Review Price £299.99
With music where bass is less prominent, such as jazz, acoustic sessions or classical music the Bag of Sound struggles with clarity. It is so keen to try and throw bass at the slightest hint of anything with a low frequency that French horns or an oboe in a classic composition can instantly overpower the rest of the instruments. Furthermore in more complex music, such as the soundscapes of post rock bands like Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed You Black Emperor, the Bag of Rhythm struggles to do justice to the full frequency range creating a narrow sound lacking detail.
These shortcomings are less exposed on bass-friendly dance and hip hop tracks, but - as with so many docks - stereo separation is extremely limited and you need to carefully consider the type of music you will play predominantly. You also need to consider how you will primarily use the Bag of Rhythm. Tempting as it is to dream of images of lying in the park with friends and the dock booming out beside you it is likely to spend considerable time in the house and, unless you place the dock on the floor, its ceiling facing speakers are not ideally positioned for home listening. There is a reason why all indoor docks have their speakers positioned horizontally.
As for battery life, this is hard to judge. Your mileage will vary depending on the type of batteries you buy, the playback volume and even type of music you play but four hours and above should be achievable to all. One frustration is the dock doesn't charge rechargeable batteries when plugged into the mains. This makes sense as it would be impossible to distinguish between rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries, but since the dock needs to be removed from its canvas bag to take them out the operation is a little laborious. A flap or panel as was fitted for the power and bass outputs would have been preferable.
There are other frustrations too. With no mute button, the volume controls are very slow to respond taking a full 20 seconds to mute the volume from maximum. This would be equally frustrating in the park or at home when the phone rings. It would also have been nice if The House of Marley had included a remote control or even basic Bluetooth wireless, without the latter your iPhone is somewhat exposed out in public.
Lastly we come to price. As with any fashion brand there comes a premium and at a penny under £300 the Bag of Rhythm is no impulse buy. If you will use it largely at home then the £250 Monitor Audio i-deck 200 offers considerably better sound quality for less and for £350 the Arcam rCube also has superior audio as well as a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to eight hours in an 80 watt 2.1 dock that weighs only 5Kg.
Meanwhile, for those requiring true portability the £85 Pasce Minirig weighs just over 400g, outputs 15W, sounds glorious and lasts up to 60 hours - we'd buy two and link them together. Faced with these options there is little reason to do your Jammin' here.
The House of Marley has come out of the blocks flying. Its products have unique, yet instantly recognisable styling and the environmental and philanthropic beliefs it preaches are refreshing. Sadly the Bag of Sound is a case of style over substance. Its reggae focused sound signature makes it crass towards other forms of music with overpowered bass and a lack of detail. At over 7.5Kg with batteries it is also heavy despite the shoulder strap, there's no wireless connectivity and at 40W it isn't all that powerful for a dock this size. On the surface the Bag of Rhythm is a breath of fresh air, but in reality it is blown away by the competition. Will its youthful target market care? We suspect not.
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