In today’s review I’ll be covering four Bluetooth speakers we’ve had in the Play3r labs over the last few weeks. The speakers range from the ultra portable to the more static within the £40-100 price range, and with summer now over, perhaps we can guide your interests towards one of the four we have covered. Whether or not it’s for the upcoming Christmas parties or something you’ll eventually look into for next summer’s beach holidays and festivals, hopefully our coverage can give you some insight as to what is available at the different price points in the market.
Samsung Galaxy S3
Arctic Monkeys – Why’d You Only Call Me when You’re High
Daft Punk- Derezzed
Florence + The Machine – Cosmic Love
James Blake – CMYK
Pulp – Common People
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Especially In Michigan
Other songs were tested too but these were meant to give a good spectrum of testing as well as call quality over the tested devices.
First up in our roundup is the BeeWi ‘Blaster Bee’.
- 60 Hz – 20KHz
- Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
- HFP, HSP, A2DP, AVRCP
- 10 meters (class 2)
- Up to 25 hours music / talk
- 156 x 56 x 52 mm
- 340 g
- RRP: £50.
As you can tell, the aesthetics of the device need no introduction. It comes in a funky aqua blue with a sort of boom-box shell along with white ascents where the touch controls are. Size wise it’s rather petite and a tad bigger than your average Mr. Kipling battenburg cake. It has a solid weight to it and the use of extensive plastic doesn’t feel tacky or cheap.
The Blaster Bee includes everything you need to get up and running cable wise (including USB and 3.5mm auxiliary cables) and also a rechargeable battery pack is included which is good for up to 25 hours of playback – depending on volume. There is also a matching rubber protective outer case included too, a nice addition given the portable nature of the device.
I was pleasantly surprised by the audio quality of the Blaster Bee if the truth is told. It’s questionable colour scheme (although black and white versions are available) and plastic build had me wondering how it would perform, but as I mentioned, I was pleasantly surprised how good it was. Given it’s small size the sound stayed strong and clear up to a decent enough volume to fill a modestly sized living room and still be heard upstairs. The Blaster Bee can go louder than that but honestly, I can’t imagine a situation when you’d need a portable speaker to do that, not to mention when the volume is cranked right up it sounds more like a gargled mess of noise than music, not that the latter should be surprising or is the the detriment of the Blaster Bee.
Bluetooth coverage was also strong and Bee Wi’s claims of 10 meter working range were certainly validated in my testing. Whilst impossible to show without inviting our readers to my house, a conservative estimate would be I managed to get around 9m away form the device which was at the end of the garden and I had someone validate the sound was still coming through without interruption or drops.
I also tried out the phone call feature of the Blaster Bee and again, I was left impressed. Call quality wasn’t that great but given how well the Blaster Bee handled sound I think this is more due to the general quality of mobile operators than anything. It’s also worth noting you can answer and end calls from the Blaster Bee so you’re not required to use your phone at all in this regard.
All in all the device BeeWi have brought to the table is a compelling one. Sound performance was not only better than I expected but genuinely good given it’s size and you also get everything you need to be up and running in minutes. Having gone to Glastonbury earlier this year, something like the Blaster Bee would have been ideal to set the mood during the early morning hang over recovery.
Second in the Play3r Bluetooth roundup is the Bluetune Solo from Divoom.
- Output Power: 4 Watts
- Total Peak Power: 6Watts at <10% THD
- Driver Size: 50mm micro speaker, 4Ohm
- Signal-to-noise: 80dB
- Frequency response: 60Hz-20 kHz
- Charging Voltage: USB or AC/DC adaptor 5V
- Bluetooth compliant: V2.1 +EDR
- Bluetooth profile support: A2DP Stereo
- Dimensions: 60R x 73H(mm)
- RRP: £40
Compared to the BeeWi, it’s clear that the Bluetune Solo is going for a more serious, sleek design as well as being smaller. Again there is the heavy use of plastic but given it’s size it feels heavier than it appears it should – usually a good sign where audio is concerned.
The inputs are slotted in neatly across the base of the device and it looks even small next to a 330ml can. Much like the BeeWi, Divoom include everything you need to get going including USB charger cables and a 3.5mm jack. There is also a carry case included too for you to hook onto a belt or bag which feels strong enough to withstand as good as it’s likely to get, say, tied to your rucksack whilst traipsing across Worthy Farm.
