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The Bluetooth speaker is making its way as a universal speaker for all mobile devices. As I mentioned in a previous Bluetooth speaker round up just last week, it appears more companies are entering the Bluetooth speaker marketplace. Also, it seems fewer companies are producing dock based speakers. After Apple turned the iPhone dedicated aftermarket upside down by eliminating the 30 pin cable, fewer companies want to continue chancing a Lightning pin specific option. With the universal Bluetooth standard, not only does the company future proof their design, but all mobile devices will work effortlessly, thus preventing costly dedicated iPhone models.

ZAGG (you know them as one of the original iPhone skin companies) is also branching into the mobile media scene. No longer just the InvisibleShield company, ZAGG and their new subsidiary iFrogz are getting their hands dirty in a cross platform way. From skins to cases to audio, there is certainly a diversification for the company. I was able to review a new pair of their Bluetooth headphones a few weeks back and today, a closer look at the ZAGG Bluetooth speaker, should leave everyone begging for more.

The ZAGG Origin, which made its first splash at CES 2013, had escaped my radar until recently. With a streamlined design and hard hitting sound, I was excited to receive a review unit. Origin may look like it is just another part of the average Bluetooth line up, but a detachable companion speaker is the second part of a one-two punch to success…

Design and operability

A silver honey hole of sound, the Origin looks unassuming. It is quite plain, actually, with a simple front facing grill and cut edge sides. The faceplate is a silver perforated metal panel with a small and unobtrusive ZAGG logo located on the bottom. The full unit stands approximately 8″ tall, by 14″ wide, and 6″ deep, which is a small footprint given the sound quality. It should easily fit on a standard size office desktop, considering your other trinkets. If desired, the Origin would even find a cozy home on a small night stand.

NEW Origin Front_1

Most important to the Origin, and the reason I easily fell in love, is the small companion portable speaker. The portable speaker is the definition of Mini Me, to borrow from Austin Powers. For the sake of conversation, let’s call it Origin Mini. Origin Mini looks exactly like Origin, even down to design angles, materials, and branding. Acting as brain of the complete package, Origin Mini docks seamlessly into Origin’s back and maintains the Bluetooth connection. A contact connection plate passes audio Bluetooth signals through to the Origin, when Origin Mini is docked.

Because the Origin Mini maintains the connection, taking your music is simply a matter of grabbing the Mini. Even while music is playing, grabbing the Mini and walking away from the Origin will allow continuous audio playback. Once the Mini is separated, it will begin playing the audio received from your device. Placing the Mini back onto the Origin, music switches to the full size speaker dock. While the Mini is docked, it will use contact plates not only to pass audio, but charge off the powered base.

NEW Origin Back_1

This full size and mini version truly sets the ZAGG Origin apart from the competition. Admittedly, I am not the most well versed Bluetooth speaker enthusiast, but I have yet to see any competitor offer such a robust option. Playing music through the Origin is a great experience and coupling this with a grab and go option is outstanding. Each time, either coming or going, the music simply switches between the units. If docked, the full size speaker plays music. If undocked, the portable speaker takes over. As Bluetooth is the limiting connection, music cannot stream to both the desktop and portable speakers simultaneously.

I like the modern angular approach to the design and it is accentuated in a nice custom retail box. As a self proclaimed neat freak, even if my wife doesn’t agree, I appreciate the unit’s rubber footpad bottom, which does a great job of preventing scratches on the furniture.

Onboard buttons make controlling the device easy as well. The portable speaker, again acting as the brain, contains control buttons play/pause, volume, and track skip. Additionally, the Bluetooth toggle, aux-in, and charging micro USB port are all located on the portable speaker. The desktop speaker offers an aux-in, USB power port, and volume controls. To complete the package, a fully functional remote is included as well, in case you are away from your device and the unit.

Sound

Offering much in the way of innovative design, sound is most important when considering a speaker. Origin desktop speaker offers a full range of opportunity with a 4″ dedicated subwoofer at 3.6 Ohms, 2 midrange speakers at 3.5 Ohms, and 2 tweeters at 8 Ohms. The frequency response is 20Hz – 20KHz. The companion speaker has a more narrow frequency response, between 80Hz and 15KHz and only two full range 1.5″ speakers at 3 Ohms.

For a desktop Bluetooth option, the Origin really cranks out excellent sound. I spent a while listening to modern top 20 music, which sounded fantastic. Common artists like Daft Punk, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry were excellent. More hip-pop artists, like Ryan Lewis and Macklemore, also gave the Origin a good flex. Classic rock with heavy acoustic guitar, including the Eagles, also sounded crisp and clean.

Now, for the audiophiles in the group, this unit still sounds like a desktop Bluetooth speaker set. You can hear the difference, no matter how good a desktop unit gets, it is still a desktop unit. If you are looking for home theater quality sound from a Bluetooth speaker, give up. Don’t use a sound bar and expect 5.1 surround sound, which would be a similar expectation.

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If you are looking for a sound dock that is going to actually fill a room and most of the adjacent rooms, the Origin will fit the bill. If you have audiophile, extremely discerning taste, keep walking. But at the price point, I’m certain you will struggle to find a better sounding unit. I have heard a Bose dock at the $300 range and would wager the ZAGG Origin puts up a great fight, maybe even winning the battle in a blind sound test. Take my words, ZAGG is well past just making iPhone skin covers. The Origin should put them on the audio map.

This is not to say the portable version will knock anyone’s socks off. It does put up a good little fight in the size category amongst competing speakers. The sound is noticeably hallow, in comparison to the full desktop option, but that is an unfair comparison. It will be great for on-the-go music listening, which is more for the novelty of portable listening and less about high quality action. It is a decent sounding option and does put out enough sound to hop across a smooth surface at the right volume level.

Conclusion

Ultimately, I say “yes.” The unit sounds great and will not leave you wanting for more. What really makes the purchase worth the extra cash is the 2-in-1 design. I really cannot get over the ease of use and versatile functionality the nesting speakers provide.

With enough ports on the back to keep everyone happy, ZAGG clearly thought this product through from start to finish. If a user does not want to waste device battery with Bluetooth, there is an auxiliary input instead. Charging is even an option with the USB output. The mini is even chargeable through a USB micro port, allowing a recharge without need to redock with the full size desktop speaker. It is the small usability options that really show off the attention to detail in this speaker set.

At $249.99, I would almost argue the package is a buy-one-get-one opportunity. I would fully expect a sound dock like the desktop Origin to easily cost around $250 as a stand alone unit. With the additional portable Origin Mini included, $250 is an extremely reasonable price tag. There are very few times I actually agree with a product price in my reviews, but Origin really makes a solid product for the asking price. If you have been considering a higher end speaker dock, you may want to consider reading this review your last research project.

Origin Unboxed

Giveaway

What do you have to do to win?

Best of all, we are excited to team up with ZAGG and give away a brand new Origin! Due to certain restrictions, this opportunity is only for our US readers! Sorry to our international readers on this one, but keep an eye out for future giveaways.

Follow the next steps to enter for your chance to win. It is a big giveaway so you will have a work a little harder:

Thanks again to ZAGG for sending over the review unit and we look forward to selecting a winner by week’s end. You will be contacted via Twitter DM if you have won!

Winner announcement

The winner of our ZAGG Origin giveaway is Mark Litzinger. Congratulations Mark.

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway, and thank you to the folks at ZAGG for making it possible. If you didn’t win, please stay tuned for more giveaways to come.

If you want to learn more about the Origin, make sure to check out ZAGG’s website.

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