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Bose SoundLink Max review: a punchy Bluetooth speaker to make your party pop
6:30 pm | June 20, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Wireless & Bluetooth Speakers | Tags: | Comments: Off

Bose SoundLink Max: Two-minute review

The Bose SoundLink Max has delivered the biggest, burliest model in the company's already well-stocked and well-reviewed SoundLink concept that has served it pretty well lately. The Bose SoundLink Max has a rugged, go-anywhere design with the stamina to keep you entertained right around the clock. Well, very nearly…

It’s robust, as the IP67 rating indicates, and the liberal use of silicone means it’s happy to withstand the odd knock or bump. The carry-handle can be swapped out for a shoulder-strap (it’s a cost option, mind you), and overall the Bose SoundLink Max is as outdoors-y as they come.

And when you’re out and about, the Bose SoundLink Max is a very enjoyable companion. The sound it makes is as big and heavy as the speaker it comes from, but it’s by no means a blunt instrument. It’s quite a deft and agile listen for something with as much out-and-out punch as this, and can gesture, albeit only slightly, towards a truly stereo presentation, too. 

In fact, if it were able to retrieve and reveal a little more of the fine detail in a recording, it would be approaching ‘ideal’ and one of the best Bluetooth speakers out there. 

Bose Soundlink Max review: Price and release date

  • Released June 4, 2024
  • Officially priced at $399 / £399 / AU$599

The Bose SoundLink Max was released in early June, 2024, and sells for $399 / £399 / AU$599.

That’s proper money for a wireless speaker with no smarts and no Wi-Fi connectivity, no two ways about it. But, as will become apparent, the Bose SoundLink Max has compensations for its relative lack of functionality… 

Bose SoundLink Max Bluetooth speaker on wooden table

(Image credit: Future / Simon Lucas)

Bose SoundLink Max review: Specs

Bose SoundLink Max Bluetooth speaker displaying carry handle

(Image credit: Future / Simon Lucas)

Bose SoundLink Max review: Features

  • 2 x 89mm transducers, 1 x 23mm transducer, 2 x 104x79mm ‘racetrack’ passive radiators
  • Bluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codec compatibility
  • Class D amplification

It’s possible, of course, to use the 3.5mm analogue input to get audio information on board the Bose SoundLink Max – but obviously this is first-and-foremost a Bluetooth speaker. It uses Bluetooth 5.3 for wireless connectivity, and is compatible with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codecs.

No matter how you get it there, though, once the audio information is on board it’s amplified by Class D power – Bose, as per usual, is not saying how much. Then it’s served to a speaker driver array that consists of a couple of 89mm transducers and a 23mm partner arranged across the front of the chassis, supported by a couple of 104 x 79mm ‘racetrack’ passive balanced mode radiators – there’s one at either end, behind the perforated aluminium grilles.

Thanks to Bose’s ‘SimpleSync’ technology, the SoundLink Max can quickly and easily become part of a rudimentary multiroom system, provided you’re using other compatible Bose speakers, naturally. Got a Bose soundbar or smart speaker? It’ll connect to the SoundLink Max without fuss.

There’s a USB-C on the rear of the speaker. It’s used for charging the battery, obviously, but if you’ve plenty of power on board your speaker and your phone is running low, it can also be used as a power output. 

  • Features score: 5/5

Bose SoundLink Max Bluetooth speaker showing AUX and USB-C ports

(Image credit: Future / Simon Lucas)

Bose SoundLink Max review: Design

  • IP67 rating against dust and moisture
  • 20 hours of battery life
  • Available in two finishes

At 120 x 265 x 105mm (HxWxD) and 2.13kg, the SoundLink Max is relatively big and heavy by prevailing ‘portable wireless speaker’ standards. But thanks to a particularly judicious combination of materials – mostly aluminium and silicone and an extremely tactile, and easily swapped, rope-and-silicone carry-handle – the Bose is easy to shift from place to place. Differently coloured versions of the ‘twist-to-fit’ handle are available (for £25, roughly $31/ AU$47), and an over-the-shoulder alternative can be yours (for £45, about $58 / AU$85).

The silicone element of the design is certainly tactile, and it helps the Bose absorb bumps and shocks. But it’s very willing to collect dust and greasy fingerprints, and an absolute bugger to keep clean.

The quoted 20 hours of battery life is eminently achievable (unless you’re absolutely caning the volume), which is just as well, because to go from ‘flat’ to ‘full’ takes a leisurely five hours via the USB-C socket on the rear. On the plus side, you can be pretty sure those 20 hours can be spent in any realistic environment, thanks to a chunky IP67 rating against moisture and dust.

There are some nicely positive controls on the top of the speaker – power on/off, Bluetooth pairing, play/pause and volume up/down are all available, and there’s also a ‘shortcut’ button. In the (exemplary) Bose control app you’re able to choose between two functions for this control – either switch to the 3.5mm analogue input that’s positioned next to the USB-C, or resume Spotify playback (provided your Spotify app is up-to-date).

The app also includes some EQ adjustment along with a few presets, a volume control, connection management (the SoundLink Max can connect to two sources at a time) and a volume control. Plus, of course, access to software and firmware upgrades, voice-prompt adjustments and what have you.

  • Design score: 4.5/5

Bose SoundLink Max Bluetooth speaker top panel controls on wooden table

(Image credit: Future / Simon Lucas)

Bose SoundLink Max review: Sound quality

  • Punchy, full-scale sound
  • Agile rather than musclebound, though
  • Could conceivably sound more detailed

Bose, it seems fairly safe to say, has given low-frequency grunt and presence a proper think where the SoundLink Max is concerned. ‘It’s going to be used outdoors,’ is how I imagine the thinking going, ‘and so it needs as much punch as it’s possible to extract.’ And there’s no two ways about it, this speaker is about as robustly assertive with low-end stuff as seems possible. 

It’s far from being a blunt instrument, though. Given a reasonably big file of Aphex Twin’s Isoprophlex (Slow) to deal with, the Bose hits good and hard, without question, but it controls the low end well, attacking with straight-edged positivity and ensuring bass sounds stay strictly in their lane rather than bleeding all over the midrange. This speaker hits with determination, but with accuracy, and as a consequence there’s far more to its presentation than simple muscle. 

It offers quite an open, distinct midrange that’s more than capable of holding its own against all the ructions beneath it. At the top of the frequency range there’s authentic bite and shine, and just as much attack as the speaker exhibits at the opposite end – but, again, control is such that even if you listen at considerable volume (and be in no doubt, the Bose SoundLink Max is capable of considerable volume) treble sounds are never hard or in-your-face.  

The Bose is tonally consistent from the top of the frequency range to the bottom, and it unites the entire range smoothly. Focus is good, too, and the SoundLink Max creates a reasonably convincing soundstage – although the notion that it’s capable of creating anything other than the tiniest hint of stereo separation is fanciful. It’s quite dynamic where the broad quiet/LOUD aspects of recordings are concerned, too, although the distance it puts between the two states could be wider. That’s almost certainly a consequence of the fact that the Bose gives every impression of playing quite loudly even when it’s playing quietly.

The most significant area where the Bose might conceivably up its game concerns detail retrieval. The SoundLink Max has no problem retaining and revealing the most significant details in a recording, but when it’s playing something like The Spark That Bled by The Flaming Lips it lets a lot of the finer details (of which this recording has plenty) go astray. It doesn’t impact on the enjoyably forceful nature of the overall presentation, of course – and if you’re listening to content for the first time it seems likely you wouldn’t even twig that anything is missing. But when you listen to stuff you’re properly familiar with, there’s no denying the Bose struggles to extract the finer detail that you know is there.

  • Sound quality: 4/5

Bose SoundLink Max review: Value

Yes, pennies short of £400 / $400 / AU$600 is a lot of money for a wireless Bluetooth speaker without a hint of smart functionality. But the Bose SoundLink Max makes a very strong case for itself if you take it on its own terms – it’s properly built and finished, from materials that look good, feel good and suggest longevity. 

It’s specified to perform in pretty much any realistic environment. It’s capable of big, burly and convincing sound – and can churn it out for hour after hour. So, as long as you accept its restricted functionality, the SoundLink MAx represents very good value indeed. 

  • Value score: 4.5/5

Bose SoundLink Max Bluetooth speaker on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future / Simon Lucas)

Should I buy the Bose SoundLink Max?

Buy it if…

Don’t buy it if…

Bose SoundLink Max review: Also consider

How I tested the Bose SoundLink Max

  • Tested for about a week, mainly indoors but also in a back garden
  • Played a variety of music types
  • Listened the TIDAL app on iPhone and Android smartphones

I listened to the Bose SoundLink Max indoors and out. I listened to it via an iPhone and an Android smartphone, each running the TIDAL app. I listened to it at discreet volumes (while indoors) and thoroughly indiscreet volumes (while in my garden, before I became concerned about upsetting my neighbours). 

And I listened to it with a variety of music types and a variety of digital audio file sizes. This all went on for about a week – mostly indoors because, the weather was bloody awful in the U.K., and while the Bose is happy to work outdoors in the rain, I am not. Not sorry.  

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: June 2024
Sony SRS-XB100 review: a cheap Bluetooth speaker with good sound but too few features
1:32 pm | June 17, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Wireless & Bluetooth Speakers | Comments: Off

The Sony XB100 was first made available in mid-2023 and is currently priced at a reasonable $49.99 / £44.99 / AU$66. It would appear that Sony made a few sacrifices to lower the cost, but that doesn’t mean this speaker isn’t good value for money.

The small print on the Sony website states that the XB100 has up to 16 hours of battery life when the volume is set to 36. Whether that’s the volume level (the volume gauge on the app isn’t numbered), or volume percentage, there’s no easy, if any, way to accurately determine. So instead, I tested the speaker at 50% volume and it reduced by 20% in just under three and a half hours, suggesting that the speaker could last up to the stated 16 hours of playtime.

As well as using this Bluetooth speaker to listen to music and podcasts, you can also use the XB100 for hands-free phone calls. To vie for a spot in our best Bluetooth speakers buying guide, it has a feature called Echo Cancelling that is designed to allow two people to speak at once without muting either of them.

A mans hand holding the Sony XB100 at a 45-degree angle. The control buttons are facing the camera, and his thumb is over the play/pause and phone call button.

(Image credit: Future)

If you read my Sony ULT Field 7 review, you’ll already know I’m not a fan of the unintuitive and laggy Sony Music Center app. While you can sync the XB100 to the app and view the speaker’s battery level, other than that, it only gives shortcuts to open your installed music apps on your device. There are no adjustable EQ settings or additional features. Although the XB100 delivers a fairly well-rounded listening experience, it definitely would have been an advantage to have the ability to make adjustments to the treble and bass levels at times.

