Pros: Sound quality and bass power for its size, dynamics, portability, versatility
Cons: Poor extension on both ends; requires a firm (but preferably not too rigid) surface to sound good; unimpressive with some rock and classical
I bought the WOWee One to have a speaker that gave decent bass for when my girlfriend and I go busking with our glow poi and glow hoop, so we could have something portable with a rechargeable battery that would give enough bass for us to have a beat and for people to hear in subway stations. I had an idea of what I wanted, but thought it was a pretty ridiculous idea/expectation until I saw reviews on this little sucker. It was $39.99 from Amazon.com.
I have to say, the WOWee definitely delivers for what it is intended for. Bass impact, rumble, and is truly impressive for something so small; better in quantity and quality than my girlfriend's medium-sized Phillips consumer stereo system. Extension isn't impressive, though; the low lows are there when used on a good surface, but are totally absent without one and are never balanced with the rest of the spectrum. Still not bad for the size, though. Likewise treble extension suffers very noticeably. Clarity and detail are decent for the size but not the best; both are still noticeably better than my Altec Lansing "SRS Premium Sound" laptop speakers in every way. There are some notes in the mids that actually sound very nice; a wooden flute just caught my ear rather pleasingly on a track by Distance. Nothing special, but it was nice; impressive for the size, considering I prefer headphones with rich and forward mids.
The overall sound is decidedly warm and dark; terms like "soundstaging" and "transparency" don't really apply here. It suffers from the typical "wall of sound" effect that most lower-end portable or laptop speakers possess, but the dynamics actually aren't bad, all things considered. The sound is heavily dependent on the surface the WOWee is set on or fixed to, ranging from thin and dark with no surface, to full, thick, and warm on my memory foam mattress pad. Even on the mattress pad, however, the bass is not ridiculously overpowering; it is clearly emphasized and colors the midrange noticeably, but does not overshadow the mids or what little treble is there. Drums are powerful and surprisingly dynamic, but don't drown out/overshadow vocals and other instruments as they often do at smaller live venues or in headphones with emphasized midbass like the Westone 3.
I've been testing the WOWee on different surfaces, and strangely enough it performs best on my memory foam mattress pad o.O It sounds good at lower volumes on flat wood surfaces, and the bass has good impact and decent enough control with a more balanced sound, but the speaker begins to shake and rattle when the volume gets turned up. On memory foam, the bass becomes noticeably more emphasized and the overall sound becomes warmer and more dynamic, a bit like Bose headphones. I think the combination of density and some give on the memory foam is what makes it ideal for emphasizing the bass and controlling the rattle it can have at high volumes: enough mass to give the gel something to vibrate against, but not so firm that it causes the speaker to start shaking with the bass power. Note that this will definitely happen, and you may think you are blowing your WOWee out. You aren't. My laptop can barely distort the bass on full volume. When laying down I can, no joke, feel the bass vibrate on my bed in my legs at less than half volume from my laptop with the speaker at the head of the bed; at full volume, I can feel the bass guitar plucks and kick drums. When I play it at about half volume on my bedside table, it shakes the water in my Nalgene. This little thing has THUMP!
Gotta say though, this puppy really isn't for the rock 'n' roll lovers. It's not terrible, better than anything its size I've heard just on the sheer weight of its overall SQ, and guitars don't sound bad, but they are recessed due to lack of treble, and its just too warm and dark to really do justice to Led Zeppelin at all. Red Hot Chili Peppers is a bit underwhelming and not sufficiently emotional; same goes for Tortoise and Explosions in the Sky. Pink Floyd actually doesn't fare too badly and manages to sound almost spacious with the right surface. Modest Mouse sounds congested and the bass gives too much color and doesn't do the kick drum justice without bass guitar to distract from the poor decay. The Doors still manage to be fun.
Also not for classical.
Hip hop, most electronic music,
The bottom line: The little WOWee One is really versatile. The gel bottom can stick to many surfaces, including the side of my finished wood bedside table, the screen of my smartphone, and probably anything with a smooth surface including glass. This thing puts out really impressive sound for its size overall, especially the bass; combine that with the rechargeable battery, and the WOWee is absolutely without competition from any portable speaker I have seen or heard of in the price range. I would recommend the WOWee One without hesitation to anyone who wants a portable speaker with decent bass, dynamics, and acceptable sound quality at a reasonable price.
A small warning note: when I first plugged the WOWee in, it made a violent buzzing noise and I thought for certain I had received a lemon. This disappeared once it was fully charged and had been played on a firm surface, so don't be discouraged if this happens to you for the first few minutes.
Test Tracks (ratings between * and ***** on relative track compatibility):
The Roots - Make My *****
The Roots - One Time *****
Pink Floyd - Time *****
Pink Floyd - Great Gig in the Sky ***
Pink Floyd - Money ***
Pink Floyd - Us and Them ****
Flux Pavillion - Air Raid *****
Distance - Out of Mind ****
Marilyn Manson - Beautiful People ****
Infected Mushroom - The Legend of the Black Shawarma ****
Tortoise - By Dawn *
Explosions in the Sky - The Birth and Death of the Day *
Damien Marley - Confrontation *****
Led Zeppelin - Friends *
Portishead - Cowboys ***
The Doors - Break On Through ***
The Doors - Soul Kitchen ***