When considering a portable gadget, the fewer wires involved, the better. The Philips ShoqBox SB7200 is a speaker box with no wires, unless you count the one you occasionally need to plug in to recharge the internal battery.
An outdoorsy Bluetooth speaker, the Philips Shoqbox SB7200 is coated in rubber to let it withstand all sorts of knocks, bumps and scrapes. The only parts that aren’t armoured with rubber are the speaker grille areas – music doesn’t tend to sound too good when transmitted through rubber.
These grille bits are recessed, so that even if the Shoqbox SB7200 does take a tumble, the rubber outer will take the hit, not the far more rigid inner parts of the speaker. It’s clever, but ensures that this isn’t quite the most stylish speaker we’ve encountered. We took a look at the white version, and it looks a little like the sort of thing you might take camping to deter mosquitos.
However, this look isn’t exactly out-of-sync with the sort of audience Philips is looking to attract. It calls the Showbox SB7200 a “rugged road warrior”. It’s not intended to make your lounge look chic, although its capabilities don’t just shine outdoors. The Shoqbox SB7200 is splash-proof, therefore perfectly suited to be a bath-time budy.
The battery of the ShoqBox SB7200 is hidden away in the speaker’s interior, and to charge it you have to open up a flap at one of the cylinder’s ends, revealing a USB port. Plug this into powered socket and the SB7200’s battery will start charging. And, naturally, this USB-covering flap is more-or-less waterproof. Philips does not claim that the Shoqbox SB7200 is entirely waterproof, though, just splash proof. Up at the other end of the speaker, you’ll find the chunky volume dial.
Although it’s a true wireless portable speaker, with Bluetooth and an 8-hour internal battery, you can also plug in a non-wireless device such as an iPod Classic using the 3.5mm socket. It’s pretty feature-rich throughout for a small speaker.
There’s a single button on the Philips Shoqbox SB7200, which acts as a power button and a way to select the language you want to use upon initial setup – the speaker will tell you whether it’s connected and battery level when the button’s pressed after this.
This is just the beginning, though. The Philips Shoqbox SB7200 also has an internal microphone that lets it act as a handsfree box to take calls with. Philips’s website suggests you might use the speaker as part of a business meeting, but this feel completely at odds with its style. Perhaps calling the air ambulance while stuck half-way up a mountain would be more appropriate.
The Philips Shoqbox SB7200 has more-or-less invisible motion sensor on its body too. When placed on its side, gestures can be used to control music playback. Hold your hand over the area near the one hardware button and your tunes playing will play/pause. Wave a hand over it and it’ll skip to the next track. It’s the cleverest part of the SB7200, but we found that at times we ended up skipping a track when we didn’t mean to.
One final handy feature is something we didn’t get to test. Two Philips Shoqbox SB7200s can be linked together over using the same Smart Sensor that enables gesture control. Two units will provide a larger sound with proper stereo separation.
Use one Philips Shoqbox SB7200 on its own, though, and you’ll end up with a distinctly mono-style sound, although it does use two drive units for wider sound dispersal. Each speaker unit is one inch in diameter, with 4W of power a piece.
For a device of this size, sound quality is respectable. But for a device of this price? Not so much. The 1-inch drivers aren’t capable of recreating low frequencies with any authority, and the sound becomes quite coarse and strained at high volumes.
The Philips Shoqbox SB7200 sound is too positional to be considered a satisfying main room speaker, either, although as a kitchen (or, as previously mentioned) bath companion, it remains pretty superb.
However, for £140 it feels as though too much emphasis has been put on additional features, fancy bells and whistles, and not enough on sound quality.
Looked at abstracted from its price, the Philips Shoqbox SB7200 is great. It’s sturdy, boasts some fun additional features and has a decent internal battery. At £140, though, its sound doesn’t quite justify the outlay. It’s only worth considering if its rugged styling is an absolute must.