The market for small, portable Bluetooth speakers is crowded, to say the least. There are thousands of options, including a slew of cheap models offered online. But if you want something a little more capable, that list starts to narrow. Soundcast is positioning its VG1 Premium Waterproof Bluetooth speaker toward the upper end of the ultra-compact range. It’s waterproof, ruggedized, equipped with multiple drivers, offers extended battery life, and supports Apple’s Siri. Is it worth the $150 asking price?
Soundcast VG1 Design
The VG1’s dimensions are typical for the ultra-portable wireless speaker market at about 6.8-inches wide by 2.9-inches high and a weight of one pound. To make it differ visually from the usual black candy bar form factor, it’s sharply angled with a silver grill and a textured metal bar on one end where the included lanyard strap can be attached. Screws are exposed and the bulk of the case is covered with a rubberized coating to promote that rugged look. Top-mounted audio control buttons are also covered by the membrane and require a bit of pressure to activate. AUX input (and output) and the MicroUSB charging port are covered by a rubber door.
Overall, the design succeeds in making the VG1 stand out from the pack—although it’s a little on the utilitarian side—and Soundcast says it’s shockproof and IP67 waterproof. So it should stand up to some punishment. I brought it outside in the snow and it continued to perform like a champ.
The drawback to the design is a very narrow base that makes the speaker prone to toppling if it’s accidentally brushed. However, you can intentionally tip the speaker back so it rests with the drivers angled up for better audio dispersion if it’s sitting on a low surface. In both cases, a track with heavy bass played at loud volume can result in the speaker moving around.
Battery life is an impressive 15 hours (so long as you keep the volume at a reasonable level). That’s about double the usual for wireless speakers in the size class.
Soundcast VG1 Performance
Soundcast bills the VG1 as a “premium” speaker. The rugged design and excellent battery life are one part of the equation, but the bulk of the premium designation comes from the sound.
When it comes to wireless, the VG1 uses Bluetooth 4.2 with support for AAC and AptX. Inside the case are a pair of aluminum cone drivers and a rear-firing passive radiator. The result is high-quality audio for such a compact device. The bass definitely makes its presence known and the overall tone is on the warm side. Volume can get impressively loud before distortion begins to kick in.
Soundcast VG1 Key Specs
• Dual aluminum drivers
• Weighted rear-firing passive bass radiator
• Bluetooth 4.2 with AptX and AAC support
• Built-in microphone for speaker phone and Siri
• Shock resistant enclosure, IP67 water resistant
• High capacity Lithium-ion battery rated at 15-hours
• Supports wireless pairing of two units for TWS left and right channel stereo
• Includes premium cloth-covered USB cable and 3.5mm AUX cable, Lanyard + accessory pouch
• MSRP $149.99
Works With Siri
It’s not really clear how to do it from the instructions, but, by trial and error, I confirmed that double-clicking the Play/Pause/Telephone button will invoke Siri, which you can then use to control the music (without touching your iPhone), including picking specific tracks. This is a useful feature, especially if you’re using the VG1 in a wet environment and want to leave your iPhone safely covered up.
This doesn’t help Android smartphone users, but the Apple crowd will appreciate it.
Soundcast VG1: Should You Buy It?
For high-quality sound in a compact speaker, I’d suggest the RIVA S (reviewed last year) with more drivers and superior audio—especially when it’s been going on Amazon for $99. You do give up some water resistance (IPX4) a lot of ruggedness and some battery life, and the RIVA speaker is a bit larger.
If you want decent sound in an ultra-compact package that can take a beating, the Soundcast VG1 is worth considering, though. It would be ideal for kids who have an active lifestyle. Easy to slip in a backpack or be looped over bike handlebars, able to take being kicked around a bit, immune to weather or splashes from the pool or beach, and a battery that can deliver a solid 15 hours of decent quality audio. That takes care of the sort of use case I see with my teenagers—wanting to have music cranked up everywhere combined with a lack of recognition for the fragile nature of electronics and constantly forgetting to recharge devices…