When you need a bit of crazy tech it seems you should look to the Nordics. Already famed for Angry Birds, Adipose-look-a-likes and furry cashmere docks, this time it is the turn of Danish audio specialist Scandyna to remind us they can be bonkers too. The result is the Orko-esque 'SmallPod Bluetooth'.
In fairness to Scandyna, the most bonkers part of the SmallPod Bluetooth has been here for some time. The company's famed nautilus-style enclosures actually originated within Bowers & Wilkins, but was transferred to the Danes in the mid-90s where it has become their trademark. We'll discuss the reasons for the shape later, but superficially it certainly makes the SmallPod Bluetooth stand out from the field and creates an instant love/hate first impression that will largely be influenced by your choice in decor.
Red, white and black finishes are available and while the 256 x 160 x 157mm, 1.8Kg design may polarise, we are a little less enthusiastic about the build materials. The SmallPod Bluetooth enclosures are glossy plastic which further distinguishes them from the legion of traditional matt wood rectangular speakers out there, but it does mean they show up finger prints and dust. There is also a rather visible vertical join between the front and rear of the enclosures which diminishes the curved sweeping aesthetic and which we feel could be better disguised.
In addition we found the power cable at the rear is too easily dislodged (which frustratingly resets the speaker volume) and the bundled tripod legs for each speaker (which Scandyna recommends for optimal performance) don't provide the best stability so be careful not to position them somewhere they will get bumped.
Ultimately this isn't the most auspicious of starts, even if some will be sold on looks alone, but things take a sharp upward swing when we get to the good stuff: namely the audio. Despite its radical appearance the SmallPod Bluetooth's nautilus design is very much about substance over style and replicated in Scandyna's smaller 'MicroPod' and larger 'MiniPod', 'BigPod' and 'MegaPod'.
Original B&W creator John Bowers called the development of the nautilus design the search for the perfect dipoles and in short he found it reduced rear radiation and coloration while greatly improving response. What defines nautilus is the way the speaker tapers towards the back, acting to deaden the sound waves reverberating in that space.
Backing up these potential acoustic benefits, each SmallPod Bluetooth speaker is active meaning it has the power amplifier built into the speaker cabinet, each of which also contain a 4in Kevlar woofer and 3/4in tweeter. Output power is an amply small room-filling 2x 40 watts RMS, while frequency response is rated at 20Hz – 20KHz, giving these speakers the specs to suggest a well rounded powerful sound. A reasonable >85dB signal noise ratio further hints at quality.
As the name spells out, the speakers also have integrated Bluetooth for wireless streaming. Bluetooth is a surprising choice for premium speakers compared to lossless standards like WiFi Direct and AirPlay, even more so when the high quality aptX Bluetooth codec is also omitted.
On the plus side the SmallPod Bluetooth does further show its mainstream pretensions by including a bundled remote (still far from a given with speakers). The plastic construction is a little cheap, but the ability to switch sources and pair Bluetooth devices is welcome in addition to the usual play/pause/skip and power commands.