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Let's talk Bluetooth Speakers

  1. vapman
    Bluetooth speakers.  Let's talk about them.
    You either love them or hate them, or just use them for podcasts [​IMG] I've been getting more into Bluetooth speakers in the last year or so as I realize they're the future of stereo listening and the old 2.0/2.1 system wired up is becoming outdated. Bluetooth speakers and technology is rapidly closing the gap between portable and desktop audio. It's a good and fun time to be into it as we close in on the intersection of sound quality and low cost in never before seen ways. The chi-fi world is booming and of course it can't only apply to headphones, there is a time and place for speakers too! Plus, I can't possibly do all my listening on headphones. Sometimes I need that out of head sound.
    With portable speakers there are obviously  few extra things to take into consideration which is not something typically worried about with desktop sound systems.
    1. Battery life
    2. Sound quality of the built in speakers
    3. Useful design
    4. Pure volume
    Even if you haven't been trying to find a Bluetooth speaker for you, I'm sure you can easily imagine these are all easily hit and not so easily avoided problems to consider when picking a Bluetooth speaker out.
    Let's discuss Bluetooth audio! [​IMG]
  2. vapman

    Vapman's Budget Picks

    Here are my two favorites to date. Both have great battery life, signal reception, and sound quality.
    1. Cambridge Soundworks OontZ Angle ($27.99)
    1. VERY loud (10 watts power) - could get noise complaints with this
    2. Huge bass vent on bottom means clear & precise bass response with satisfying impact
    3. Triangle shape allows speaker to play at loud volumes without vibrating the surface it's on
    4. Bluetooth with instant connection or 3.5mm line in, auto switching
    5. Water resistant
    1. Slightly scooped midrange
    2. Treble can be slightly sibilant
    2. Xiaomi Square Box ($20)
    Hifichris posted a good review of these speakers. I have had mine for as long as he's had his.
    1. Excellent realistic sound
    2. Realistic and forward midrange not often found on these types of speakers - I have seen a version with 3.5mm line in but not found if the SQ is the same.
    3. Very clear, honest and surprisingly realistic and well balanced sound
    1. Prone to making itself wiggle off a table or surface if played loud
    2. Prone to making surface it's on vibrate
    3. Bass and treble extension leaves a little to be desired
    4. No 3.5mm input
    5. Unlike the OontZ, there is a delay between the Bluetooth making the "connected" sound and it actually linking to the device.
  3. vapman

    The King..... as far as I know.

    Plus how can you not love being able to use them in stereo if you have 2 around?

    Its main competitor..... JBL Charge 3

    I found the overall clarity far inferior to the Oontz 3XL. and the JBL is $20 more...

    For future research.....

    2 x 75mm woofers!!!! But 5 hours battery life?
  4. CalvinPixels
    Made a review a while back on the Razer Leviathan mini, not the best sounding but battery life and as a gaming notebook add-on is good for me.
    BTW, the person in the video is a friend (we used to be a 2 man reviewer on the channel now is just me....)

    - Clean Black Look
    - Can daisy chain with another Leviathan mini
    - Can go very loud (clarity up to 70% before it cracks)
    - Battery life 11hours on bluetooth (Iphone 6 5th bar)

    - Sound is bassy
    - Need to off equaliser on smartphone
    - Mic is mushy
  5. farisq
    Thank you vapman, I've been looking for replacement to my current portable budget speaker.
    Where can I get this oontz?
  6. Whitigir
    How about Sony ?
  7. davelarz
  8. ridwan.a.wijaya
    I use this: Doss Soundbox XL 90 USD
    Portable 32 watt 2.1 system (20 watt and 12 watt subwoofer) with 2 passive radiator.

