808 Audio produces an extensive line of affordable speakers and headphones, and the company recently sent me a Hex Light portable Bluetooth speaker to try out. The key feature on this one—besides playing music—is a built-in LED light show.
The 808 Hex Light uses a different form factor than typical Bluetooth speakers. It’s a tapered cylinder that sits upright. The controls are on top, while the bottom has grills for the passive bass radiator as well as the USB charge port, AUX input, and battery indicator light. The body is black metal, the top third of which is a hex-shaped grill. Inside the grill, an LED light is mounted and you can also see a single, upward-facing driver.
Overall, it’s an attractive look with a very solid build, but if you use it outdoors you’ll want to keep it away from water.
The reality is that portable, sub-$100, single driver speakers aren’t going to be on the cutting edge of audio performance. In the case of the Hex Light, don’t expect music to have a whole lot of nuance or any depth. However, there is an EQ button that boosts the bass and lower midrange, giving it a bit more kick on demand. I ended up always leaving this on… In terms of volume, it can get very loud before things start getting ugly. In general, I found dance, electronic, and techno music fares best—adding guitars to the mix is when the sound is at its muddiest and the midrange seems to get overwhelmed.
I found outdoors was where the combination of volume, sound projection, and speaker tuning seems most at home. It’s less suited for indoors where the limitations are more apparent.
The big selling feature on the 808 Hex Light is the light show and that’s actually pretty cool. There are 6 modes to choose from. Cycle through using the button, but you’ll have to learn which is which as there is no visual indicator of the current mode.
You can use the speaker as background light (you choose the color), you can go with a rotating LED effect, choose to have it cycle through the color range while slowly pulsing in intensity, or rapidly cycle through all the colors. There are also two modes where the light flashes in response to the music being played and this works quite well, so long as the volume is turned up high enough (about 50 percent volume is when I found it started to synchronize reliably with the music).
You can kill the lights altogether if you wish, but doing so doesn’t seem to have any material effect on the 8-hour battery life. I always left it on, even if it was a single color, to add a little ambiance.
One feature I didn’t care so much for was the audio alerts. Powering up or when it shuts down after not being used for an extended period, for example, the speaker generates loud sound effects that are a little over the top. Kids would probably appreciate that a little more.
The Hex Light has a built-in mic, so it can also be used as a speakerphone.
If you’re a big music fan, you’ll probably prefer a multi-driver portable speaker that can deliver a little more on the audio front. However, for having background music and visual entertainment—especially outdoors in the evening when the light show has maximum impact—the 808 Hex Light shines. My kids think the bright, colorful lights pulsing to the beat of the music is extremely cool, and my wife prefers the lights and modest audio performance to my 8-driver portable when sitting on the deck in the evening.
The 808 Hex Light portable Bluetooth speaker is available for $79.99 from Amazon.
Disclosure: 808 Audio provided a speaker for review purposes.