This lack of features is a shame considering another similarly priced speaker, the JBL Go 4, does have app-based customizable settings. Despite this, overall the XB100 still came out on top in my comparison of the Sony XB100 and JBL Go 4 Bluetooth speakers thanks to the sound quality. Elsewhere, the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3, although devoid of companion app, does tote an effective outdoor boost button on the underside, for tweaking the sound to your surroundings.

If your priority is premium sound quality, this probably isn’t the speaker for you. While it does deliver adequate bass and nice-sounding vocals, the highs are lacking somewhat. This is partly down to the full-range driver facing upwards, as the speaker is situated on the top of the XB100. This upward trajectory muddies the sound, although there is a noticeable improvement if you angle the speaker to face you directly. 

The top of the Sony XB100, which is a domed speaker. It has been photographed against a pink background.

(Image credit: Future)

This inability to successfully provide higher-range frequencies in its upright position is particularly obvious when listening to Rains Again by Solji. The delicate rain sounds at the beginning of the track are practically inaudible when playing at 50% volume, and that isn’t because this little speaker is quiet – it can reach a good level of volume. At 50% the XB100 fills an average-sized living room with plenty of sound to dance around to.

Treble trouble aside, mid-frequency vocals were delivered well, so listening to podcasts was enjoyable. The speaker's ability to handle low frequencies was particularly apparent when listening to Angel by Massive Attack, providing a bassline that was deep and ominous. The XB100 continued to impress when pounding out the bass in I Believe in a Thing Called Love by the Darkness, and Black Eye by Allie X. When the speaker was placed on the floor, I could feel the vibrations through the floor from about a meter away. 

The amount of mid-range details that the XB100 could convey was notable, too. When listening to Algorithm by Muse, Matt Bellamy’s voice comes through with plenty of depth and detail; however, the bass does overshadow the vocals at times. This is where different EQ profiles would have come in handy.

Bottom two-thirds of the Sony XB100 speaker in black. Showing the button controls, including the on button, bluetooth pairing button, play/pause and volume controls. The speaker is sitting on a sand-coloured stone surface.

(Image credit: Future)

The purpose of this speaker is to deliver 360-degree omnidirectional sound (if you placed it in the middle of a picnic, say), which it certainly does, making it a good choice for small gatherings or if you just fancy some background music while you potter about.

This speaker was designed to be easy to carry and durable, with a soft plastic outer and a waterproof and dustproof rating of IP67; however, it looks utilitarian, and shows fingerprints easily, at least in the case of the Black sample I was given. Sony has attempted to jazz things up a little by offering some brightly colored orange and blue options, which do look a bit more interesting than the Black or Light Grey, but the overall design is still on the bland side. Although if that’s the cost to get an IP67 rating, it’s worth it.

The control buttons of the Sony XB100 speaker, with the USB-C charging cover pulled out revealing the USB-C port.

(Image credit: Future)

With the XB100, Sony has taken a welcomed sustainable approach, avoiding plastic in their packaging and utilizing recycled plastics in parts of the body and multiway strap. The versatile strap looks like it’d be easy to attach to your backpack or hang inside a tent if you want to listen to some tunes on your adventures. 

All things considered, the XB100 provides a satisfyingly well-rounded listening experience for the price. For only $49.99 / £44.99 / AU$66, we can’t expect the world from this speaker, but if you’re looking for a compact and portable Bluetooth speaker to take your tunes wherever you go, or one of the best waterproof speakers for pool-side gatherings, the Sony XB100 has got you covered – and for not much money.

The bottom two thirds of the Sony XB100 speaker, showing a close up of the black plastic hook attachment on the multiway carry strap.

(Image credit: Future)

Sony XB100 review: Price and availability

  • $49.99 (usual price $59.99)/ £44.99 / AU$66
  • Available now

The Sony XB100 was first released in the US in May 2023, Australia in June 2023, and the UK in August 2023. It is currently retailing at £44.99 / AU$66, and is on sale in the US for $49.99, with a non-sale price of $59.99. 

As one would expect from this low price, it can’t compete with the amazing sound quality and features available from other Bluetooth speakers such as the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 or the Sonos Roam. No, it doesn't sound as good as its twice-the-price JBL Flip 6 rival, but that doesn’t mean the Sony XB100 isn’t good value for money, if this is where your budget maxes out… 

A mans hand holding a black Sony XB100 speaker, with the Sony logo written up the side of the speaker, and the multipurpose strap draped over his thumb.

(Image credit: Future)

Sony XB100 review: Specs

Should I buy the Sony XB100?

An up-close view of the Sony XB100 in black. The speaker is photographed at a slight angle. It is against a pink background and sitting on a sand-coloured stone base.

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

3 quarter view of the Sony Xb100 in black. The multipurpose carry strap is attached to the side nearest to the camera. It is photographed against a pink background and is sitting on a sand-coloured stone surface.

(Image credit: Future)

Sony XB100 review: Also consider

How I tested the Sony XB100

  • Tested the speaker for two weeks
  • Listened to a variety of music genres and podcasts
  • Played music continuously to determine battery usage

I tested the Sony XB100 for two weeks. I listened to a variety of music genres, as well as the TechRadar testing playlist that includes tracks ranging from complex and layered instrumentals, deep bass, and delicate vocals to enable me to determine the speaker's ability to handle different frequencies.

While I am fully committed and would have listened for the full 16 hours, I’m not sure the other folks on my commute would have been too amused. Instead, I observed the time it took for the battery level to reduce by 20% when playing continuously at 50% volume to get the best idea of how long it would take for the battery to run out of juice. 

I used it to listen to music and podcasts in the TechRadar office, our music testing room, and at home, using Spotify and Tidal from an iPhone 12 Pro and a OnePlus Pad Go.

Pure Classic C-D6 DAB radio review: tap into some CD-playing, retro music love
2:30 pm | June 11, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers DAB Radios Gadgets Hi-Fi | Comments: Off

Pure Classic C-D6: Two-minute review

The Pure Classic C-D6, and devices like them, are enjoying quite the comeback. Once in seemingly terminal decline, radio is back on the up and if you’re anything like me, you’re quietly impressed by the myriad DAB channel options out there. Heart 90s to propel you out of bed in the morning, Classic FM to crawl back there a few hours later.

Tapping into the retro joy that comes from a music system that includes a DAB/FM radio, CD player and Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity, the Pure Classic C-D6's old-school stylings look the part but won’t suit everyone. It’s squarely designed (literally) for sitting somewhere in a corner of your living room, destined to live out its days there. This isn’t portable and it’s sizeable enough that you won’t even want to move it between rooms unless you have absolutely to. 

However, it has charm. Like other Pure radios, it has all the essentials you could need wrapped up in an easy to use shell. Setup is a matter of plugging it in and leaving the radio to pick out dozens of DAB radio channels before you highlight your presets. 

A remote control simplifies matters further, though I was baffled at not finding any batteries in the (huge) box. A couple of dials on the front also help matters. You’re honestly not going to get lost here.

At £179.99 or €199.99 (and currently only available in the UK and in Europe), cheap the Pure Classic C-D6 is not. But it is a Bluetooth speaker, DAB/FM radio and CD player rolled into one, which makes it a bit better value. 

Once unboxed, it’ll live happily in your living room or on your bedside cabinet and fulfil seemingly all your audio needs at a steady, if not always exciting, pace.

Is it one of the best DAB radios we've had the pleasure of testing? Let's see.

Pure Classic C-D6 review: Price and release date

Pure Classic C-D6

(Image credit: Future / Jennifer Allen)
  • Released April 2024
  • Cost £179.99 / €199.99 (currently only available in the UK and Europe)

The Pure Classic C-D6 was released in the UK and Europe in April 2024. It costs £179.99 or €199.99 depending on your region, making it a relatively mid-range option compared to the competition.

It’s cheaper than something like the Pure Evoke Home (at £399.99) or on a par with the Roberts Revival RD70, but with the addition of CD playing support. 

The non-portable DAB music system market is a fairly niche one if you want all these features, so the Pure Classic C-D6 feels fairly well priced for what it offers.

Pure Classic C-D6 review: Specs

Pure Classic C-D6 review: Features

Pure Classic C-D6 DAB/FM Radio, CD player, Bluetooth speaker on a carpet

(Image credit: Future / Jennifer Allen)
  • Remote control
  • Extensive connectivity options
  • Alarm feature

The Pure Classic C-D6 is huge, more on which later. Fortunately, such abundant heft means there’s a lot going on here. The all-in-one unit is packed with options which are easily found by scrolling through the various dials.

At its heart, the Pure Classic C-D6 is a DAB/FM radio but it’s also possible to use it as a CD player, plug in a USB stick or pair a device with it via Bluetooth. In theory, you don’t actually need another speaker or music system in your living space as the Pure Classic C-D6 covers all the bases – it's also got an aux-in.

Its Bluetooth 5.3 is supremely stable and robust – no risk of drop outs here. Switching between the modes takes a mere moment, with no noticeable lag while you go through your options. It’s a relatively minor thing but one that’s immediately noticeable. 

The Pure Classic C-D6 is purely wired so there’s no point worrying about battery life – it needs to be plugged in. Again, due to the not insignificant weight of the Pure Classic C-D6, you won’t be moving it around anyhow. 

Features score: 5 / 5 

Pure Classic C-D6 review: Sound quality

Pure Classic C-D6 DAB/FM Radio, CD player, Bluetooth speaker playing Heart 90s radio on a carpet

(Image credit: Future / Jennifer Allen)
  • 2 x 15W speakers
  • Crisp sound
  • Limited bass

No one is buying the Pure Classic C-D6 and expecting energetic audio that captivates you in every way – reliability and convenience rule all here. That’s not to say that the Pure is poor quality aurally, but it lacks some oomph in the bass department. For instance, you may not notice the precise details of Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie.  

Instead, it does the job just fine while you listen to the radio. Heading over to a 90s-themed channel, I enjoyed being reminded of my youth with the kind of audio quality I expect from my car’s reasonable-but-unremarkable DAB radio. It’s the perfect line in fine. 

That trend continues regardless of how you listen. Bluetooth and even CD playing are available here and it all sounds just... fine. No complaints, but no wow moment either. 

Sound quality: 3.5 / 5 

Pure Classic C-D6 review: Design

Pure Classic C-D6 DAB/FM Radio, CD player, Bluetooth speaker with a remote control on a carpet

(Image credit: Future / Jennifer Allen)
  • It’s huge
  • Clearly laid-out buttons
  • Appealing display

The Pure Classic C-D6 is huge, even for what it offers. It’s designed to be fitted sturdily on a shelf or in a unit in your living room so that it can stay there forever more. Potentially, you don’t need any other basic audio equipment in that room so that’s fine but it’s good to plan ahead. 

