The BlackBox doesn't just rely on its looks to gain praise, though they're easily enough on their own to gain this speaker plenty of sales. In fact the design is pretty practical too. Those bright, blue buttons on top aren't just eye candy: as well as basic volume functions, they enable you to take control of the music with track skip, pause and play controls. And you don't have to lean over to change the volume if you don't want to either. There's also a small remote control included that replicates all the functions on the main control panel.
The BlackBox is pretty portable too. Though not quite as beautifully small as Gear4's little BlackBox mini speaker I looked at a couple of weeks ago it, it does take batteries - in the form of four large C-type alkalines - and is compact enough to sling in a rucksack on the way to a party or a weekend away and have room left over for a few beers plus a change of clothing. The inclusion of a padded case should help you keep its good looks intact.
And, when you've got the BlackBox wired up to an MP3 player via the 3.5mm stereo input on its rear it sounds pretty good too. Despite the presence of a rear-firing bass-reinforcement port, the low notes aren't thumping. But the rest is pretty good: it's well-balanced with good, clear mids and sharp highs. It can't match a decent micro-system, but it compares well with anything else of its size that I've heard before, and it goes pretty loud too. The 24W output in the specifications is good enough to fill a small- to medium-sized room and will compete with a several people talking over it.
Hook it up via the Bluetooth connection, however, and it's a very different story. Connection is about as easy as it gets - turn it on, enter the passcode into your mobile phone or A2DP Bluetooth-enabled music player and connection is established instantly- but what then pours out of the sideways-firing speakers is a very disappointing. The sound goes from clear as crystal to muffled and soft-sounding in the blink of an eye. It's a bit like putting on a pair of someone else's thick spectacles when you have perfect vision; it turns everything into a smeary, blurry mess.