- Makes your Echo Dot portable
- Reasonable price
- Decent audio quality
- Battery won't last all day
- Not particularly attractive
- Review Price: £60
- Dual 52mm drivers + passive radiator
- 2x 3.5mm input
- MicroUSB power
- Compatible with Gen-2 Dot only
- 8-hours claimed battery life
What is the Ninety7 Vaux?
If you own an Amazon Echo Dot and don’t live in a studio flat, you’ll likely often lament its lack of portability. Yelling across the house to get the latest weather update always feels just a little silly, and listening to the latest tunes in the kitchen with your Echo in the lounge is downright wasteful.
The Vaux, then, is your solution. This is a battery-powered wireless speaker with a built-in cradle for the second-generation Echo Dot. This turns the Dot from a small, tinny and static device into a smart speaker that you’ll be able to carry without you throughout your home.
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Ninety7 Vaux – Design and setup
The Vaux is a chunky cylinder with a fabric-like surround that gives it the impression of being a 360-degree speaker. It comes in both white and black designs for both types of Echo Dots. It’s not a fancy speaker by any means; it looks fine from a distance but up close lacks any sort of detailing and premium materials that other mid-range speakers manage. It stands at 163mm tall with a diameter of 106mm; it’s shorter than a regular Echo and a little bit more squat.
Setup is about as simple as it gets. Slot in the Dot, plug in the captive microUSB cable and 3.5mm audio jack, wait for the Dot to boot up and you’re good to go. The speaker is charged using the microUSB port, and it’ll take around six hours to go from empty to a full charge. A microUSB cable and USB wall plug aren’t supplied, but given you’ll already have those for your pre-existing Echo Dot, this won’t matter.
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The power button also acts a status indicator, with three LED colours to let you know what’s going on. They’re not massively useful; one lets you know it’s charging, another lets you know it’s switched on, and a blue flashing LED lets you know the battery is running low. There’s no way to check the battery’s status beyond that, so you’d better have a pretty good idea of how long the Vaux lasts at the volume you normally keep it at.
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The final additional feature is a 3.5mm input jack. This lets you hook up external audio devices, such as your smartphone, and bypass the Echo Dot altogether. Inserting a cable will override the Echo Dot, so you won’t be able to hear Alexa if you do so.
Keep in mind you’ll need decent Wi-Fi connectivity wherever you take your Vaux because the Echo doesn’t automatically switch between Wi-Fi networks as you move. You’ll want either a Mesh network or a decent router (or Wi-Fi extender) to make sure your Echo is always in range.
The Vaux, like the Echo Dot, isn’t weather-proof, so don’t treat it like an outdoor speaker if the weather’s looking a bit iffy.
Ninety7 Vaux – Audio quality
Audio quality is surprisingly good for the size. It’s a clear sound, free of humming or buzzing. There’s a crisp treble and the midrange is nice and direct. It could do with a little more bass, but it’s far from a flat presentation. It’s suitable as a speaker for house parties, but it’s also perfectly good for talk radio and podcasts, too. Things get a little harsh and distorted as you go beyond 50% volume; anything above that point I found too loud anyway. Overall, it’s miles better than the Echo Dot’s own sound, and is a no-brainer upgrade.
It’s comparable to the sound of the full-fat Amazon Echo. While that gets louder and offers more bass, its sound isn’t as clean or crisp. One advantage the big Echo has is its wider sound. I was a bit disappointed to discover that the Vaux’s audio isn’t equal all the way around, since the circular shape suggests a 360-degree experience. Instead, there’s a definite sweet spot exactly in the centre of the front of the speaker (opposite the power button). That’s not to say sitting on the wrong side will result in a bad experience; it’s more than good enough for casual, social listening.
One thing you should note is that the Vaux doesn’t have a particularly quiet minimum volume. If you like to listen to your Echo Dot as you go to sleep, this could actually prove quite annoying.
Of course, if audio quality is an absolute priority and you have little interest in the Echo’s smarts, you might be better off buying a straight-up dedicated Bluetooth speaker like the UE Wonderboom, which offers a fuller, more dynamic sound.
Ninety7 Vaux – Battery life
At 25% volume (loud enough for listening in a quiet house), the Vaux lasts longer than its claimed six-hour battery life; it managed nearly eight hours of non-stop Spotify streaming. This is very impressive, and means you can happily take the Vaux with you into the garden for an afternoon barbecue or sunbathing session without having to worry about running out of juice.
At a higher volume it’ll last closer to six hours, so it’s worth learning the Vaux’s battery behaviour with your listening volume and music tastes to ensure you don’t get caught out.
Because the Vaux also has to power the Echo’s processing and Wi-Fi connectivity, you can’t just leave it unplugged for days at a time and, even if it’s not in use, will run out of battery within 12 hours.
Should I buy the Ninety7 Vaux?
For a whisker under £60, the Vaux is a great way to augment your Echo Dot. While it doesn’t deliver supreme audio quality, the mobility it does provide is seriously useful. Battery life is good, too. Keep in mind that the Echo Tap exists (although isn’t on sale in the UK), and more connected smart speakers are arriving all the time.
You could also buy another Echo Dot. It’s a cheaper solution, sure, but I actually really preferred carrying around a single Dot instead of switching to my second Dot.
The best way to make your Echo Dot even smarter.