The 15W speakers sit comfortably either side of a middle section devoted to the controls, screen and CD player. The TFT LCD display is fairly sharp and straightforward, with the buttons and dials around it making intuitive sense. Such a design means it’s easy to figure out everything you need to do and I didn’t really need to go anywhere near the manual to become a pro at navigating my way between all the Pure's various functions. There’s also a remote control for when you don’t fancy walking over to the machine. 

Turn the Pure Classic C-D6 around and there’s the aux-in port and USB port, neatly hidden away but also easily accessible when the time comes. 

It comes in either coffee black or cotton white with a faux wood exterior adding to the suitably retro vibe. I wasn’t a fan at first but the design did grow on me. It also looks and feels reasonably sturdy.

Design score: 4 / 5

Pure Classic C-D6 review: Value

Pure Classic C-D6 DAB/FM Radio, CD player, Bluetooth speaker with a remote control on a carpet

(Image credit: Future / Jennifer Allen)
  • Mid-range pricing
  • A strong investment

The Pure Classic C-D6 is designed to be a long-term commitment. Place it in your home and you’re all set for the long haul thanks to its extensive connectivity options. 

If you want a nice and simple solution for all your audio needs, it’s fairly well priced. There’s always something like the Roberts Revival RD70 but, though it looks nicer, that lacks features like CD-playing functionality.

Spend more and you could get the Pure Evoke Home, but that’s only really necessary if you want built-in Spotify Connect and podcasts rather than simply casting across from your phone. 

Value score: 4 / 5

Should you buy the Pure Classic C-D6?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if... 

Pure Classic C-D6 review: Also consider

How I tested the Pure Classic C-D6

  • Tested for 10 days
  • Used at home exclusively
  • Over 10 years of audio reviewing experience

The Pure Classic C-D6 lived happily in my home office for most of the 10 days I spent reviewing it, with a brief sojourn to my living room. Throughout the working day, it played in the background. 

That meant talk radio with a mixture of LBC, BBC Radio 5 Live, and BBC Radio 4. It also meant listening to music via the DAB stations as well as through Bluetooth and my iPhone 14 Pro playing Apple Music and Spotify. 

For the CD player, I dug out a few old CDs to see how things worked there. The Pure Classic C-D6 was my main source of audio-based entertainment while I worked.

Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve reviewed dozens of speakers, headphones and earbuds as well as more than a few DAB radios, too. These all covered a wide variety of price ranges. 

Roberts Revival Petite 2 review: a tiny, cute, and utterly irresistible DAB radio
12:00 pm | June 2, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers DAB Radios Gadgets Hi-Fi | Tags: | Comments: Off

Roberts Revival Petite 2: Two-minute review

It’s not often one can call a radio cute, but the Roberts Revival Petite 2 is exactly that. Somehow, it has a smaller footprint than my computer mouse and is also shorter than my guinea pig (who is also called Mouse, and is just as cute), but what you need to know is that this is a truly portable radio that can be easily tossed into your bag ready to emerge looking adorable. (Note: do not throw guinea pigs in bags.)

This isn’t a matter of form over function either, as the Roberts Revival Petite 2 offers surprisingly loud sound for the size. It’s crisp, clear and all you could want from a DAB radio which also doubles as a Bluetooth speaker. 

The only bulky part of the Roberts Revival Petite 2 is its solid, extendable aerial arm – but that’s a necessary and welcome addition. The model before it had a rubberised antenna string which could be attached to the back, but it really didn’t cut it for finding and maintaining an FM radio signal (yes, it does both). That’s solved now, meaning the Roberts Revival Petite 2 never misses an opportunity to shine.

At $99 / £99 / AU$195, it’s fairly competitively priced too. It’s a portable little beauty with a battery life of up to 20 hours before you need to connect the USB-C port to a power source. 

Simple to use with an attractive OLED screen, the Roberts Revival Petite 2 is that little gadget you take with you on your travels, to have music and radio following you whoever you go. It’s certainly vying for a place in my heart as one of the best DAB radios going and one of the best Bluetooth speakers of recent times. 

Roberts Revival Petite 2 review: Price and release date

Roberts Revival Petite 2 with a set of AirPods on top

(Image credit: Future)
  • Released November 2023
  • Cost £99 / €149 (sadly currently only available in the UK and Europe)

The Roberts Revival Petite 2 was released in the UK and Europe in November 2023. It costs £99 / €149 depending on your region (availability has not yet stretched to the US or Australia, sadly), so it’s fairly inexpensive for a DAB radio from a trusted name, but not the cheapest. 

It’s cheaper than something like the sizeable Pure Woodland, which is £40 more, but there’s always the increasingly dated looking and battery dependent Sony XDR-P1, which is slightly cheaper but lacks the winsome, retro-but-smaller looks of the Roberts model. 

The Pure Woodland was released in the UK and Europe in July 2023, costing £139.99 and €149.99 in those respective markets, which places it squarely in the mid-range market. All of which means Roberts has found a nice niche little market here, if the sound is good…  

Roberts Revival Petite 2 review: Features

Roberts Revival Petite 2 besie a picture frame, on a shlef

(Image credit: Future)
  • DAB And FM radio, plus Bluetooth speaker
  • 20 hour battery life
  • 3.5mm headphone jack

If you’ve looked at the original 2021 Roberts Revival Petite, you’ll notice what the sequel does so much better – it has a telescopic antenna which reaches out enthusiastically to ensure a strong signal whether listening via DAB or FM. 

The priority here is with the DAB radio side of things, as it automatically starts here, but it’s nice to have the option of an FM radio too – for more nostalgic listening sessions. 

A quick tap of the source button takes you through your options here, with Bluetooth 5.0 available for pairing up with your phone or tablet. It’s reliable and I didn’t suffer any dropouts. Switching between the sources is seamless too, so you don’t have to commit to anything specific if you don’t want to. Want to play a chosen song, then head straight back to the DAB station you were listening to? You’re all set here.

The Roberts Revival Petite 2 reports up to 20 hours of battery life and in my time with it, that’s about right. This is a distinctly low maintenance radio in every way. It just happily ticks along in the background with a straightforward USB-C cable for charging as needed. There’s also a headphone jack on the back if you want to listen more privately using some of the best wired headphones (but in case it needs to be mentioned, Bluetooth connectivity is one way; you can't send the Petite 2's tunes to a set of wireless Bluetooth headphones, say – you'd have to use your phone). An alarm function can be accessed by holding in the source button, making the Petite 2 a great option for your bedside table too. 

Features score: 5 / 5 

Roberts Revival Petite 2 review: Sound quality

The Roberts Revival Petite 2 closeup to show the telescopic antenna

(Image credit: Future)
  • 40mm driver
  • Surprisingly lively
  • Huge volume range for its size

The Roberts Revival Petite 2 is a very small radio, so of course you shouldn’t come here expecting an exceptional aural journey of discovery and oodles of snappy bass clout. However, the device is surprisingly lively. 

Catching up on nostalgia with Heart 90s FM, songs like Queen and George Michael’s Somebody to Love shone through still sounding detailed and crisp. More dance-focused tracks like Eiffel 65’s Blue still sound good even if the bass isn’t quite as hefty as you’d like in an ideal world. Switch over to talk-show stuff and the rants on LBC Radio sound crisp and clear. 

Volume levels are also surprisingly impressive. Most of the time, I was content listening to the Roberts Revival Petite 2 at increment levels 4-6, but you can crank it up higher. The higher volumes do lead to some distortion, but I’m not convinced anyone will need to go past 14 or 15 on its 0-20 scale. The Roberts Revival Petite 2 is pretty loud for the purpose, quite early on in its volume range.

Sound quality: 4 / 5 

Roberts Revival Petite 2 review: Design

Roberts Revival Petite 2 on a shelf in a house

(Image credit: Future)
  • Iconic Roberts design
  • Easy to use buttons and control knob
  • Incredibly small

Is it possible to fall in love with a radio? The Roberts Revival Petite 2 might make you question some things. It looks fantastic. It has Roberts’ iconic styling which is always appealing, but it’s the sheer size of the thing that makes you fall for it. It’s not as long as my computer mouse, has a lower profile than a mug or a canned beverage, and is dinky in every sense of the word (except the sound). 

Living up to its name means the Roberts Revival Petite 2 is adorable. Just lift up the antenna and it’s all set to make your life better. Turning it on instantly switches to the DAB side of its output with a clear source button allowing you to switch to FM or Bluetooth. The buttons are chunky and attractive looking, with perhaps the only flaw being that they could have a tactile bobble on them to help those with sight issues. 

The dial on the middle is a good size and perfect for moving through the channels with a satisfying “clonk” under your fingers. You will find yourself originally thinking the dial adjusts the volume though – a minor irritant that you’ll learn to get past. A small but clear OLED display helps you see what you’re picking. It’s tiny but clear enough, with the option to dim it as needed. 

There are seven different colors with the one I tested being the midnight blue variety. Others include sunburst yellow, duck egg, pastel cream, pop orange, dusty pink, and black. And they all look delightfully classy.

Design score: 5 / 5

Roberts Revival Petite 2 review: Value

Roberts Revival Petite 2 on a gray shelf in a sitting room

(Image credit: Future)
  • Mid-range pricing
  • Incredibly stylish for the price
  • Good long-term investment

Core competition for the Roberts Revival Petite 2 include radios such as the Pure Woodland (more robust but less attractive) and the cheaper Sony XDR-P1 which looks hideous in direct comparison. 

So, you can get something cheaper than the Roberts Revival Petite 2, but nothing that looks as good as this – or as lightweight to carry around. 

Value score: 5 / 5

Should you buy the Roberts Revival Petite 2?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if... 

Roberts Revival Petite 2 review: Also consider

How I tested the Roberts Revival Petite 2

Roberts Revival Petite 2 with a teapot and reed diffuser, to show the size of this tiny radio

(Image credit: Future)
  • Used the Roberts Revival Petite 2 over 10 days
  • Listened to DAB radio, FM radio and music via iPhone 14 Pro and Bluetooth
  • Over 10 years experience testing audio equipment

It’s high praise that the Roberts Revival Petite 2 is one of those rare devices that I don’t particularly want to box up and say goodbye to. It fits into my living space perfectly, both in terms of practicality and aesthetics. 

It spent most of its time with me either on the window near where I work, or following me around the house – in the kitchen while I cleaned, the living room while relaxing, anywhere I needed music.

Sometimes it was connected via USB-C but often, I just ran it off the onboard battery, before plugging it in every once in a while when it wasn’t in use. 

It is so easy to use, it made me listen to the radio more – and reminded me of how nostalgic certain music stations can make me feel. That meant listening to a lot of Heart 90s and 00s, but also I listened to a lot of talk radio including LBC and Radio 5 Live.

