Friday, February 21, 2014


Its no secret that I love music, and when my Bose Sound Dock died last year, I was left without an easy way to tap into my Pandora and Spotify playlists. This lack of a sound system at home led me on a quest to find the best Bluetooth wireless speaker. I have written about the mini Jambox before-- I love its Yves Behar design, but it left me wanting in the sound department. A little tech and sound research later, I discovered 5 portable speakers across varying price points that fit the bill for their design worthiness and sound capabilities that also function as speakerphones.  The beauty of these is that they are small enough that you can use them in pairs around a room, for an even bigger, better wall of sound throwback stereo system effect.

Photo courtesy of Native Union

The Switch, Native Union, $150

PROS: A great minimal design encased in rubber from a company that wins awards for design. You know them from their phone handset that was all the rage 2 years ago.
CONS: I wish there were speaker grills on each side for better sound delivery
THE DESIGN: A volume knob at the top is reminiscent of old school stereo knobs, and the device can be used horizontally or upright,  hence the name, Switch
THE SOUND: Three speakers and a sub woofer
PLAY TIME: 14 hours on bluetooth with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery that can also charge a cell phone.
OVERALL: Nice design for those that prefer something hyper-modern sleek

Photo courtesy of Stelle Audio

Dwellstudio for Stelle Audio Pillar, $399

PROS: It talks to you! Turn on the device and it says hello, in an unexpected British accent. Turn it off and it says goodbye.
CONS: A speaker on the top of the column means sound comes from the top, not every side.
THE DESIGN: A super stylish limited-edition design created by Dwellstudio, with little gold triangles set against a sleek black column is decor aware, and The DwellStudio for Stellé Audio Pillar has off-axis speakers at the top and subwoofer on the bottom that provide 360 degree sound
THE SOUND: Good, but doesn't handle the bass as well as others
PLAY TIME: 15 hours on Bluetooth with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery. An added bonus: it comes with international adapters so you can listen globally, but with the pillar weighing in at 3 pounds, it takes up precious space in luggage
OVERALL: Fun design and shape

Photo courtesy of Bose

Bose Soundlink Mini Bluetooth Speaker, $199

PROS: A tiny speaker at 1.5 lbs that delivers huge sound. There are so many new speakers on the market that work with your iPhone and iPad, and I was looking to find one that had better sound than Bose, especially when it comes to the bass. Hands down, Bose delivers without sounding tinny, and a speaker on both the front and back of the device. Their reputation precedes them for good reason.
CONS: The way it looks. It's just not as chic as it should be. Maybe if it was all white?
THE DESIGN:I like clean 90 degree angles on corners, so the curved cube shape didn't thrill me. I also wish the speaker was monochromatic and a bit more high design. It comes with a charging cradle that is easy to use.
THE SOUND: Amazing for its small size
PLAY TIME: 7 hours, it takes 3 hours to fully charge an empty battery, which flashes red on the top control panel when it is running low
OVERALL: The best of the bunch

Photo courtesy of Lowdi

Lowdi Speaker, $129

PROS: A cool slightly retro design and free delivery
CONS: You can only order it through Amazon, and they have a 30 day return policy if you aren't happy with the product
THE DESIGN: The brainchild of a Dutch design firm and a French company, the Lowdi has 2 speakers and fits in the palm of your hand
THE SOUND: Good, but more appealing for its good looks than blow your socks off sound
PLAY TIME: It comes pre-charged to play 8 hours and takes 3 hours to fully charge, through a supplied USB cable or your computer
OVERALL: I like the retro aesthetic but unless it is easier to find at retail, or at least listen to, it might be hard for them to gain a steady following

Photo courtesy of Braven

Braven 850, $299

PROS: The newest of the Braven bunch, they make a wide range of well-designed Bluetooth speakers for portability and indoor outdoor use.  This is the big brother to their best selling mini 600 series.
CONS: Heavy at 3.5 lbs, so probably not going in your suitcase for that vacation
THE DESIGN: The aluminum wrapped design is sleek and looks at home next to your Macbook, it can also charge other devices
THE SOUND: Pretty good-- big, bold sound, especially for its large size, with 20 watts of audio
PLAY TIME:  20 hour battery life
OVERALL: Nice clean design that you don't want to hide, I would rate this second to the Bose

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