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Choose the best Bluetooth speaker for your home

A good set of travel speakers are a must-have for those who enjoy great sound on the go

brunch Updated: Sep 30, 2017 22:42 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times
Bluetooth speakers,BT enabled,WiFi
The Creative iRoar is not just good to look at, but also offers 12 hours of battery life

By definition, the headline of this column is wrong. Cringingly, clickbaitingly wrong. It’s impossible for anyone to do an ‘ultimate’ comparison between Bluetooth speakers. For starters there are too many of them (I would say about a thousand plus brands not including unbranded imports). Then there’s the whole category problem as Bluetooth-enabled speakers come in all shapes and sizes – teeny tiny portable pocket ones to giant floor standing beasts. To compound it further is the price diversity. They start from as little as Rs 200 and go onto a few lakhs. But the point was to get you into this column. Let me tell you why this category is so hot and why investing in a good Bluetooth speaker is essential.

A comeback

In a previous column, I had written about how music went from being a shared experience to one that got closeted as a singular personal one deep within our phones. Shared music has finally made a comeback and people do want to experience it together. Showcasing your own playlist is now a ‘thing’. And the easiest way to do that is on a BTS. For the sake of clarity, I’m going to restrict this column to those speakers that are BT enabled as there are multiple other ways to listen to music from our phone (WiFi, MultiRoom, Aux In, Optical In).

The jargon

Most people tend to spend days trying to buy the speaker with the right specs and technology. Bluetooth 4.0 gives you better range (distance), uses much lesser power to do it and offers much better sound fidelity (it is still massively compressed though). So, don’t buy any speaker that isn’t BT 4.0 as a minimum. Bluetooth still can’t give you sound quality anywhere close to WiFi or a Wired Aux In connection. Then there’s this new high-fangled technology called aptX that promises audiophile level sound over Bluetooth. Both your phone and the speaker need to have aptX for it to work on its own. I found no discernible audio difference, so best to ignore aptX. NFC (Near Field Communication) on the speaker means that you don’t need to pair it, just tap your NFC-enabled phone on the speaker and start playing your song.

The category

In a subsequent column, I’m going to review some bedroom speakers and then some of the bigger whole house kinds. For now, I’m going to stick to portable travel speakers as a category.

Creative Muvo 2c

The Creative Muvo 2c offers value for money along with a great sound

Best Value for money and a sound that goes way beyond its palm sized body. Almost impossible bass levels, is water resistant, can play off a microSD card (including FLAC files) and you can custom tune it with the Sound Blaster Control Panel app.

Harman Onyx Mini

The Harman Onyx Mini belts out great sound

Another little marvel. The smaller sibling of the award winning Onyx, this reassuringly weighty circular shaped speaker that can belt out some great sound, gives excellent battery life and you can even set up two of them in stereo left-right mode.

Bose SoundLink Mini

The Bose SoundLink Mini is super small with a high price

Silky aluminium clad, super small, gives about eight hours of battery play, nice thumpy bass, superb highs, falters slightly on the mids, but a bit pricey.

Creative iRoar

May well be the best looking of the lot. Has 12 hours battery life, sound that defies it’s size, the roar button really kicks in some amazing bass, great mids and highs, can be docked onto a subwoofer (iRoar Rock) that takes it to a whole new level.

Bowers & Wilkins T7 Wireless

The Bowers & Wilkins T7 is blingy but with good sound

Slightly larger than the rest, this one sets up an awesome soundstage, never fatigues the ear and the bass response is phenomenal. I absolutely hate the blingy design (what were you thinking B&W) but the sound makes up for it in droves.

Soundmatters FoxLV2

Soundmatters, built by a former NASA engineer is a small speaker that can go where no small speaker has gone before

You may not have heard of the brand, but you should. Built by a former NASA engineer, this small 6 x 2 inch speaker can go where no small speaker has gone before. The bass production is almost surreal and the rest is tight and natural. You can also buy an add on sub woofer, but you don’t really need it.

There are hundreds of others. Many others from JBL, Monster, Riva, Libra, X Mini, UE Boom, Fugoo, Marshall (The Kilburn is amazing but a little big) and a dozen others. I’ve given you the ones that will actually give you sound and portability without any compromise. It’s time to unleash the music from your phone. You’ll be surprised at what you hear and what you’ve been missing.

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, October 1, 2017

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First Published: Sep 30, 2017 22:42 IST