A downside to the Solo’s minute size is that it doesn’t have the same level of controls as was present on the Blaster Bee. Whilst there is a hardwired on/off switch and button for switching between audio and phone calls as well as connecting, due to size, you have to forgo the dedicated volume controls and seek options present on Blaster Bee.
In a nutshell, audio quality from the Solo was dire. It’s clear from the design and Divoom’s information that the Solo is slanted as this sort off bass box above all else, and it is, but it is only that. I at least tried the same three songs across all of the speakers in the roundup and each one sounded the same – bad.
The focus on bass from the Solo is there but it isn’t even clear bass at the cost of other frequencies, it feels more like a poor equalizer being applied to a driver than a dedicated driver inside the shell. I made sure the device was fully charged too in case it was a power issue but I was still met with the same muddy sound. I also tried it on different surfaces; hard floor, a dining room table and even the grass in the garden and the sound was just bad.
Admittedly I didn’t get the chance to use one of the Solo’s advertised features which is to use it as a daisy chain to connect to your other speakers via Bluetooth but I honestly don’t think it matters in terms of how flat the core product falls.
Call quality wasn’t that different from the Blaster Bee but again, not as good either.
If there was something that Divoom managed to get right with the Solo it was the wireless rage and in this regard it too maintained connection to the end of my garden which was roughly around 9m.
The long and short of the Bluetune is that it just isn’t that good on it’s own merits regardless of what other speakers we have in the roundup. At £40, it’s our least expensive speaker in the article but only by £10. Even at £20, I’m sad to say I think I’d find the Solo expensive and disappointing.
Third in our round up is the Bric Connect from Edifier.
- Power Output: RMS 6W x 2
- Signal to noise ratio: ≥85dBA
- Frequency response: 40Hz – 20kHz
- Input sensitivity: 450mV±50mV
- Audio input: Bluetooth, auxiliary
- Adjustment: Wireless remote control, power, phone answer/end and volume buttons located on the unit
- Power supply: Output 12V/20W AC
- Speaker unit: Full range unit: 2¾ inch (70mm), Magnetically shielded, 8Ω
- Dimension: 300mm x 90mm x 133mm (W x H x D)
- Weight: 1.4Kg (gross)
- RRP: £70
The Bric Connect is the biggest speaker in roundup and also the the most expensive. Of course looks are subjective, but the Bric is obviously targeted towards the the home bedroom, workspace or arguably even living room as a substitute for a HiFi. It’s black and silver styling would fit in with most people’s decor and at just 30cm wide it isn’t too large.
Being a large device and one of such power, the biggest difference between the Bric and the other devices in the roundup is that it has a mains plug, or, the option to use 6 AA batteries – there is no included rechargeable battery. Like the rest of the devices in the roundup it is comes with the cables you need including a 3.5mm audio cable.
Due to the size of the Bric there are hardware buttons on the device for power, volume, and source selection or on the top and rather neatly tucked away in the bottom of the device is a miniature remote control with the standard multimedia commands.
The device itself isn’t too heavy but certainly weighs a lot more than the other devices we’re looking at as you might expect. If you was considering the Bric for taking on your travels in which you have to carry it yourself, the weight and size is certainly worth taking into account. There is a case of sorts in the box too, although it’s more akin to the bags you’d get round a high-end PSU, not something that you’d trust to take a few knocks like what is supplied with the other contenders in our roundup.
As I eluded to in the closer look section up above, the Bric’s audio quality is easily above and beyond anything else in the roundup and could quite rightly earn a place in any bedroom, halls of residence and so on. There is a genuine level of audio quality that the Bric puts out to the extent I’d recommend anyone looking at all in one solutions at the Bric’s price point to give it serious consideration over the usual 2.1 systems people look at.
Personally, in light of the other speakers in the roundup i would have perhaps tested the Bric as part of a ‘Desktop speaker’ roundup rather than a Bluetooth one. Music was handled superbly with bass mid-tones and higher frequencies all covered well enough to a point I didn’t question it’s value for money and the two drivers give sound plenty of fill in a large room. The Bric is easily be a safe option for a New Year’s Eve party which could be placed well out of the reach of heavily incapacitated adults.