When using Bluetooth, I connected my iPhone 14 Pro to it and listened via Spotify and Apple Music. 

iFi Zen DAC 3 review: striking the perfect balance between price and performance
11:00 am | June 1, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi | Tags: | Comments: Off

iFi Zen DAC 3 review: Two-minute review

The iFi Zen DAC 3's arrival comes with high expectations. iFi had hit it out of the park with the original Zen DAC, and hit it further still with the next model's replacement, which means the pressure of expectation on this Zen DAC 3 is significant.

Visually, it’s an evolution rather than a revolution – and that’s the case where specification is concerned too (although the switch from USB-B to USB-C is very welcome indeed). At a glance, the biggest change of all is in the asking price – this latest model breaks the $200 / £200 / AU$200 barrier, and not by pennies.

It turns out to be well worth it, though. Whether it’s used to power a desktop system or as a way of introducing your laptop or smartphone to your full-on audio system as a credible component, the Zen DAC 3 does sterling work. It’s a musical, informative and entertaining listen, a device that is able to analyse a recording fully but not at the expense of engagement. 

All of which means it’s without meaningful competition among the best portable DACs where the price/performance/functionality ratio is concerned. Which in turn means I am very excited indeed by what Zen DAC 4 might be like…  

iFi Zen DAC 3 review: Price and release date

A close up of the side of the iFi Zen DAC 3

(Image credit: Future)
  • Became available to buy on April 16, 2024
  • Priced at $229 / £229 / AU$229

The iFi Zen DAC 3 is on sale now, and in America it goes for $229. In the United Kingdom, it’s priced at £229, while in Australia it's AU$229. So for once, Antipodean customers aren’t getting an overtly rough deal – quite the opposite, in fact.

This represents a fairly chunky price rise over the outgoing Zen DAC 2 and original iFi Zen Dac, it’s worth noting. If the increase in performance over its predecessor is similar to the increase in price, though, it will be well worth it…

iFi Zen DAC 3 review: Features

A close up of the bottom of the iFi Zen DAC 3

(Image credit: Future)
  • PCM 32bit/768kHz, DSD512 and MQA decoding
  • Fixed and variable output gain
  • Balanced and unbalanced outputs

First things first: powering the iFi Zen DAC 3 can be done a couple of ways. The rear panel features a USB-C socket for data transfer – but this can also be used to power the iFi at the same time, which simplifies cable management no end. Of course, there’s also a 5V power socket for connection to mains power – powered this way, the USB-C is free to handle just data and a cleaner signal path is the result.

Incoming data is processed by a 16-core XMOS microcontroller before it’s delivered to a Burr Brown four-channel ‘True Native’ DAC chipset that’s capable of dealing with 32bit/768kHz PCM files, DSD512 and double-speed DXD. ‘True Native’ refers to the chipset’s separate PCM and DSD pathways, meaning both file types stay bit-perfect in their native form right until the moment of conversion to analogue.   

The Zen DAC 3 is an MQA decoder too, so Audirvana, Roon and Tidal users can have the full ‘three unfold’ decoding process take place on board rather than have their source player perform the first couple of unfolds. 

Getting the converted audio information out again can be done in a few different ways. If you’re using the Zen DAC 3 with headphones, you’ve a choice of 6.3mm unbalanced or 4.4mm balanced outputs – both sockets are on the fascia. If you’re sending the analogue signal to an external amplifier, powered speaker of what-have-you, there are unbalanced stereo RCA outputs and a balanced 4.4mm output on the rear fascia. If you’re using one of these last two outputs methods, you’ll also need to use the ‘variable/fixed’ switch that sit between them – ‘variable’ allows the iFi to function as a pre-amplifier, with volume control retained, while ‘fixed’ means the iFi becomes just another line-level source.   

The analogue signal can be subject to a couple of processing options before it leaves the Zen DAC 3, too. ‘Power Match’ occurs at the amplification stage, and is a gain boost for more demanding headphones. ‘XBass+’, meanwhile, is designed to ‘enhance bass without compromising the clarity of the midrange’ – readers of a certain age will recognise a ‘loudness’ button when they see one.  

Features score: 5/5

iFi Zen DAC 3 review: Sound quality

A close up of the dial on the iFi Zen DAC 3

(Image credit: Future)
  • Punchy, insightful sound
  • Great tonal balance 
  • Open and well-defined 

To be perfectly honest, the only way you can prevent the iFi Zen DAC 3 sounding like corking value for money is by using hopeless headphones or feeding it badly compromised digital audio files. As long as you avoid the sort of poverty-spec stuff served up on Spotify’s free tier and don’t use headphones that don’t cut the mustard, the Zen DAC 3 will be an endlessly informative, entertaining and, above all, musical listen.

So with a pair of FiiO FT3 headphones attached to the 4.4mm output and a 24bit/96kHz file of Fugazi’s Waiting Room playing, the iFi is an uncomplicatedly enjoyable machine. It gets all the technic aspects of music-making right – many of them in fine style – but it never loses sight of the fact that music is an entertainment and needs to be perceptible as such. 

The soundstage the Zen DAC 3 conjures up is open, properly defined and allows every element of the recording the space it needs in which to express itself. The spaces and silences are given their due prominence, and despite the rigorous nature of the separation here, the entire thing hangs together as a complete and unified whole. If you switch ‘XSpace’ on the big stage becomes bigger still – but it’s at the expense of a little of the previously straight-edged definition.

The tonal balance is just fractionally warmer than neutral, but that’s no bad thing and it doesn’t prevent the iFi both controlling its low frequencies properly and offering a lot of variation where low-end tone and texture are concerned. In fact, this level of detail and insight is available throughout the frequency range – but the Zen DAC 3 never sounds drily analytical. It’s simply attentive to both the broad and the fine details in a recording, and is able to contextualise them confidently.

There’s real positivity about the way the iFi expresses rhythms, and it is more than potent enough to make the big dynamic variations in this recording absolutely obvious. It’s similarly adept with the more nuanced dynamics of harmonic variation, too, and does particularly good work in revealing the character and attitude, as well as the technique, of singers (along with all the other midrange information). 

It’s a punchy and rapid listen, attacks the top of the frequency range with proper determination and offers clean frequency response from the top end to the bottom. ‘XBass+’ is probably too much of a good thing, but in virtually every other respect the iFi Zen DAC 3 is an uncomplicated pleasure to listen to.  

Sound quality score: 5/5 

iFi Zen DAC 3 review: Design

A close up of the ports on the iFi Zen DAC 3

(Image credit: Future)
  • 'Sunlit bronze’ fascia controls 
  • 35 x 158 x 115mm (HxWxD)
  • 456g

The vaguely trapezoid shape of many an iFi product is an established design vocabulary now, and at first glance you’d be hard-pushed to tell the Zen DAC 3 from either of the machines that preceded it. 

There have been some changes where design is concerned, though - mostly to the fascia that is recessed into the single piece of curved metal that serves as the bulk of the chassis. The physical controls (a small push/push button to switch ‘Power Match’ on or off, a slightly larger equivalent to deal with ‘XBass+’ and a relatively large volume control in the centre) are all in a finish iFi rather flowerily calls ‘sunlit bronze’ – and there’s a strip of material in the same colour running the width of the fascia. It encircles each of those controls and both the 6.3mm unbalanced and 4.4mm balanced headphone outputs.  

This division allows the fascia of the Zen DAC 3 to be two-tone - below the line it’s the silver/grey colour of the main body, above it’s darker and the surface is slightly hammered in texture. 

Around the edge of the volume control there’s a light that changes colour depending on the type and size of digital audio file the iFi is dealing with. If the device is below you (sitting on your desktop, for instance) it’s just about visible – look at the Zen DAC 3 from dead ahead, though, and it disappears.

The desktop is a good spot for the iFi, for many reasons. As far as ‘design’ is concerned, its 35 x 158 x 115mm (HxWxD) dimensions will do nicely – small enough to leave space on the desk for other stuff, big enough to let you know it means business.  

Design score: 5/5

iFi Zen DAC 3 review: Usability and setup

A close up of the ports on the iFi Zen DAC 3

(Image credit: Future)
  • USB-C input for both power and data
  • XBass+’ and ‘Power Match’ analogue processing modes
  • Can be used in conjunction with Zen CAN headphone amp 

As befits a product with such narrow, focused functionality, the iFi Zen DAC 3 is simplicity itself to set up and use. For once, a ‘quick start’ guide is more than adequate.

The USB-C socket on the rear is how digital audio information gets on board, and it can also power the Zen DAC 3 if the 5V power input isn’t an option in your use case. After that, it’s simply a matter of connecting one of the iFi’s analogue outputs – one of the two headphone sockets on the fascia, or the 4.4mm balanced or unbalanced stereo RCA outputs on the rear. If you’re using one of the rear outputs, you then select ‘variable’ or ‘fixed’ depending on whether you want to use the Zen DAC 3’s volume control or not. 

Usability and setup score: 5/5

iFi Zen DAC 3 review: Value

A close up of the iFi Zen DAC 3

(Image credit: Future)
  • Priced higher than the Zen DAC 2
  • Great value for money

Safe to say the iFi Zen DAC 3 represents good value in every respect. It’s properly built and finished, it’s specified to do a thorough job, and with the price uppermost in your mind it’s a very capable performer indeed. There are better desktop headphone amp/DACs available, but they’re all more expensive and not by just a little.

Value score: 5/5

Should I buy the iFi Zen DAC 3?

Buy it if... 

Don't buy it if... 

iFi Zen DAC 3 review: Also consider

How I tested the iFi Zen DAC 3

The iFi Zen DAC 3 on a table

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for a week
  • With an Apple MacBook Pro and Samsung Galaxy S3
  • Alongside a variety of headphones and file formats

I used the Zen DAC 3 at my desk for a solid week or so, mostly to deal with digital audio information stored on an Apple MacBook Pro but I also streamed music via a Samsung Galaxy S23

I used a variety of headphones, which is how I established that iFi isn’t all that keen on inferior models, and a wide variety of music of various file types and sizes, which is how I realised the iFi is a bit sniffy about really compressed content. 

I tried the Sonos Roam 2, and the extra button really makes all the difference
10:00 pm | May 27, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Wireless & Bluetooth Speakers | Comments: Off

Indeed, alongside the much-anticipated reveal of the Sonos Ace, the audio brand quietly dropped the second-generation Roam. The Sonos Roam 2 sticks with a compact, ultra-portable design that doesn’t take many big swings. Moreover, the price is still $179 / £179 / AU$299.