    With flat freq response, and neutral presentation I can throw music from all genre..
    And Bass can get as low as 40Hz
    Good treble and detail..
    Quite big 1.5 kg and there is no fancy features beside aux line in and microSD card.
    Compared to Charge 3, Sony XB30 or UE megaboom no contest, this speaker blow them.
    Comparable with vifa Oslo 500Usd
    You can find review on YouTube search: clavinetjunkie, he did many Bluetooth speaker review, and use binaural recording..

    This is not loudest speaker but easily fill small to medium room, and there is almost no coloration, like I said this is pure Sound Quality with reasonable price.

    IMG_20171024_150220.jpg IMG_20171021_203904.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
    Erfan Elahi and Angular Mo like this.
  9. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Errr...not really. For shelf systems in cafes and doctors' clinics, sure. Giant boomboxes that had cassette players, CDPs, and later iPod docks, sure. I dismantled my kitchen shelf system with a CDP and FM receiver and now have a BT speaker next to my spice rack and a phone in my pocket, and the same speaker goes out to the patio (any patio, actually, in case the party host's runs out of juice I have one extra). But in any set-up where imaging is actually important and the listener sits in a triangle with the speakers, a single speaker even if it plays 2.0 isn't going to project a proper soundstage.

    Some BT speakers can work as two units in a 2.0 set-up, but they're expensive and in most cases if you have a space to sit in a triangle you might as well use larger speakers that can reach deeper into the bass region with less distortion, and not worry about the battery. Some of the hifi speaker brands are making wireless powered standmounts and towers, but these aren't significantly more convenient than the regular amp and speaker set up considering 1) now each speaker needs its own power cable to the wall anyway and 2) these are likely dedicated areas anyway and wireless isn't really required.

    Even desktop set-ups aren't all that vulnerable to BT. Powered desktop speakers do come with BT but the Master speaker connects to the Slave by wire due to how difficult it is to develop a system that runs two independent speakers, and those who need larger monitors are likely not going to save that much more space having a preamp in there nor use a smartphone as a source when their desktop computer or home space for a gaming laptop is in the same space.

    What I do see happening in desktop audio for BT though once the 2.0 works on two separate speakers smoothly is for spaces that are primarily office spaces not used for media editing nor double as gaming space. I use cheap (but surprisingly good) 2in fullrange driver USB-powered speakers right now and they still have a cable mess, just that I can plug them into a multi-port USB charger than run a cable to the wall outlet. And the cheapest completely wireless true 2.0 system I know costs $199 for each speaker, while this one cost $10, so on my home desk the additional $388 is hard to justify (and I might as well get something large and just use longer cables that I can hide). For an actual office space outside the home though that investment is worth it - you can have your laptop oriented normally and anybody who you have to meet in that office isn't going to have to see any wires on the back of the speakers positioned on the corners of the desk next to where they would sit. Nor would the compromise have to be made to have larger speakers hung on the walls (and usually one is vulnerable to the office door swinging inward) with a receiver running long cables vs a shelf system that makes no attempt at imaging.

    Anyways, back to BT...I'm using a Ye!!! single piece 2.0 with two 1in FR drivers that I got for $10 (regular price was around $40), but my friends use the Bose Soundlink Mini. I personally wouldn't spend that much but for a single piece tiny speaker that we lay down between the steak and salad firing upward, the sound is great, and none of the Soundlinks have crapped out on us, including the one that has been splashed with beef juice or exploding pork belly fat from the table cast iron grill set up more than once.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
  10. ridwan.a.wijaya
    I try another position for enjoying music with Bluetooth speaker, just very close enough to your face, Sound silly but it gave another listening experience, with wider soundstage, lot of detail and airy, I will do this when Im lying down on bed and do nothing,..

    Since I have good Bluetooth speaker, I rarely use my desktop system, and my IEM/headphones, I can bring it around my house and keep enjoying music...

    Love or hate, this will be the future, so I recommend to having research before buying good portable speaker.
  11. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    OK...just tried it and did a comparo with my HD600, ZST, and my home office Quatro II mini desktop speakers on imaging.

