Some entry level Bluetooth speakers to consider

By , Nov 8, 2013

Speaker splash

We love music. For years, well before iPods, we took music everywhere. From records to CD’s, music is a part of every day life, especially with the invention of MP3 players and the subsequent iPod. However, these are personal devices with single use headphone jacks. Music is most fun when enjoyed with those around us, or at least without being tied down by a corded headset.

Setting music free, is the Bluetooth speaker. As a reviewer, it seems Bluetooth speakers continue to advance in popularity. Not only do I get asked to review them more frequently, but I seem to have more personal conversations about them too. Which one is best, more portable, louder, more clear, better battery and so forth. To throw a few out there for consideration, I rounded up four different models for your consideration…

Round up

These particular speakers are not necessarily the best, loudest, longest lasting, or must-have options. However, the speakers in this round up are reasonable performers at reasonable prices, because not everyone wants to shell out $200+ for a Bluetooth music box. As the following speakers are not necessarily related in anyway except for their wireless option, I decided to list them in order of packaging size. That seems to be the most fair way to place them into the article. It also helps determine which one is easiest on portability.

As not to bore with a music breakdown for each model, I left out individual comparisons for specific songs. The units are not in the price range to consider each individual song with a write up, like higher end headphone reviews. For each Bluetooth speaker, I connected to an iPhone 5 and played a spectrum of songs including, but not limited to Lady Gaga, Daft Punk, Eagles, Skrillex, and Stravinsky. Ranging from classical to electric to classic rock, sound quality and clarity are considered along with price and ease of operability.

Divoom: Bluetune Bean

Divoom Bluetune Bean

At first glance the Divoom Bean is quite unassuming. It fits perfectly in the palm of my hand and has a nice satin feel. The top has a ring for clipping the included carabiner. Simplistic, Bean only uses two on-board buttons, power and answer buttons, which work with the included mic for phone calls.

In this case, size doesn’t matter. Bean is quite loud and very much fills my office space with music, even in the next couple rooms over, it is audible. When cranked up, there is a loss of clarity and obviously, crisp sound is gone. Vocals are clear, however bass is lost. If you are looking for more volume than perfect sound, the Bean is a decent choice. It will certainly hold its own at your small outdoor gathering, where background music is preferred, but you are not going to sit down and enjoy your music collection through this one. To its credit, Bean is not intended that way. Bean is a quick, grab and go, loud and sporty Bluetooth speaker.

The unit lacks the ability to control volume or music playback with its limited buttons, which is a let down. All control is left to the device, either iPhone or other Bluetooth enabled player. Included is a USB to USB mini charging cable, which recharges the Lithium iON battery, rated at 6 hours of playback. It isn’t bad for a picnic strapping to your backpack for a hike. At $29.00, it is a reasonable purchase for a wireless speaker and offered in six different colors.

NudeAudio: Move S

NudeAudio Move S

Seemingly borrowing its design from soap-on-a-rope, the NudeAudio Move S is a BT speaker dangling at the end of a 4″ rope. The Move series comes in three wireless designs “S,” “M,” and “L,” based on size preference. The “S” is also available as a wired option. On board is a power, volume, and Bluetooth toggle buttons. However, volume is the only controllable feature from the unit. Forward back, skip must be handled from the iOS device.

Just larger than palm size, I am surprised by the volume level and clarity of the device. Of course, for such a small device, there is very little bass but mids and highs are reasonable. It also fills a room easily and could stand up with an outdoor location. Again, it is a smaller devices, so don’t expect your entire BBQ to be rocking, but it holds its own.

Additionally, a 3.5mm input jack provides access for non Bluetooth devices or for those not looking to drain their batteries. Battery life, however, is rated for 8 hours of continuous usage and a USB to USB mini is included for recharging. LED and audio prompts will notify when a recharge is necessary.

The outside case is a silicon based bumper. It is easily peeled away, but it exposes the inner workings of the device, like the button access and a small portion of the electrical board. There is no reason for this to peel away and seems like a cause for trouble.

At $49.99 through Amazon, it is available in both mint and coral. I have the mint version and it is decidedly more feminine than coral, which is basically red. Overall, for the price jump, I’m not sure it is worth it, but with a British company, the USD conversion for British Pounds is what kills the price. If it totaled in the $30-$40 range, it would be a certain purchase. For what it’s worth, the company did go to lengths to provide a quality user experience, with the rope tie on, included travel pouch, and excellent packaging.

ECOXGEAR: EcoRox

ECOROX

Oh yeah, the ECOXGEAR EcoRox one sounds great and comes in a rugged casing, which is 100% waterproof. Now, I know the pool is closed for the summer, but there is also the ski slope hot tub. Don’t worry about getting rough with the snow bunnies either, because knocking the floatable EcoRox into the water has no consequence. At least your music is protected.

The sound is full and balanced with forward facing dual 6 watt full range stereo speakers and a top mounted bass radiator. Consequently, all genres sounded very well through the EcoRox. Even with its dedicated bass radiator it still struggled a little with Skrillex, but only a solid system will get that type of frequency response.