I’ve had the opportunity to spend a few days with one – and no, that isn’t enough time for a full review yet. So, for now, I’m not going to go deep into the sound quality or battery life, but these are my early first impressions of the Roam 2. Sonos made one big change that really makes a good wireless speaker even better.

Finally, a Bluetooth button

As I alluded to above, Sonos added a button here. You may recall that the first generation Roam only had a single button at the back, which was used for powering up the speaker and swapping to a Bluetooth connection. It was easy to cause fumbles in that you couldn’t just get set up with a simple press right out of the box but rather needed to add it to the broader Sonos wireless ecosystem. Remember, the Roam, and now Roam 2, doubles as a Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speaker. 

The fix? Sonos added a dedicated Bluetooth button on the back, and folks, it gets the job done. I simply powered on the Roam 2, in this lovely shade of blue named “Wave,” and was off to the races. I then held the Bluetooth button for a second or two and connected to the device from my iPhone. Within seconds, I was able to stream Ghosts by Bruce Springsteen and So American by Olivia Rodrigo. It was as easy as that; the Roam 2 really does the job of being just a Bluetooth speaker much better and more succinctly than its predecessor. 

Of course, when it comes time to add the speaker to the Sonos ecosystem, the app – yes, the new one – will guide you through that process. For me, I had to hold the volume up and volume down buttons on the top of the Roam for a few seconds, and then it was added to my Sonos ecosystem

Aesthetically, the Bluetooth button is the only major change to the Roam 2. There is still a USB-C port on the back, which is still fit for only charging, and the power button. The top is also home to the same four physical buttons as the original: microphone on or off, volume down, play or pause, and volume up. The front grille still features a Sonos logo, but it doesn’t stick out as much since it’s painted to match the color of your speaker. 

The Roam 2 can still rock, and the battery is rated at the same 10 hours

The original Roam wasn’t shy about producing vibrant, loud sound, and from listening to a few songs on the Roam 2, it still meets that level. TechRadar actually called the original “the best Bluetooth speaker on the planet,” and while there are more competitors, the Roam 2 is setting itself up for high performance.

While playing Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, the speaker mimics the wall of sound effect quite nicely, letting you hear the various elements of the mix. “Racing in the Street” sounds powerful, highlighting the piano, Springtseen’s vocals, and the clash of the rest of the band kicking in – saxophone, bass, backing guitars, and drums all at once. 

It also handles pop music well, like bad idea right? by Olivia Rodrigo and I Can Do It With a Broken Heart by Taylor Swift. Both vocals come through clearly, regardless of where they fall in the range. The Roam 2 also does an excellent job of producing the rest of the mix with fairly clear separation.

Again, these are not final thoughts, but the Sonos Roam 2 sounds great, and I look forward to testing it in the elements as I journey down to the Jersey Shore. It's IPX67-rated and can handle dirt, sand, and water. 

What I haven’t been able to test fully or all that much as of yet is the battery life. Sonos promises it still meets 10 hours of playback, but in the world of Bluetooth speakers, that really isn’t all that long. I’m hopeful that maybe there are some under-the-hood improvements, but at the minimum, I hope it meets the full promise for playback. Again, volume and Bluetooth vs Wi-Fi connection will impact this.

The outlook

From a selection of new shades to keeping with the audio quality we’ve come to expect, the Sonos Roam 2 is making an excellent first impression. I especially like the “Wave” blue option and appreciate that it’s not a hassle to set up if I’m only looking for Bluetooth. I also think that makes it more appealing to folks outside the Sonos ecosystem. 

So, while it’s not a redesign, adding more audio hardware, or even a bigger battery, it’s a solid quality of life improvement that may encourage you to get a Roam 2 if you’ve been waiting or might make you give a Sonos speaker a chance. 

If you’re already sold, Sonos is already taking orders and shipping the Roam 2 in five shades: Black, White, Olive, Sunset, or Wave.

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Klipsch The Three Plus review: more than the sum of its parts
1:00 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Speakers | Tags: | Comments: Off

Klipsch The Three Plus: One-minute review

The Klipsch The Three Plus is a slightly awkwardly named wireless speaker with ambition. Despite being the rough size and price of some of the best wireless speakers and looking quite like a wireless speaker too, The Three Plus is, in fact, an all-in-one audio system. An all-in-one system with quite impressive functionality and specification, what’s more.

A selection of wired and wireless connection options means the Klipsch can support quite an array of sources, up to and including a turntable. It’s able to deal with fairly hi-res content without alarms (as long as it’s via an appropriate source). It’s a good-looking, well-made and quite tactile device, and it’s happy to sit more-or-less anywhere that it’s not too boxed in. It’s even got a pretty decent control app.

And in almost every circumstance, it’s an enjoyably upfront and lively listen. Detail levels are fairly high, determination to attack a tune from the bottom up is obvious – but the Klipsch is not blunt or lacking in finesse. Heard through any of its inputs other than the phono stage, it confidently combines attack with dexterity. The phono stage itself, though, is not the most accomplished when it comes to drive or detail retrieval – which means it’s a ‘nice to have’ rather than your go-to input. Anyone after a single-box system to accompany their turntable might have to save up for just a little longer… 

Klipsch The Three Plus on a gray table

Q Acoustics' music system know-how, all the way to the floor…  (Image credit: Future)

Klipsch The Three Plus: Price and release date

  • $399 / £379 / AU$529
  • Announced September 25, 2023

The Klipsch The Three Plus is on sale now, and in the United Kingdom it’s priced at £379. In the United States it sells for $399, while in Australia the going rate is AU$529. They were first announced on September 25, 2023.

On one hand, in terms of form and function there’s a lot of stuff here for that money here. On the other hand, the Klipsch is attempting to muscle in on territory already hotly contested by brands as credible as Denon, Panasonic and Ruark (to name just three). There’s only one way to find out if The Three Plus makes any sense or not…

Klipsch the Three Plus on white background, in a kitchen

(Image credit: Future)

Klipsch The Three Plus review: Features

  • 120 watts of power
  • 2 x 57mm full-range drivers, 1 x 133mm subwoofer, 2 x 133mm passive radiators
  • Bluetooth 5.3 with SBC and AAC codec compatibility

On the outside, The Three Plus might seem to be featureless at first glance. The extraordinarily brief control interface on its top surface, which consists of an ‘input selection’ button and little coloured confirmatory LED light plus a nicely tactile volume control wheel, is pretty much your lot — until you look at the back of the box.

Here’s where your physical inputs live. There’s a digital optical input (good for resolutions of up to 24bit/96kHz), a stereo RCA input that’s switchable between line-level and phono level (so the Klipsch is ready to deal with a turntable if you so desire) and a USB-C input that lets smartphones, thumb-drives, PMPs and what-have-you join your system. The socket can be used for reverse charging, and Klipsch specifically suggests it’s capable of powering a WiiM Mini in order to facilitate network streaming too.

Wireless connectivity, meanwhile, is handled by Bluetooth in 5.3 guise – it’s compatible with SBC and AAC codecs. And the Bluetooth chipset Klipsch has deployed means The Three Plus features ‘Broadcast’ mode – which means the speaker can transmit (as well as receive) Bluetooth information. Transmissions are limited to mono, true, but as many as 10 ‘Broadcast’-enabled speakers can receive and play the signal; the scope for a simple, and extensive, multi-speaker system is obvious. Bear in mind the speaker(s) receiving the signal cannot broadcast it any further, so the range of your system will depend entirely on the primary speaker.       

Once your audio information is on board, the digital stuff is pored over by a digital-to-analogue converter that can definitely deal with 24bit/96kHz content – whether or not it needs to downscale this resolution of content is a question Klipsch seems unwilling to answer. The analogue stuff, of course, needs no such attention. Once it’s in the analogue domain, it’s amplified by an all-in total of 120 watts of Class D power before delivery to what Klipsch describes as a 2.1-channel speaker driver array. This consists of a couple of 57mm full-range drivers, bolstered by a 133mm subwoofer that’s supported by a pair of 133mm passive radiators. 

Features score: 5/5

Klipsch the Three Plus from above

(Image credit: Future)

Klipsch The Three Plus review: Sound quality

  • Assertive, upfront and enjoyable sound
  • Maintains its sonic characteristics in most circumstances
  • Considers ‘loud’ to be a total virtue

Quite a lot of this review is spent discussing how usefully compact and elegant a device the Klipsch The Three Plus is. But now the talk turns to sound quality – and it’s safe to say there’s nothing compact or especially elegant about the way it sounds. This is a big, bold-sounding device, and while it’s not lacking the poise that might make the description ‘inelegant’ seem appropriate, I get the strong impression that decorum is not uppermost in its mind.

With one notable exception, The Three Plus maintains its attitude across any of its inputs. No matter if you’re streaming a FLAC of John Cale’s Fear is a Man’s Best Friend via Tidal, listening to a 24bit/96kHz file of Weyes Blood’s And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow via the USB-C input or a CD of Double Drums by Peace Orchestra, the Klipsch is consistent. It came to get down, and it wants to take you with it.

The easiest way to create an impression of sonic ‘excitement’ is via the lower frequencies, of course, and the Klipsch is far from shy here. Bass presence is considerable – but it’s properly controlled and carries a lot of information regarding the details of tone and texture, so The Three Plus stops short of being a blunt instrument. If it’s frankly unlikely punch you want from your unassuming little tabletop device, though, you came to the right place. The Klipsch absolutely motors through low-frequency stuff, keeping momentum levels high and rhythms on the front foot.

The midrange just about manages to keep its head above water, though, and here just as elsewhere The Three Plus extracts a very worthwhile amount of detail. It’s able to grant vocalists the emotional weight and character they require, and it’s actually quite communicative. The presentation is spacious enough to allow the midrange to operate without too much hassle from the bottom end and, while there’s a fairly obvious point-source of sound, the Klipsch never sounds crowded.

Integration through the frequency range is good, and at the top end there’s just about enough bite and shine to balance out the enthusiasm of the bottom end. Tonality is on the warm side of neutral, but not fatally so – and despite the number of drivers and radiators at work here, there’s very agreeable togetherness and singularity about the way The Three Plus presents even quite complex recordings.

The Klipsch is one of those devices that sounds quite loud even when it’s playing quite quietly – its upfront attitude and generally assertive nature are always apparent. But there’s still a fair amount of dynamic headroom available, even if it doesn’t so much go from ‘quiet’ to ‘loud’ but rather from ‘loud’ to ‘louder still’. Even at quite oppressive volume, though, it’s quite composed and doesn’t sound stressed.

The one outlier here is the phono stage. A vinyl alternative of Fear is a Man’s Best Friend lacks a fair bit of the streamed version’s drive and attack – it’s strangely matter-of-fact and lacking both dynamism and insight by comparison. It’s by no means a disaster, the phono stage here. But it doesn’t take all that much of a listen to establish that it’s the input through which The Three Plus sounds least confident and least engaging.

