With digital devices proliferating, carrying your music with you is so easy these days, be it on cellphones, tablet devices or laptop computers, or dedicated MP3 players.
But if you want to share the music with family or friends, or just wanted to relax with music while you savour the sound of waves in a larger room, portable speakers that play the music are the thing for you.
Over the last few years, technology on this front has really evolved, with Bluetooth speakers that pair with any Bluetooth device, to NFC (near field communications) speakers and even Airplay speakers developed under a streaming protocol for Apple devices.
These gizmos span the budget spectrum, and you are spoilt for choice. We look at some leading options – and this is a small sample in a huge market.
Sony SRS-BTV 5
Sony likes to call this device ‘music all around’. The tiny spherical speaker looks brilliant the first time you hold it. Though it looks like a desktop speaker, it is the size of a tennis ball, and you can carry it anywhere.
If you have an NFC phone or a tablet with NFC functionality, just tap on the top of the speaker and they are paired — no pass codes, no steps, just touch and go. It can pair with regular Bluetooth devices as well, and there is even an Audio In jack, in case you have an old handset or just like using cables.
The battery lasts around five hours, and it charges via micro-USB, so no extra cables to be carted around.
The music goes around 360 degrees, thanks to the spherical design, and it is small enough to be a personal speaker, and loud enough to fill a hotel room. The SRS-BTV5 is available in 4 colours, and comes with a carry bag. By the way, it also has a microphone built-in, and you can use it for your cellphone calls, though the mike is nothing to write home about.
Logitech UE Mobile Boombox
Logitech has upgraded its Mobile Boombox and equipped it with what it calls Ultimate Ears (UE).
The Boombox comes in five colours and has a sophisticated look. It is slightly bigger than the Sony speaker, and also gives a bigger sound. If you are in the market for a speaker for your study that you can also use on travel, the Logitech device may be a better option.
Like the Sony option, this one can also answer phone calls, but the mike is similar with insufficient pickup. Not recommended as a hands-free device.
The Boombox also has a bigger battery, rated at 10 hours, and also charges using a micro USB. It can pair with your devices over Bluetooth or via an auxiliary 3.5 mm cable.
It can even pair with two devices at one time, so you can play two devices alternately (or even stream two at a time and get an interesting DJ mix!) There is no NFC, though.
The UE version is a significant upgrade on the previous avatar of Logitech’s Boombox. The buttons are seamlessly designed into the body and don’t look bad. The Boombox has two speakers and renders stereo sound; the bass delivery is better than the Sony.
Be warned: At full volume, the sound cracks!
Bose Sound Link Mini
Bose is a cult brand, and that should explain the price. Audiophiles are divided on whether Bose truly means high quality, but the Sound Link Mini does its job well enough to justify the price tag.
The portable speaker has a 7-hour rated battery, and the Bose technology that ensures quality sound at any volume.
Use it in your study, at the dinner table or on the go. It delivers all the time.
It has Bluetooth-only pairing, and an auxiliary port. You can use the Sound Link Mini with any device.
The downside is that it does not charge using USB, so you need to carry its power adapter, which is also rather bulky. Its buttons are clearly labeled, and it even has a mute button. Bose also includes a cradle for the speaker so that you can put the speaker on top in case you are using this in your home or office and carry the unit alone when you travel.
The Sound Link has optional coloured covers that cost R1,350 — good protection for the aluminum body.
TAKEAWAY: There are many more options available, in all price ranges, but we loved the portability, ease of use and the NFC feature of the Sony, and the quality of sound of the Bose device. Logitech UE impresses, in a middle-of-the-road sort of way.