On board, Lithium iON battery is 7.4v at 1800mAh, for 10 hours of playback. To utilize the full battery without using Bluetooth, there is a 3.5mm auxiliary input jack, but do not plan on using it in the water with that option. It will recharge in approximately 2.5 hours, to keep you rocking. It is a solid handful of hardware, measuring 2.5″ x 5.3″ x 3″ (H x W x D) and weighing less than a pound at 11oz.

The bottom houses a universal camera mount screw post and the back side hosts a rechargeable USB mini port and auxiliary input. Also, an integrated loop and included carabiner means you can slap this guy anywhere you please. The control system is complete, with power, Bluetooth toggle, volume, skip, pause, and call answer/end to wireless control your music.

The truth comes in the price. EcoRox retails for $129, but can be found on Amazon starting at $109.98, which is, honestly, a great price for this device. The full range of on board controls, fully submersible IPX7 waterproofing, full stereo speakers and a separate base radiator is a great package. Yes, I personally sank it. Yes, it still works.

id America: TouchTone

id America TouchTone

First impression is spent more on the box, than the speaker. id America’s TouchTone comes in a well constructed box, which I don’t get hung up on, unless packaging is a feature of the product. If a company takes time on the box, typically the product is also a higher quality. It shows pride.

Holding the power button down, the top controls glow white, a door bell sounds, and a voice greets you “Bluetooth mode has to be on.” Pairing to my iPhone, another door bell sound confirms connection, with a verbal confirmation “paired.” To switch to auxiliary-in, the cable must already be inserted. Touch “mode” and you will hear “Now is Aux-in mode” and the central top logo turns red instead of blue.

The play/pause/answer touch location does seem to give me a little bit of trouble. To operate, touch precisely on the logo or it will not recognize the touch. Overall, it is a very classy looking device. My unit is white, but it also comes in black. Matching white cables are included, auxiliary cable and USB to mini for charging the 4 hour battery, which is the lowest rated of the bunch. A soft carrying pouch rounds out the included accessories.

Sound is very strong, but not necessarily as full as the EcoRox, for example. 4w drivers deliver reasonable bass and strong highs. The Eagles classic rock sounded well rounded with prominent acoustic guitars. However, it is still a little hallow sounded for the musically inclined.

Coming to the table with a price point of $79.95 via Amazon, I would not have expected the elegantly lit touch controls. I would say the sound quality is comparable to the price point, but the added features are a nice touch. Broken English verbal feedback seems like a cheesy way to add perceived luxury, however. This would make an excellent night stand companion as it looks and sounds the part. It definitely is not a device I would take outside and knock around with friends.

Conclusion

This is a little difficult, as the round up spans different types and genre’s of Bluetooth speakers. For me, it is always a matter of sound quality, features, and price. As an audio snob, sound usually hits me first. For sound, I would go, EcoRox. Features are next and a full range of controls is imperative for wireless listening. EcoRox, again, and the TouchTone add full range onboard controls. But waterproof is also a killer feature, with EcoRox leading the way. However, do not dismiss the sleek quality of the TouchTone and its side table beauty.

Finally, price is a big consideration. The EcoRox raises the bar $50 more than the TouchTone. Considering such a price hike, waterproofing and audio must outweigh the good looks of the TouchTone. Honestly, most people would be happy with the sound on the TouchTone and the streamlined design certainly beats out the EcoRox.

For the extra $50, I say go with the TouchTone and use the extra $50 to buy some great music on iTunes. If audio quality is paramount, definitely go with the EcoRox.

The little guys are give or take in my opinion. If you are going for ultimate portability with a reasonable sound, the Move S is your purchase. A quick stocking stuffer for your mobile friend that doesn’t worry about the sound but loves the extra volume boost, you are back to the Bean.

What do you guys think? This article is not promoting the best of the best, but is a smattering of different price points in the wireless speaker market. Any suggestions for future consideration?

[iDownloadBlog review disclaimer statement]

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  • Robert Mathews

    The Big Jambox by Jawbone is a fabulous Bluetooth speaker.

  • Gerardo Castro

    Pool is closed for the summer for you guys? That sucks :/. Haha just teasin, I think you meant winter!

  • Laszlo Gaspar

    I just use my Logitech 5.1 surround sound system with a Bluetooth receiver that you can get for $10 on eBay. When I’m out and about I use my apple earpods as they are great for the more bass heavy songs.

  • Bfomguy13

    Why not the Jensen SMPS 650
    -available at Walmart for site to store shipping
    Also on sears and amazons website
    -looks like a jawbone jam box
    -stereo speakers (TWO of them)
    -6-hours of battery life
    -Metal exterior with I guess a sort of large black textured tile on the back
    -Can fit in your pocket
    -you can use it as a speakerphone
    -Only $50 and free shipping if you go through site to store for Walmart
    -Surprisingly loud for the small size
    -comes with a carrying case