    Here's a diagram comparing the image (Red - KZ ZST; Blue - HD600; Maroon - Quatro II; Green - BT speaker; triangle - main vocals, rounded quadrilaterals - guitars, bass guitar, circles - drums):

    BT Speaker, in front of head
    Pro - I might develop muscles in might left arm, which might be good in case I might have some...activities that...ummm...make my right arm muscles more developed than my left
    Con - I can't type and I can't see my screen; had to charge it

    BT Speaker, set on desk, firing up
    Pro - I can type, I can see my screen
    Con - Worst palm rest ever; had to charge it after testing

    KZ ZST
    Pro - Blocks out noise; $13; and for the context of this comparo - I can use the laptop normally
    Con - Not the best response out there, for the purpose of the comparo - cables

    Pro - Proportional imaging slightly less locked in-head vs ZST - I can use the laptop normally
    Con - No isolation, $300+amp, cable

    Quatro II
    Pro - Once toe-in is dialed in properly, totally best imaging, and shouty midrange is managed well; $10; runs off a USB charger that also charges my phones; I can use the laptop normally
    Con - Weak lows due to small drivers and distance, still has cable mess

    I honestly don't expect to get that "wider soundstage" and "airy sound" unless I blow $400 on two UE Booms and run them in stereo.

    Uh....yeeeeeaaaaahhh....I never said they weren't good for that. Here's where my BT speaker normally is...
    Because I'm in my groove cooking playing something like this, if to annoy people around me with what they think is horrible taste in music, when they're the ones asking me to cook what they see people like them eating on TV,
    BT_kitchen (2).jpg

    ...which like I also said, replaces systems like this...

    ...but ultimately, to say that "the future of stereo listening and the old 2.0/2.1 system wired up is becoming outdated" to the that they will totally replace these...

    ...much less these for those who prefer to compromise on size for more and cleaner low end...

    ...is only for those who don't really care about soundstage (or don't know what it actually sounds like) or when it doesn't matter (like when you have a skillet or wok in front instead of sitting with two speakers in a triangle), at least until these work properly and are more affordable (considering the speaker above is $19 and the one below is $199 x 2).
    UE Boom.jpg

    Heck, even these work more seamlessly as two stereo speakers and in a large room to boot...

    ...but again the question of how much more they cost comes up, not to mention that with two power cables and all that space between them anyway, I don't really see them replacing these either...

    ...in much the same way that I have more hate than love for vinyl, but they're back anyway. And if a scratch prone, hard to maintain, space-eating medium can survive the peeling back of surburbia, I can't see how people who listen seriously will give up wired speakers for serious listening. BT speakers have their place, yes, for people who don't care about soundstage, or when it isn't a concern, like why mount two speakers at the patio wall and find birds or raccoons (or rats and beetles for those in hotter and wetter climates) on it, when the BT speaker can be brought back inside to safety. But thus far there is yet no DSP that will simulate two speakers at a significant distance from each other (the widespread availability of music in binaural recording or remastering will likely happen a lot sooner) nor driver tech to get as wide a response as tower hi-fi speakers or active monitors at nearfield.
  12. ridwan.a.wijaya
    Wow what an answer.
    Now I know why you didnt get my imaging experience, because my Bluetooth speaker 30cm long end.. Can you calculate the soundstage possibility?
    And no I didnt hold it for long, just put in my chest when Im lying down, at night, dont want to interupt anyone with high volume, but want speaker experience..

    And Bose already build wearable speaker, it has better implementation.. But you can imagine the experience..
  13. JoePR31
    I spent weeks buying and returning bluetooth speakers, and finally ended up with a true keeper, the Klipsch The One bluetooth speaker. It can be found for anywhere between $250-$300 USD, and no portable bluetooth speaker under $500 will sound better. Here are a few pics of the ebony wood veneer model I bought, followed by my impressions and a brief comparison with the JBL Extreme.





