It’s 3PM on a Tuesday afternoon. The weekly grind has completely set into my office, and the staff is in a daze working on projects. I’ve had my earbuds in for at least four hours and my ears are in pain from the discomfort. I want to listen to music but the speaker on my iPhone 5 just doesn’t cut it.
Enter the BassBoomz speaker, a little cylindrical device that aims to bring together great sound and manageable portability. The device is small in stature, but as I found when launching into a recent DubStep session it provides ample audio far beyond the volume of its shape.
The first noticeable aspect of the BassBoomz speaker is its tiny stature. At just two inches tall and two inches in diameter, the cylinder looks more like a big marshmallow rather than audio hardware. Fully opened, the device still barely breaks 2.5 inches in height. Thankfully it looks great on my desk at any size, focusing on geometric shapes instead of a bold form language. The cylinder is made of metal and feels like a nicely cut section of a pipe, and the grate on top is flush to the surface and treated in black paint. My review unit was a nice electric blue, and though there are several other hues available the blue feels like it will clash the least with my decor.
The build of the product is nice. There are a couple little rough edges on the inside of the cylinder but they’re not accessible by fingers. The material choices feel high quality, even the accordion-style diaphragm under the surface. It’s a high level of craftsmanship that stands out against a backdrop of plastic speakers destined for landfill. This isn’t just a speaker that is meant to be hidden, it’s something I’ll keep out on a table or countertop for as long as I have it.
That’s the first sound I hear when I twist and open the BassBoomz cylinder. Twisting open the speaker an enjoyable little feeling and has become a bit of a nervous twitch to me, much like when I flip open and close my car’s keyfob. The remaining setup consists of turning it on and syncing (or physically connecting) it to an audio source. Sliding on the power switch creates a lovely startup tune, and the chime that notifies us when it has successfully connected is just as adorable. Syncing over Bluetooth is effortless; every compatible device I had found the speaker in its range fairly quickly, and inputting the code — 0000 — made for a quick turnaround time.
The advertised battery life is 5-6 hours at 70% volume, but I easily eclipsed that mark and made it to over 7 hours on a charge. It’s very nearly a full work day. It uses a USB cord to charge, and through my laptop I was able to get a full battery in about 60 minutes or so from empty.
It’s fairly obvious that the speaker was designed to work with mobile phones, thanks to its focus on Bluetooth and its portability. Syncing through the iPhone and a Galaxy S3 worked as expected, and was similarly flawless on an iPad 2. I wirelessly connected it to my MacBook Pro, and the computer found and linked to it without issue. There does seem to be a bit of a lag from the laptop to the speaker, however, which means that watching video on the screen and routing the audio over Bluetooth to the speaker can be a bit of an alignment issue. The BassBoomz functions more like a wireless “audio pass through” rather than a speaker with an amplifier. The lack of a volume slider means that I had to adjust the sound through the devices instead of the speaker. However, using it as a speaker to replace the ones built in to the laptop seemed to be an optimal endeavor. It’s louder and more clear than anything coming out of the laptop.
In use with gaming devices, I found that it only works as a headset speaker on the PlayStation 3 and not at all for the Xbox 360 or Wii U. That’s fine, as I doubt anyone would favor a portable speaker over a good pair of padded headphones. Where it DOES work great is with the handheld gaming consoles. The Vita has bluetooth designed into it and can sync up to the speaker, allowing for the entire game audio to flow through to it. In trials with the pair, I would set the speaker on the table while I played Wipeout 2048 or Sound Shapes, and the lag was nearly invisible. The 3DS, though it doesn’t have Bluetooth, worked fine through the auxiliary port of the speaker. Fire Emblem Awakening sounded great, as did the demo of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate.
On a couch or beanbag (or in bed) the little speaker becomes a great extension of the portable experience, providing much better sound quality than the consoles’ own speakers without the need for headphones.
So how does it actually sound? Well, it’s not a Bose speaker. Its size and vertical design prevent it from achieving the clarity of a Hi-Fi system. It’s not the clearest of speakers either — there’s a slight muffle because of how directional the audio is. However, it still manages some impressive quality. There’s a good, bouncy bass that works well with hip hop and electronic music. The mid-tones seem to emphasize strings and drums. And it can get very, very loud. It seems to raise the audio as it is pumped through it, which means that dropping the levels to 40-50% on a laptop or phone works just fine from 25 feet away. Placing the speaker on a smooth and echoey surface made of wood or glass improved the quality five-fold, allowing for more reverberation and deeper bass. Playing music through the speaker when closed didn’t hurt the audio levels but did kill the bass.
I did notice a bit of a sticky quality on some songs played through my speaker, most notably when I played Fatboy Slim’s “Love Island”. It seemed to only affect the sound where the laptop was the source, as it was absent on the phones and the Vita.
There is good range to the BassBoomz speaker. The majority of time I’ll be sitting near it when in use, and it felt just fine in that respect.
I’m told that two speakers can be linked together for stereo sound, but I only received one unit for my review and didn’t have the ability to try the feature. I did manage to find myself using it in some unique, unexpected ways. For one, I would often walk around the office with the phone in my pocket and the speaker in my hand, blasting music as I went along. It only has about a 20 ft Bluetooth range before it loses connection, so I needed to keep it close. Being simple enough to connect to meant that anyone, at any time, would be able to fire up their playlist throughout the day. It’s a nice communal device in that way. It’s also a great travel companion, as I’ve been taking it with me on business trips as my hotel room speaker for music. It fits in any one of the pockets in my messenger bag without creating too big of a lump.
The BassBoomz portable Bluetooth speaker is far better than those on my laptop or portable devices. It’s a bit steep in the price (around $100) but for people who travel a lot, or don’t want a giant speaker system on their desk, it’s a great fit. It looks fantastic on a table and has become a conversation piece among anyone who walks by. The ability to quickly and seamlessly sync up to it only adds more positives to a device that has good audio quality and portability. It’s a worthy investment.
The BassBoomz Bluetooth Speaker is available from the BassBuds website (linked) for an MSRP of $130.
This review is based on a unit sent to SideQuesting by the manufacturer.