Product Review: id America TouchTone Bluetooth Speaker

idAmericaTouchToneRed
Image: id America.

Hey—who remembers “Touch Tone” phone service? No, this Bluetooth speaker is not related to the phone service.

For those who might not remember, once upon a time you had to pay your telephone company extra to quickly dial a phone number. This was a function of signal technology evolving, reminiscent of paying extra for 4G cell phone service. That capability was called “Touch Tone” service. Today most of us in the first world don’t really need to worry about Touch Tone service or its alternative, “pulse dialing.” Therefore, electronics accessory retailer id America is able to take advantage of using the term for a completely different kind of product: a compact wireless Bluetooth speaker.

The id America TouchTone Bluetooth wireless speaker is a great value for the price. At a MSRP of only $79.99, it provides capable sound anywhere you want without draining your bank account. Unlike the other Bluetooth speakers I have reviewed, the TouchTone talks to you! In other words, it will say “Bluetooth Pairing”, “Bluetooth Paired”, and “Line In” as you choose your mode.

Read on for my thoughts on the TouchTone.

What Comes in the Box

  • TouchTone speaker, 5″W x 3.5″L x 2.5″H
  • 12″ MicroUSB charging/power cable
  • 12″ 3.5mm line-in auxiliary cable for hard-wired device connection
  • Faux suede carrying bag
  • Instruction booklet

Setup, Use, and Special Features

If you’ve used other Bluetooth speakers, pairing is very easy. There’s a press-button power switch on the back that will put the speaker immediately into Bluetooth pairing mode as soon as its turned on. Hold down the power button till you hear “Bluetooth Pairing.” Go through your device to pair the speaker (look for the “TOUCHTONE” in your device’s Bluetooth settings). No PIN was required for any of the devices I attempted to connect.

As mentioned above, perhaps because there are no visible indications on the speaker itself, when you hit the “Mode” button on the top of the speaker, a voice will indicate which mode you’re in: Bluetooth Pairing, Bluetooth Paired, or Line In. This is definitely unique, I’ve not heard of a Bluetooth speaker that speaks to me that way.

The speaker has controls right on top, and they’re conveniently illuminated when the speaker is powered up. While the “mode”, “forward”, “backward”, and “play/pause/answer the phone” buttons are obvious, the volume is not. Rotate your finger around the circle on top clockwise to turn up the volume, counterclockwise to turn down the volume. The controls are flush with the top surface of the speaker. In fact, I was able to control the volume by merely floating my finger a couple millimeters from the surface.

If you don’t want to use the Bluetooth feature, you can use the 12″ audio cable and hit the “Mode” button to change the device to a “Line In” mode. This also allows you to use non-Bluetooth devices (such as older iPods) with the speaker.

You can also use the TouchTone as a telephone speaker. The play/pause button also functions as a telephone answer/hang up button. Even while music is playing, you can take care of telephone conversations seamlessly. I had no problems with this feature.

The speaker has up to 4 hours of playback time on a single charge. This time will vary depending on volume and whether you are using Bluetooth versus cabled devices. The JBL speakers I had reviewed in the past had greater playback time (albeit for a higher price). This is unfortunate. Also unfortunate is that there’s no way to know when the battery is low. You will hear loud tones within a few minutes of the battery giving out altogether.

Get the GeekDad Books!

   

Like other Bluetooth devices I have tested, you can expect the standard 33 ft. Bluetooth range with a line of sight between the device and the speaker. This distance will be reduced when separated by a wall or other solid body.

On a completely different note, this speaker comes in a very presentable box. While I have my opinions on the amounts of packaging these products are coming with these days, I have to admit it’s gift-worthy packaging, especially for the price.

Areas of Concern

This speaker gets quite loud. We turned it up all the way with some Black Keys and it is definitely powerful. A good speaker for the beach or picnic, which it will certainly overcome the other background noises in the area. However, we found that the sound quality is very “treble-y” at such loud volumes. The cymbals and clapping in Pherrell Williams’ “Happy” will come through loud and clear. You can make some adjustments with your device (in my case, with the iPhone Music settings), but those are only minor adjustments. “Howlin’ for You” sounded almost as if there was a kazoo in there somewhere, the treble was so pronounced.

The MicroUSB and male-to-male auxiliary cables are each only 12″ long. While I can see that the company is marketing itself on its lightweight, compact features, I found 12″ rather short. Thankfully, the required cables are readily available at longer lengths. If you have an Android, Kindle, or Blackberry device, you can use any MicroUSB charging cable. Similarly, you can find longer auxiliary cables just about anywhere.

Finally, as I’d mentioned before, the battery life is the shortest of all the Bluetooth speakers I have reviewed. Four hours might be enough for a trip to the beach or a picnic, but it won’t be enough for a group of Air Force folks getting together for an evening, I can tell you that. Be prepared to plug it in for the evening.

Conclusions

The id America TouchTone Bluetooth speaker is a fantastic value for the money, with an MSRP of $79.99. It’s a loud, powerful speaker that will serve your needs at a picnic or party (so long as it’s less than 4 hours if you aren’t near a charging source). Also, this is clearly meant for more casual uses; the sound quality get a little wonky at the highest volumes. Even though the included cables are on the short side, the company was smart enough to use MicroUSB connections, which are universally available.

The speaker is available in a rainbow of colors through the id America website, as well as at Amazon.com.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Patricia Vollmer is the proud mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 12 & 15. She is a meteorologist with the Air Force Reserve and is currently assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Patricia blogs about her family's nomadic military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which is currently in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hobbies include running, despite no one chasing her, sharing her love for Disney and Star Wars, and exploring the world with her boys. Ask her why the sky is blue at your own risk.