As we leap head first into 2013 it is impossible to reflect on 2012 without admitting the huge effect Beats By Dre has had on the audio sector. It is hard to walk down the street, use public transport or follow a footballer's tweets without regularly seeing a pair and the company has finally got consumers thinking more carefully about what they feed their ears. It is somewhat ironic then that we have yet to be entirely convinced by the sound quality of any of this fashion brand's products.
The New Year gives us another chance to re-evaluate, however, as Beats is expanding beyond earphones and headphones with its first Bluetooth portable speaker due for release in mid January. It is dubbed the Beats Pill and only the most cursory of glances is required to explain the naming. Dr Dre designers have conjured up a long 190mm cylindrical form factor with a 45mm diameter which weighs in at just 310g and houses no less than four 1in drivers.
Despite Dre's fashion sensibilities it is hard to describe the Pill as a good looking product. It certainly isn't ugly, with a metal front grill and matt rubberised base and back testament to excellent build materials, but it doesn't quicken the pulse. Adding some street cred is the dominant central Beats logo which initiates Bluetooth pairing when held down for 3 seconds and turns red when the speaker is in use. The Pill also packs NFC so you can pair an NFC equipped smartphone just by tapping it on the speaker, which is a nice touch (pun very much intended).
On the top of the Pill are ' ' and '-' labelled volume buttons and at the rear is a power button, Bluetooth indicator, micro USB charge port and 3.5mm auxiliary input and output jacks. Somewhat lost in the design is the subtle mic pinhole just below the main Beats branding. This allows the Pill to double up as a conferencing device for taking calls, an increasingly popular and potentially useful element of functionality for wireless speakers.
So what does it sound like? According to the marketing blurb the Pill "produces powerful sound [making it] easy to enjoy soaring highs and deep, booming bass in every room of the house" as well as on the move.
This is big talk and comes from a brand famous for the bombastic signatures of its headphones and earphones. To this end the Pill packs in no less than four 1in drivers. These offer a combined 12W of output (4 x 3W) and while watts mean little it does suggest it should give established models like the 5W Jawbone Jambox something to think about as well as running the class leading 15W Pasce Minirig close..