dinner prep and even bring it outside while I’m BBQing.
There must be drawbacks, right? Well, you have to take the 1Q for what it is. A 3-inch cube with a single 2-inch speaker and 6.5W amp is not going to sound as good as the B&W Zeppelin that’s been my reference speaker dock for the past few years. That’s just reality.
However, the 1Q costs a fifth what the Zeppelin does and sounds better than many systems I’ve tried that cost more than its modest price. If you’re willing to double your investment and buy a second cube, Vers offers a nifty trick. Using the included (and quite nice, braided cloth) 3.5 mm cable, you can connect two cubes to create a sub-$250, 13W portable stereo system.
Vers 1Q Wireless Sound System is available in a variety of natural wood finishes for $119.99.
Wired: Bluetooth is a snap to configure and compatible with pretty much any mobile device; natural wood cases look great and offer a distinctive alternative to the usual black plastic; audio performance much better than one would expect from a 3-inch mono cube; full complement of accessories included (3.5 mm extension cable, USB cable and USB charger with international power plug adapters, cotton carry case); highly portable with impressive battery life; expandable to stereo sound using second 1Q; Vers commits to planting trees for every product sold.
Tired: The speaker is exposed and seems vulnerable to damage if carted around as a portable system.