Sound quality score: 4.5/5

Klipsch the Three Plus closeup

(Image credit: Future)

Klipsch The Three Plus review: Design

  • 178 x 355 x 213mm (HxWxD)
  • Walnut or matte black real wood veneer finishes
  • 4.8kg

Obviously you’ll make your own mind up about the way The Three Plus looks – but for my money, the combination of a surface that’s covered in a real wood veneer (matte black as well as the walnut of my review sample is available), acoustic cloth tightly wrapped around all four sides, and a little metal strip housing the product’s few physical controls is very nice indeed. The Klipsch, I reckon, looks and feels like a premium item.

At 178 x 355 x 213mm (HxWxD) it’s nicely proportioned, and can be as discreet just as readily as it can be a feature of your decor. Despite the way its drivers and passive radiators are arranged, it’s relaxed about positioning (up to a point – it won’t thank you for being slotted into a space where it’s boxed in on all sides). And the standard of build and finish is certainly up to the sort of  level the asking price demands.

Obviously, if you want to exploit its wider connectivity rather than just use it as a Bluetooth speaker, you’ll need to give it a bit of room – all its physical connections are at the rear, after all. Other than these practical considerations, though, the design of the Klipsch is as accommodating and as gratifying as can be.

Design score: 5/5

Klipsch triptych of the app screen grabs

(Image credit: Klipsch)

Klipsch The Three Plus: Usability and setup

  • Klipsch ‘Connect’ control app
  • A (very) few physical controls
  • Self-contained simplicity

It’s difficult to know how the Klipsch The Three Plus could be any friendlier or more straightforward. As long as you take a moment’s care when positioning it (make sure surfaces to the left and right aren’t too close), it’s an absolute piece of cake to live with.

You can control volume using the wheel on the top of the cabinet, and you can cycle through your input options here too. Otherwise, it’s all about the Klipsch ‘Connect’ control app that’s free for iOS and Android. The app is clean and logical, reasonably responsive and useful – here’s where you can check for updates, control playback, select input, fiddle with a three-band EQ (and its five presets) and deploy ‘night mode’ (in order to squash dynamic range and subdue low-frequency response).

Usability and setup score: 5/5 

Klipsch The Three Plus: Value

Obviously there are the few little issues with ultimate sound quality, but taken on the whole it’s difficult to argue with the value that’s on offer here. Consider the quality of build and finish of The Three Plus, its decorative nature, its extended functionality and its generally very agreeable sound – and then consider how much Klipsch is asking.

Value score: 4.5/5

Klipsch The Three Plus review: Should you buy it?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Klipsch The Three Plus review: Also consider

Klipsch The Three Plus review: How I tested

  • Tested every available input
  • Played all sorts of music and different file types
  • Tried it out in a range of locations

I tested the Klipsch The Three Plus over the course of a working week, and listened to it pretty much all day every day. I positioned it on an equipment rack, on a bookshelf and on a chest of drawers. I used each of its physical inputs at some point (to listen to a turntable, a CD player and a portable music player) as well as connecting a smartphone and the same portable music player via Bluetooth. I played all sorts of music, and in terms of digital audio I listened to many different types and sizes of file. I listened to it at big volumes, and as quietly as it is prepared to go (which is not, as I mentioned, perhaps as quiet as it might be).

JBL Xtreme 4 review: an outdoorsy, bold-sounding Bluetooth speaker that even harnesses AI
12:00 pm | May 24, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Wireless & Bluetooth Speakers | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

JBL Xtreme 4: Two-minute review

“Unleash powerful sound everywhere” is the tagline of JBL’s Xtreme 4 Bluetooth speaker, but does it live up to the hype? The short answer is, well… yes. The Xtreme 4 paints a dynamic aural picture in a bid to feature among the best Bluetooth speakers to have graced our testing process, with well-defined high frequencies, full-bodied mids and a pumping bass. It’s worth flagging, though, that its true power isn’t let loose straight out of the box, especially at low frequencies, although that’s nothing the JBL Portable app can’t solve through its customizable EQ settings. In addition, the Xtreme 4 can serve up a very good sonic experience at loud volumes without being hampered by distortion.

It doesn’t drastically depart from the JBL Xtreme 3, but the newest model in the product line brings some cool new features to set itself apart. These include AI Sound Boost, which predicts speaker movement and response to deliver “better and more powerful” sound, and Auracast Bluetooth technology. However, the Xtreme 4’s biggest upgrade is to its battery life, with a base playtime of 24 hours, extendable by a further six thanks to the addition of Playtime Boost. 

The Xtreme 4 also has the IP67 rating, proving it is both waterproof and dustproof. This makes it a solid, great-sounding and dependable pick as one of the best waterproof speakers if you're heading to a pool party or beach (you lucky thing, you). 

So far, you’re probably thinking that this can’t get too much better, but there’s a ‘but’. The main thing holding the Xtreme 4 back is its high price point, which stands at $379.95 / £329.99 / AU$499.95 (note that it is only available in the UK at the time of writing). There are a handful of similarly-sized alternative speakers which offer great audio quality and smart design at a more reasonable cost, meaning the Xtreme 4 isn’t likely to win any ‘Best Value’ prizes.

Despite its protection against the elements and practical design features, the Xtreme 4 isn’t the prettiest Bluetooth speaker either (at least in my view), with similarly-priced competitors (such as the Ultimate Ears Epicboom) pulling off a similar look and sound quality, but with a bit more class. That’s not to say that it’s abhorrent though, in fact, you may even be a fan of its rugged and outdoorsy look – something you can double down on with the Black Camo color option. 

If you’re a loyal JBL fan, the Xtreme 4 is well worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for a larger speaker that's a true all-rounder. However, if you already have the Xtreme 3, you’re open to buying from other brands or you're on a tight budget, you may want to consider better value competitors – or wait for a sale.

JBL Xtreme 4's passive bass radiator closeup, on pink background

(Image credit: Future)

JBL Xtreme 4 review: Price and release date

  • Released on March 14, 2024 (UK), date TBC for US and Australia
  • Price: $379.95 / £329.99 / AU$499.95

The JBL Xtreme 4 launched in March 2024 in the UK, so it's perhaps a little odd that launch date is yet to be revealed for the US and Australia.

Though it may not command the eye-watering prices you’d expect to see from a top-drawer brand (think Bang & Olufsen), the Xtreme 4 is still quite the investment. So, if you’re on a tighter budget, there may be better choices for you.

For ultimate portability you could opt for the slightly smaller but still brilliant JBL Charge 5, priced at $179.95 / £169.99 / AU$199.95, or for more of a party-ready speaker you could nab the eye-catching Tribit Stormbox Blast for $199.99 / £162 (about AU$300).

JBL Xtreme 4 review: Specs

JBL Xtreme 4's strap closeup, on pink background

The strap is fine, but a handle might be helpful (Image credit: Future)

JBL Xtreme 4 review: Features

  • Top notch battery life of up to 30 hours
  • AI-enabled sound refinement
  • Auracast Bluetooth technology

It will probably come as little surpriise to learn that the JBL Xtreme 4 isn’t a huge overhaul of the Xtreme 3. Neither of the speakers are too far apart in terms of weight or size, and both are IP67 rated, have a built-in power bank, as well as Bass Radiators. 

However, the Xtreme 4 brings some new features to the party to set itself apart, such as AI Sound Boost. This essentially utilizes an AI algorithm to predict speaker movement and response in real-time, helping the Xtreme 4 to deliver “better and more powerful” sound, and reduce distortion at loud volumes. No, it's not going to predict your music tastes or answer calls, but it will help the sonic chops. 

A second new addition is that of Auracast, a Bluetooth technology ensuring that there is no limit on the amount of JBL devices (which also have Auracast) that you can connect at once. This is a neat feature if you want to play music in multiple rooms at a party, using the newest standard. You can also rest assured that JBL speakers without Auracast, such as the Xtreme 3, will still be able to pair with the Xtreme 4, thanks to the PartyBoost feature on the JBL Portable app.

Without doubt the biggest (and best) difference between the Xtreme 4 and its predecessor is the far superior battery life. JBL says that the new model has a base battery life of 24 hours, nine hours longer than its older sibling, which is more than enough for most listeners. When I left the Xtreme 4 playing music at 30% volume for 2 hours, it only lost 5%, so there’s no need to doubt JBL’s claim. The speaker can also be fully recharged in just 3.5 hours.

If you need to squeeze a bit more out of the Xtreme 4, the JBL Portable app has a valuable feature called Playtime Boost. This can be activated to grant up to six hours of additional playtime, and ramps up the volume of the speaker to consume less battery. One downside to Playtime Boost, however, is that when active, EQ settings are disabled, meaning you’ll miss out on unleashing the potential of the Xtreme 4’s bass – more on this later. Overall, Playtime Boost makes for a strong addition though, and you won’t find too many Bluetooth speakers of the Xtreme 4’s quality with such long battery life.

On the topic of playtime, you can go one step further to keep the party going thanks to the Xtreme 4’s replaceable battery – yes, really. You can unscrew the base of the speaker to swap in a new, rechargeable battery with ease, though it should be noted that additional batteries must be purchased separately. Charging-wise, the Xtreme 4 opts for a minimalist approach with a single USB-C port only, as opposed to the Xtreme 3's inclusion of a USB-A output port as well. The Xtreme 4’s USB-C port can be used to charge the speaker itself or to give external devices some extra juice. 

If you’re satisfied with the Xtreme 3’s battery life, I’d argue that the other new additions don’t set the Xtreme 4 apart too much. It's also important to note that since the summer of 2023, it has been possible to buy upgraded versions of the JBL Charge 5 and Boombox 3 with Wi-Fi (and Atmos for the Boombox), while the Xtreme 4 really is 'just' a Bluetooth speaker. That said, when I compared the Xtreme 4 against the lower-cost Anker Soundcore Boom 2, I certainly felt that JBL’s speaker had more depth and verve sonically, particularly due to the presence of that AI Sound Boost.

  • Features score: 4.5/5

JBL Xtreme 4 closeup of the control panel on pink background

(Image credit: Future)

JBL Xtreme 4 review: Sound quality

  • Serves up well-rounded sonic experience 
  • Audio elements are distinct with highs sounding particularly sweet 
  • Bass disappointing out of the box, but booms with EQ adjustment

The initial feeling I got when firing up the JBL Xtreme 4 and throwing on Moloko’s I Want You, was one of disappointment – more specifically a disappointment with its deep bass output. For a portable Bluetooth speaker, which you’d expect to get its fair share of use during occasions with plenty of background noise, a powerful bass is fundamental for a great listening experience. For a model costing in excess of $370, and claiming to pump out “next level massive” sound, I expected a higher level of impact from the Xtreme 4 (not least due to its explosive name). 