    I'll get the few cons out of the way:

    1. It is a bit large and heavy for a portable speaker. It's portable in the sense that it's easily moved from room to room and has a built in battery.

    2. The battery. It has a rated battery life of 8 hours, which is a bit lacking compared to some of the other new bluetooth speakers on the market.

    3. No bells and whistles. It's not waterproof and if you're looking for a speaker with customizable settings via app, or the ability to connect to a second unit for true stereo, then this isn't the speaker for you.

    Now for the good stuff:

    Sound. Wow...this little box sounds absurdly good for it's size. Very good, nicely balanced sound. Most portable speakers have a very sculpted sound profile to give the illusion of range and power. The One does have range and power.

    Style and build quality. Klipsch did not skimp on materials or build quality. The One looks great, in both the Ebony finish of my unit, and the also available walnut finish. Real wood veneer and tactile spun copper switches and knobs. It looks classy and timeless, and fits in great with most decor, as opposed to most other portable speakers, whose plastic or rubber finishes make them stick out in a room for all the wrong reasons.

    In Klipsch own words, "The diminutively sized Klipsch One is a 2.1 stereo system biamplified for audiophile resolution and features two 2 1/4” full range drivers and a 4.5” woofer, professionally tuned by Klipsch acousticians to deliver a crystal clear acoustic performance with great bass. You’ll be surprised at the sound quality that comes from such a small package." I know I was.

    After my intial research and trying out a several smaller portable bluetooth speakers, I set out to buy the JBL Extreme. A local brick and mortar had the Extreme on sale at the time for $200. Great deal. On my way to the Extreme display, The One caught my eye. It looked a bit larger than what I thought I wanted, so I kept walking.

    Tried the JBL Extreme display model, and found it powerful and enjoyable...but the sound seemed a bit overly sculpted. The bass was boomy, but didn't seem to go very low...as in no sub bass whatsoever, just boomy mid bass. So, I decided to plug my phone into The One. What I heard blew me away. The sound was much richer in general, but what stood out the most intially was the sub bass. Same track I used to sample the JBL, except now I was able to hear some good, fairly detailed sub bass where there was literally zero sound coming out of the JBL. No, it doesn't sound like it has a built in subwoofer, but it reaches lower than any other bluetooth speaker I've ever heard.

    The One also had a much more realistic tonality. The Extreme sounded tinny and metallic in comparison. The highs on The One are nicely balanced and faily detailed, with no unpleasant peaks that I could detect. The Extreme sounded like a bluetooth speaker, albeit a good one. The One does not. It sounds like a quality non bluetooth speaker twice its size.

    I strongly recommend that anyone in the market for a bluetooth speaker who has audiophile tendancies go audition the Klipsch The One before making a final decision. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
    Erfan Elahi likes this.
  14. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    I can calculate for you right now that the assumption that these can replace even desktop set ups is problematic because most people who do care about soundstage at their desk will put their speakers farther apart than that. That's just about as long as the laptops they're working on. And you don't even have control over toe-in angles.

    Tried any speakers set farther apart than that?

    I do that but even at 12in apart it won't image to the point that they'll replace desktop two piece systems, and if I have to keep the noise really low I might as well wear an IEM.

    Have you only tried just lifestyle systems? Because hen it comes to wearable speakers I'm gonna think of AKG long before I think of Bose.

    Or heck, even this prototype from Sennheiser.
  15. ridwan.a.wijaya
    Agree with you, didnt say it will replace my desktop speaker, just said it new experience like listening wearable speaker, I just said it get wider soundstage.. Of course not as wide proper system.
    Didnt say it replace my IEM or Headphone, but I find I listening more on my Bluetooth speaker than those lately..

    What I mean is Bluetooth speaker open more possibility for enjoying music, heck you can listen it when your bathing, swimming or just lying down at beach..

    No it doesnt have paramount SQ, but it does as is best as background music, when you do your stuff..

    Now thats a compromise you made when you go portable, and finding good compromise should be fun journey.

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