For some time now, I’ve been looking for a portable sound system that can handle a variety of sources — my laptop, my iPad, my Windows 7 desktop PC, and even my phone. I tend to work from different locations around my house based on my mood, the weather, and/or needed tools (such as the whiteboard in my office).
Office (printer, scanners, whiteboard), living room (spreading out research info on the rug), basement (no kids!), or deck (blue skies, temp in the 70s) — no matter the location, I inevitably end up listening to music at some point. I’ve since figured out that what I really want is a quality stereo speaker that can work via WiFi or Bluetooth. Of course, I want to be able to crank it when necessary, but I’d also like it to be something pleasing to the eye that my wife would agree to use when we have guests over. Being that it’s the year 2013, it would also be nice if I could somehow control it with my iPhone as well.
I’ve been putting the WAE WBT06 (Wireless Audio Experience) from Hercules to the test now for a few weeks, and it has met all my requirements plus some:
* It’s a 90W non-battery-powered single stereo unit.
* Total weight is around 10lbs (sorry, but my digital scale is not registering such a low weight)
* Swivel-base allows me to direct the output
* Remote control works with iTunes and Windows Media Player Rewind/FF/Pause controls
* iPhone app provide similar control features as the remote
* WiFi is supported via a USB dongle you insert into a laptop/PC USB port
* Bluetooth can be paired with tablet or phone (or computer with Bluetooth)
* Manual controls on back of speaker
* It just looks REALLY nice… black on black and polished shell
In no particular order, here are some notes about my experiences using the WAE in various locations and with different devices:
Laptop — since I’m on my laptop for most of my work week, I found inserting the included USB dongle (2.4Ghz) to work just great. The dongle works fast — on my Mac, I didn’t have to install any special drivers or software… just press the refresh button on its surface to have the dongle connect to the speaker. The remote control worked great, too… it offered Pause, Next, Previous, and Mute functions as well as Volume Up and Volume Down. There’s a power button in the center of the remote to turn it all off (took about 10 seconds to power back up and immediately start up playing again).
iPhone — after installing the free WAE app (see image below), I paired up my iPhone with the WAE via Bluetooth. Once the pairing was made, the app allowed me to not only play my own music collection but I could also stream some local online radio stations as well as use the search feature to find some old favorite stations from my college days.
Home PC — I was worried about the distance from my home computer (2nd floor) and the inserted USB dongle being able to link up with the speaker in my basement. No problem! The sound quality was excellent and there was no stuttering from a weak signal. My home PC runs Windows 7, and it discovered the inserted USB dongle easily and the instructions gave me the remaining step or two to make certain the Hercules speaker was the default speaker.
iPad — identical experience as with my iPhone. The app expands to full screen (no need to tap the 2x button as you have to do for strictly native iPhone apps) and has the same buttons and features.
A few other minor observations:
* The remote control has a magnet in it that allows you to attach it to the center circle on the speaker’s surface — a great way to keep the remote from getting lost.
* An extra long power cable stretches about 10 feet, allowing me to power the speaker while still placing the speaker in a good location. (I found this very useful when using the system on my deck — a shorter cable would have limited me to putting the speaker in an undesirable location.)
* I’m not an audiophile by any means, but I trust my ears — the sound quality here was great, and even I could recognize that it had some great bass. I cranked this thing up for a few minutes to see what it could put out, and it’s as loud or louder than any home stereo system I’ve ever owned.
* The USB dongle definitely gives better results than Bluetooth. My iPhone needed to be within about 20 feet of the speaker or it would begin to sputter the music. My iPad had better distance (maybe 30 feet) but stepping outside or going to my office (while the speaker was in the basement) completely killed the connection. I’m certain every user will have different results.
All in all, I am just overjoyed with what the Wireless Audio Experience provides. The sound quality is great, and I can easily move the speaker from one location to another with minimal fuss. The easiest method for streaming my music is via Bluetooth, and it’s great if I don’t plan on straying too far away with my iPhone or iPad. But for a more reliable connection, I just plug in the USB dongle into my laptop and change the source (on a Mac, you hold down the Option button and click on the small speaker icon at the top of the screen) and off I go.
Note: I’d like to thank Heather for providing me with the requested WAE to test out. I’m sold.