Luckily, my disappointment was quickly quashed by the JBL Portable app’s EQ settings, which made a world of difference. When I switched to a custom setup, in which the lowest frequencies were considerably dialled up, the Xtreme 4 showed what it was made of – and its bouncing Bass Radiators were well and truly put to work. The pumping bass in I Want You now hit the depths that I’d been thirsting for, so you will want to steer clear of the default ‘JBL Signature’ EQ preset if you’re looking to get the best out of bass-heavy bangers.

Even when compared it to the Soundcore Boom 2 (which although cheaper, has an identity forged around its powerful low-end output), Black Eye by Allie X’s deep bass-laden opening sounded far more energetic and controlled on the Xtreme 4. The Xtreme 4 was very competent at bridging deep bass to the mid-range and maintaining clarity with more demanding audio profiles.

Aside from bass, the Xtreme 4 is very competent when delivering a strong audio performance across the frequencies, and boasts an improved response compared to its predecessor at 44 Hz – 20 kHz (53.5 Hz – 20 kHz for the Xtreme 3). Despite it not going beyond the realms of human hearing through the treble, I would argue that this speaker’s ability to produce crisp highs may be its strongest asset, with Rains again by Solji making for a particularly enjoyable listen straight out of the box. The Xtreme 4 beautifully delivered the track’s delicate vocals, and the sound of rain pouring throughout the song’s opening maintained a natural, soothing tone.

The Xtreme 4 delivers its sweet highs, punchy bass, and textured mid-tones dynamically and clearly, even at high volumes. When listening to Young Blood by The Naked and Famous, guitars in the upper bass range sounded distinct and layered; separated from bass riffs in a cohesive mix. JBL’s “next level” claim may still be a slight exaggeration – after all, the Xtreme 4 doesn’t do anything particularly game-changing – however, it certainly gives room for listeners to taste the distinct flavors of each audible component that might get lost in a hard-to-digest mix through lesser speakers. Sure, the chef may need a bit of guidance, but with the right adjustments, you can bet that a well-balanced plate of sound will arrive at your table.

  • Sound quality score: 4.5/5

JBL Xtreme 4 on pink background, with a closeup on the USB-C charging port

JBL Xtreme 4 will charge your device, so you won't have to take a break from the music  (Image credit: Future)

JBL Xtreme 4 review: Design

  • Not the most elegant, but well-suited to outdoor environments
  • IP67 rating makes it perfect for the beach
  • Convenient shoulder strap but no handle for carrying short distances

Is there such thing as love at first sight? I’m not sure, and I don’t think the JBL Xtreme 4 is going to help me find out. Look, it’s not doing anything strikingly different from the Xtreme 3 appearance-wise, but I’m not sure I can get behind the semi-cylindrical, outdoorsy vibe, especially in the Black Camo coloration (the Xtreme 4 is also available in Blue, the version I tested, or Black). Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if you’ve liked the aesthetic of JBL’s previous efforts, you’ll almost certainly be a fan of this. 

One thing I did like visually was the speaker’s passive external bass radiators (as seen in the predecessor and several JBL cylindrical models), which pulse with pounding impact when the volume is cranked up high, immersing you deeper into the listening experience. Another neat design choice is that the Xtreme 4 is made, in part, using recycled materials. For instance, the speaker’s grille incorporates ‘post-consumer’ recycled plastic and fabric.

Personal tastes aside, there’s no denying that the Xtreme 4 is designed with utility and longevity in mind. It has medium-large sized buttons, all of which play their part in facilitating a swift setup. The speaker is also pretty bulky, weighing in at 4.63 lbs / 2.1kg. Additionally, it has rubber strips at the base which provide a steady foundation. If that wasn’t enough, the Xtreme 4 is IP67 certified, meaning that it’s both waterproof and dustproof, standing it in good stead for use at a beach event, pool party, or similar outdoor gathering. When I placed the Xtreme 4 in a full sink, it conveniently floated on its side, and played music without any quality reduction after taking a minute-long dive underwater.

Another practical feature is the detachable strap included for taking the Xtreme 4 out and about, tote bag style. I was a fan of the strap’s shoulder padding, which made it comfortable to transport around. It’s also adjustable if you want to wear it across your body. However, I couldn’t help but wish there was more of a ‘handle’ option here for when I just wanted to move it a short distance, especially as the speaker is too large to hold in one hand without the strap attached.

Closeup of JBL Xtreme 4's replaceable battery pack

Believe it or not, JBL will let you replace the Xtreme 4's battery in a kind nod to sustainability (sold separately) (Image credit: Future)
  • Design score: 3.5/5

JBL Xtreme 4 review: Value

  • Delivers a great user experience with top features and sound quality
  • But speaker’s main sticking point is its steep price
  • Competitors can offer brilliant quality at a far lower cost

Sure, the JBL Xtreme 4 delivers controlled bass, clear mids, and delicate highs, it also boasts a long battery life and some cool new features, but there’s one sticking point: you guessed it, the price.

You certainly get an enjoyable listening experience out of the Xtreme 4, but there are a number of cheaper, yet still high-quality alternatives out there. The Tribit Stormbox Blast, for instance, offers textured sound with booming bass for just $199 / £162 (around AU$300), 30 hour battery life, and customizable EQ settings. 

Additionally, the JBL Xtreme 3, is just £199.99 / AU$399.95 (but typically seeming to be priced much higher in the US at $379.95) as well, despite the pair having a myriad of similarities. So, if you’re into the JBL brand, but don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars on a new speaker, the Xtreme 3 could be a better option.

At the time of writing, it just feels as if the Xtreme 4, despite its qualities, isn’t exactly the best value option on the market.

  • Value score: 3/5

Should you buy the JBL Xtreme 4?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

JBL Xtreme 4 review: Also consider

JBL Xtreme 4 review: How I tested

  • I put the speaker through its paces over a two-week-long period
  • Mostly used in our music testing room in the TechRadar office
  • I listened to a wide variety of music genres during each listening session

Using TechRadar’s intense and methodical testing procedure, I spent hours listening to music on the JBL Xtreme 4, trying its various EQ settings and determining its ease of operation. 

I used Spotify on my Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Tidal on the Fiio M11S hi-res music player, to stream tracks from our curated (and regularly updated) TechRadar reference playlist. This included songs with pumping deep bass, delicate vocals, and complex mixes, enabling me to test a speaker’s full range and dynamic nuance across the frequencies. I also used the Anker Soundcore Boom 2 as a point of comparison, when appropriate.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: May 2024
Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: a Bluetooth speaker that’s heavy on bass, light on weight – and solid bang for your buck
7:32 pm | May 16, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Wireless & Bluetooth Speakers | Comments: Off

Anker Soundcore Boom 2: Two-minute review

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 offers enough quality to get the party started, especially given its relatively low price. The chunky Bluetooth speaker’s main draw is its ability to plate up impactful deep bass tones, with its BassUp feature able to pump this up further. 

In addition, the Soundcore Boom 2 keeps pace with a number of pricier options among the best Bluetooth speakers when it comes to battery life, offering a playtime of up to 24 hours.

As a lower-cost option, however, the Boom 2 sometimes compromises on quality, with the mid-range and high frequencies lacking crisp definition, especially at louder volumes. It’s not exactly the best-looking Bluetooth speaker either, though its built-in Light Show feature with customizable settings may add a splash of excitement for some. 

One slightly disappointing aspect is the Soundcore Boom 2’s lack of a dustproof rating, despite Soundcore pitching it as a beachside companion. It is, however, waterproof and floatable, making it a worthy candidate for a pool party, and an option for those looking at the best waterproof speakers. Being boyant also means it's quite light in weight for a chunky speaker, which means it's portable – a big plus.

With Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity and simple button controls, the Boom 2 is super-easy to set up and operate. If you want to get more out of it, the free-to-download Soundcore app enables users to flick through Light Show options and calibrate EQ settings to their liking (which can help improve the sonic balance a lot). 

Despite some shortcomings when it comes to how it sounds, the Boom 2 has a decent amount of power. If you’re not overly concerned with top-quality audio and want a powerful Bluetooth speaker that can cut through loud background noise while being more portable than most of its direct competitors, the Boom 2 makes for a solid pick. For those who like a more rounded sound, the JBL Charge 5 is about the same price, and will give you that – but it lacks the same level of bass thump and the useful carry handle.

Soundcore Boom 2 standing on granite surface

(Image credit: Future)

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Price and release date

  • Released on March 6, 2024
  • Price: $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$219.99

The Soundcore Boom 2 is well-priced for a larger portable wireless speaker, carrying an asking price of $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$219.99. That’s just $30 more than its predecessor, the Soundcore Motion Boom, despite the newer model offering double the output power (without BassUp enabled), new drivers, and more versatile multi-speaker pairing (via PartyCast 2.0).

By comparison, our highly recommended JBL Charge 5 can sometimes be found at around $10 more, so there are similarly affordable alternatives out there. For $70 / £42 (about AU$80) more, you could pick up the Tribit Stormbox Blast speaker, which is a bit bulkier, but offers awesome sound quality and still with buckets of bass.

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Specs

'Soundcore' is written on the handle of the Soundcore Boom 2

(Image credit: Future)

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Features

  • BassUp bass-boosting feature
  • 24 hours of playtime
  • Adjustable Light Show settings

The Soundcore Boom 2 houses a 50W subwoofer alongside two 15W tweeters, meaning that its output can hit 80W. However, this 80W output is only achievable when the Boom 2’s BassUp feature is activated, which serves up a “punchy bass” according to Soundcore. I’d agree here, to a degree; the Soundcore Boom 2 is clearly designed around delivering a solid deep bass listening experience – more on this later.

Utilizing the BassUp function doesn’t come without a downside, however, as it causes the Soundcore Boom 2’s playtime to deplete faster. For reference, the model has a playtime of up to 24 hours per charge, which is a good amount of time for a speaker of its size. I found that it took over five hours of playing music at 30% volume for it to drop 20% of its battery (as rated by the app, using its crude system of five battery bars – I would much prefer an actual percentage). It certainly appears to live up to its battery claims.

As is the case with BassUp, users should be warned that the Soundcore Boom 2’s Light Show option also drains battery faster – a feature which may not be to everyone’s tastes, although there is an option to switch it off entirely.

Light Show has seven settings: Energy, Fireworks, Flame, Flash, Lightning, Rainbow, and Wave. Each setting syncs with bass audio, which is more apparent with options such as Flame than with others, like Fireworks. The Soundcore app enables you to alter the colors used in each Light Show configuration, adjust brightness levels, or turn the LED lights off entirely. You can also switch between Light Show settings by holding the speaker’s BassUp button, which is a slightly hidden design choice, but works well regardless. 

