Available from ebuyer.com, this portable Bluetooth speaker – or "Bluebooth" according to the box – lets you listen to music on the go. With NFC and an impressive 18 hours of battery life, it’s on paper ideal for those long lazy days in the garden as you chill to your favourite tunes – or, more realistically, as you play cards indoors watching rain cascade down your window. But sadly, it overall appeal is let down by poor audio quality.
Despite the cheap-as-chips price tag, it’s a surprisingly well-made speaker. It feels solid and the bodywork has a tactile rubbery texture that provides grip as your lug it around. A red sponge pad on the bottom offers a secure cushion for desktop placement.
There are a few reminders of its budget price, however, such as the flimsy mesh covering the speakers that feels like it could be peeled off, and a naff-looking touch key display – but otherwise it passes muster. It also looks nice in its funky combination of black and red.
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The speakers are angled at 30 degrees to fire the sound upwards, which according to the blurb allows you to "maximise your home-cinema sound experience" – but if you’re using a portable Bluetooth speaker for movies, you need to ask yourself some serious questions.
At 193mm wide, it’s compact enough to slip into a bag or perch on a shelf. A plastic panel on the front is home to volume and play/pause keys plus a button to activate the 3D mode. On top is the NFC touch point and a power button, with a surrounding ring of blue light that blinks when pairing.
The rear panel sports a 3.5mm mini-jack input to hook up non-Bluetooth devices, and a micro-USB port to charge it from a laptop or mains socket (the cable is supplied).
The Sond’s Bluetooth 4.0 spec includes apt-X support for high-quality audio streaming. The quoted 18-hour battery life is music to the ears of anyone fed up of charging their devices every five minutes – indeed, I didn’t have to recharge the unit once during the entire test.
It’s a stereo speaker that offers 16W of power. The 3D mode delivers "simulated surround sound", while the bass tube design is designed to enhance low frequencies; the port on the back controls the airflow.
The touch-panel display on the front is clunky and inaccurate. It isn't illuminated, so you don’t know if the 3D mode is on or off, although when you adjust the volume the unit gives out a helpful little beep. Bluetooth pairing didn’t pose any problems. There’s a reasonable range, but it did start to break up before I reached the quoted 10m mark.
Having tested Sond Audio’s active Bookshelf Speakers and EMBW-13Y31 2.1 Bluetooth speaker, I know the company is capable of delivering decent sound quality. Sadly, that’s not evident here. Music sounds thin and compressed, barely better than my smartphone’s speakers.
The biggest problem is a lack of any meaningful bass output. You can hear basslines, but they’re not conveyed with any depth or punch. So when you’re listening to genres that rely on bass such as house or hip-hop, you end up with a narrow, nasal sound.
This problem is compounded by poor high-frequency reproduction. Hi-hats have a brash, spitty character, lacking the smoothness and precision of superior Bluetooth speakers. All of the sound is concentrated in the mid-range and becomes tiring very quickly.
At least you can turn it up nice and loud, right? Er, no. The Sond’s other problem is that volume is limited. Turn it right up to maximum and it feels like it’s only halfway. That’s no good if you’re in the kitchen and want to hear Adele over the hum of the washing machine. What’s more, the 3D sound mode makes little difference to the size or width of the sound.
I wasn’t expecting audiophile sound quality from a £30 Bluetooth speaker, but I expected more than what I got. You’re better off saving up for the £90 Denon Envaya Mini, which delivers bass in abundance, while another £30 gets you the excellent Pure Voca.
A decent design, long battery life and useful features can’t mask the Sond’s poor audio quality.