Like the other speakers it too supports phone calls and it sounded clear and concise as the BeeWi, not noticeably better or worse. Having the option to terminate the call stood next to Bric is nice, too, as it gives that feeling of a more natural conversation as your walking around hand and ear free.
Again, Wireless range was good albeit not as good as the other three speakers in the round up. I managed to get around 8m away from it before it would connect and disconnect sporadically, but again, i’m not sure why would ever need to be eight or nine meters from the device.
The Edifier Bric Connect did not disappoint in anyway and such was the gulf in quality it probably should have been set aside or a different focused roundup, however, it is still a Bluetooth portable speaker and only costs £20 more than the BeeWi so there are two sides of looking at it, the other being Edifier have brought a standout package to the fight.
Last but not least in our round up is the Chant Bluetooth from the house of Marley’s ‘Jammin’ Collection’.
Specifications – Official Specs for the Chant Bluetooth are few and far between, including what’s in the manual, the official site and what’s present on many etailer’s listings
- Input Type: 3.5mm Stereo Jack
- Other Features: Bluetooth
- Connections: Bluetooth
- Drivers: 2-inch full-range driver; 2-inch passive radiator
- Power Source: Battery Power,USB
- Battery Type: Rechargeable Lithium-Ion
- RRP: £60
The Chant Bluetooth comes in a stylish and well presented package. The device itself looks good as does the included carry case and the accompanying lock-ring – if any of the products covered today was for festival purposes it’s this. Included is the USB charging cable and funky 3.5mm auxiliary cable as well as the usual, and rather sizable, manual. There is a lot of information on the box about how “green” the Chant Bluetooth is, but i’m not sure how necessary, or green, a product manual thick enough to stop a bullet is.
The device has a nice weight to it but is light enough to carry around without worry and the builds looks and feels solid. The carry case also feels well thought out and made and the relatively industrial level lock-ring is a boon for making sure it’s hooked on correctly.
Interface wise the Chant Bluetooth is lacking in comparison to BeeWi and Edifier but nothing that stopped me hooking up in no time.
Audio quality was great from the Chant across different material, even when wrapped in the carry case. There wasn’t the level of bass i was expecting from the design if I’m honest, it sounds conservative and restrained, albeit clear at the same time. With the lack of bass though is the room for the Chant to stretch its legs volume wise. It can reach a good, filling, volume without it sounding blurred with an overly eager bass element.
As with the rest of today’s roundup phone call quality was spot on, if not solid. It’s a shame that manufacturers are at the mercy of the call quality itself in this regard as this could be real area of contest if the source was worthwhile enhancing.
Lastly, the wireless range was great with it too reaching the end of my garden at around 9 meters matching the BeeWi and Divoom.
The Chant Bluetooth is certainly a strong option at £60 with it’s main competitor being the BeeWi at £10 less. The design is slick and the included package is great. You certainly get the best build quality and accessories with the chant, and personally, the aesthetics fit the nature of a portable speaker perfectly.
To conclude on today’s roundup i’m left with a few points.
Firstly, the Edifier is the standout speaker by a decent margin, and sadly for the others, isn’t that much dearer price wise. I think if you’re considering getting a lot of use out of a Bluetooth system with a main feature being the portability is is well worth considering the Edifier as even on the “off” weekends it makes for a solid home system.
Secondly, The BeeWi and Marley offerings were as close as they could be. Sound quality and volume was just as good between the two with the only real differences coming in aesthetics and functionality. Personally, i think i’d be willing to pocket the difference and go for the BeeWi due to the extra functionality when it comes to switching tracks and changing volume. It’s just easier to call to someone to change the track on the speaker rather than you have to fumble around with your phone.
Finally, the Divoom was just an overall disappointment with it’s only real win being size. Sound quality was bad and everything else was just acceptable. The system itself feels like it should be better, but asIi mentioned in my summary of the Solo, i feel i’d have reservations about paying £20 for it, less so £40.
If any of the products covered in the roundup have tickled your fancy and you still can’t decide, i feel it ultimately comes down to the portability of whether you’d both want to carry the Edifier around a lot and make use of it as a home system too. For maximum portability the BeeWi and Chant Bluetooth are tied in nearly all aspects and it really is a matter of preference.