Anker's Soundcore Boom 2 supports Bluetooth 5.3, which ensured that it was quick and easy to connect with both my Android phone and one of the best portable music players. Like many other similar Bluetooth speakers, the Soundcore Boom 2 also offers charging of a phone or other device through a USB-A port hidden beneath a rubber tab on its reverse side. Next to this is a USB-C port, which can be used to charge the speaker – note that you can’t charge another device from the USB-C port, which is a shame. The model comes with a USB-C to USB-C cable, which can fully recharge the Boom 2 in approximately 5.5 hours.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to connect more than 100 Soundcore speakers at the same time, you’re in luck. The Soundcore Boom 2 has a PartyCast 2.0 feature, enabling it to sync its audio and light output with various other Soundcore speakers.

  • Features score: 4/5

Rainbow-colored light panel on side of Soundcore Boom 2

(Image credit: Future)

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Sound quality

  • Impressive, booming bass
  • Various vocal and instrumental elements can lack definition
  • ‘Balanced’ EQ setting provides decent all-round experience 

The heavy kick of the Soundcore Boom 2’s deep bass means that it can hold its own at events with lots of background noise, such as outdoor parties or gatherings. When listening to Young Blood by The Naked and Famous, the Boom 2 delivered deep bass tones with substantial power, even without BassUp enabled.

Though it's still good value, the Boom 2’s low-end output isn’t perfect. When I listened to Black Eye by Allie X, the energetic bass bounce you’d anticipate from the opening is slightly lacking, especially when I compared it to the JBL Xtreme 4. The Boom 2 reaches deep, but it doesn’t connect the bass to the mid-range so well out of the box, leaving it feeling thin as it moves through the range of low-end frequencies.

Unfortunately, the Boom 2’s prominent bass can sometimes be overbearing, and at times the speaker’s deep bass output slightly drowned out vocal elements, for instance. This was apparent when listening to Moloko’s I Want You, when I was once again impressed by the bass output, but felt that it overshadowed the impact of several other instruments too heavily, preventing the complexity of the track from being fully realized. Unsurprisingly, this is exaggerated further with volume cranked up high, and even more with BassUp turned on, so I’d only recommend using this feature if you're really going for that pounding beat for a party, and aren't really worried about fidelity.

The Soundcore Boom 2’s clarity isn’t going to wow, with higher-pitched vocals and lower-toned guitars often lacking a touch of sharpness and definition. With a bit more sweetness to its sound, it could've been a really great speaker.

In fairness, some of these issues can be remedied somewhat via the Soundcore App, which enables users to switch from the default ‘Soundcore Signature’ EQ settings (where the midrange is given precious little limelight) to a ‘Balanced’ option, which delivers a decent all-round listening experience. The Soundcore app also has ‘Voice’ and ‘Treble Boost’ presets, as well as an option to adjust EQ levels manually. 

But while this all improves their balance in the mix, it doesn’t solve the deeper lack of detail. Voices and strings are simply less sweet, less real, than pricier large speakers.

  • Sound quality score: 3.5/5

Button controls of the Soundcore Boom 2

(Image credit: Future)

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Design

  • Plastic exterior looks on the cheaper side
  • Nice and lightweight
  • Lacks a dustproof rating, although it’s waterproof and floatable

When it comes to style points, the Soundcore Boom 2 doesn’t score too highly, with its plastic casing looking a little on the basic side. The speaker is available in Adventure Green (the version I tested, and it's a nice color), Explorer Blue, and Phantom Black, all of which look clean enough, though may not appeal to those seeking a touch of pizzazz. The Boom 2’s drivers are protected by a rather budget-looking plastic covering decorated with the Soundcore logo. 

For the price, however, the Soundcore Boom 2 still looks the part for any outdoor event or party, sporting a solid attached handle and minimalistic yet simple button controls, which enabled a quick and easy setup. It also has four rubber feet at the base to provide grip, protect the speaker’s base from scratching against rough surfaces, and stop the bass vibration from moving it around.

Something I really liked about the Boom 2 is that it’s relatively light for its size, weighing in at 3.66lbs / 1.67kg. That’s far less hefty than comparable models such as the Tribit Stormbox Blast, which comes in at a weighty 11.6lbs / 5.3kg.

There’s something about the Soundcore Boom 2 that I found almost perplexing, however. The speaker’s packaging specifically bigs up its use at a beach setting, with much of the model’s online marketing similarly highlighting this. However, the speaker is only IPX7 certified, meaning it does not have a dustproof rating, unlike an IP67-rated model such as the JBL Charge 5.

This means the Soundcore Boom 2 may not be a prime pick for the beach after all, although the IPX7 rating does promise that the speaker can withstand being under 1m of water for 30 minutes without suffering any damage. The Boom 2 is also floatable, making it easily accessible in a pool (or maybe even a large bath). 

Naturally, I gave it a dunking – it floated well (on its side), and after being submerged underwater for around a minute it was still able to play audio to the same standard as before.

USB-A and USB-C ports on reverse side of the Soundcore Boom 2

(Image credit: Future)
  • Design score: 3.5/5

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Value

  • Low-priced for a larger Bluetooth speaker
  • Despite imperfect sound, it will do the job for parties
  • Large competitors often have higher list prices

The Soundcore Boom 2 may not be revolutionary, it may not deliver earth-shatteringly good audio, and it may not even woo the masses with elite design, but one thing’s for sure – it performs well in the value category. 

It’s not the cheapest Bluetooth speaker available, but given its larger size and solid bass output, it’s easily worth its $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$219.99 price tag. The Boom 2 provides everything essential for the average listener, especially when accounting for the adjustments available via the Soundcore app. 

Indeed, many speakers of a similar size go for much closer to the $200 / £150 / AU$300 mark. For instance, the JBL Charge 5 has an official price of $179.95 / £169.99 / AU$199.95 and the Sonos Roam comes in at $179 / £179 / AU$299. If you want a speaker with powerful, pumping outdoor sound at a lower cost, the Boom 2 is worth considering.

  • Value score: 4/5

Should you buy the Anker Soundcore Boom 2?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Also consider

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: How I tested

  • I used the speaker over the course of a week
  • Mostly used in our music testing room in the TechRadar office
  • I listened to a wide variety of music genres during each listening session

I spent hours testing the Soundcore Boom 2 with music, checking how easy the speaker was to set up and operate, tinkering with its various Light Show settings, and of course tuning into the quality of its audio output. 

While using the speaker, I listened to a range of tracks, including songs from TechRadar’s testing playlist. I had other speakers available to compare against, including the similarly sized JBL Xtreme 4. I connected both a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 using Spotify and a Fiio M11S hi-res music player using Tidal, to put the Boom 2’s audio abilities to work.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: May 2024
Sony ULT Field 7 review: a great wireless party speaker that can handle its big bass
8:59 pm | May 14, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Wireless & Bluetooth Speakers | Tags: | Comments: Off

Sony ULT Field 7: Two minute review

The Sony ULT Field 7 is the company’s latest addition to the world of weatherproof portable speakers – gone are the days when listening to music outside meant trailing an extension cord precariously through the house and watching the skies with trepidation. The ULT Field 7 is a seriously large, seriously powerful party speaker, ready for big spaces.

Priced at $499 / £399, the Sony ULT Field 7 is available for purchase in the US and the UK and will be available in Australia at some point, but Sony hasn’t shared the price or release date there just yet. However you look at it, this is a big outlay if you’re only looking for an occasional party speaker, but if you like to entertain a lot, or are generally just a fan of heavy bass and want one of the best Bluetooth speakers that can deliver this, the price may not be so off-putting to you.

In a bid to make the Sony ULT Field 7 the perfect party companion, it’s been designed to be waterproof and dustproof, with an IP67 rating backing this up, which is about as good as you get from the best waterproof speakers. This means that you’re all good to use this speaker whether you’re entertaining during a rainy BBQ, or having a beach party. While Sony has attempted to jazz things up with colorful lighting, it is a shared opinion in the TechRadar office that this speaker does, unfortunately, look a bit like a trash can when standing vertically. 

While you may be correct in thinking that a super-charged party speaker like the Sony ULT Field 7 isn’t going to provide the most delicate of listening experiences, it’s surprisingly well-rounded. Not only do bass-heavy tracks sound exciting and dynamic, but mids and trebles are handled well across all genres. Podcasts and talk shows are even pleasant to listen to, and speech is clear.

One aspect that let the ULT Field 7 down is the Sony Music Center app. Its design is reminiscent of a pre-2010 website, it’s laggy, and has some connection issues. At least with the ULT bass and lighting modes easily adjustable on the speaker, you should only need to use the app every now and then, unless you spend a lot of time fiddling with the finer details (which I did, but such is the life of a reviewer).

The size and weight of the ULT Field 7 is something worth considering carefully. The speaker is marketed as being easy to carry – which is somewhat true thanks to the solid integrated carry handles – but, at a size of about 20 x 9 x 9 inches / 512 x 224 x 222 mm, and weight of about 14lb / 6.3kg, you aren’t going to want to carry it long distances.

So, should you spend $499 / £399 on this speaker? If you don’t mind the aesthetics and the disappointing app, the quality of the sound is impressive, and could be exactly what your next party or gathering needs.

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker logo close-up

Covered in fabric, the Sony ULT Field 7 is a bit of a black hole. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Price and release date

  • Released April 2024
  • Priced at $499 / £399 (about AU$770)
  • 'Coming soon' to Australia

The Sony ULT Field 7 launched in April 2024 as part of the new ULT-series lineup. The lineup also included four other models, the ULT Wear headphones, the ULT Field 1, and the ULT Tower 10.

The ULT Field 7 costs $499 / £399. This translates to about AU$770, but it's listed as unavailable on Sony’s Australian website at the time of writing. It does state “available soon”, so hopefully the official pricing will be added shortly.

This is fairly high in the world of portable speakers, but is far from unusual – the JBL Xtreme 4 and UE Hyperboom come in at a similar kind of price, though both are a little cheaper.

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Specs

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker ports

The flap on the back opens to reveal buttons and connections galore. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Features

  • ULT presets for powerful and deep bass
  • Waterproof and dustproof
  • 30 hours stated battery life

The Sony ULT Field 7 has a load of features that help to make it a good choice for parties or outdoor gatherings. Firstly, and most importantly for this speaker to be worth its salt, is the powerful ULT sound. There are two preset bass EQ settings, ULT1 and ULT2. The ULT1 setting is intended for tracks with especially low-frequency sounds, delivering impressively deep levels of bass. ULT2 is for delivering louder and punchier bass, better suited to house parties where the lack of detail won’t matter, as you’ll be focussing more on dance-offs. 

The ULT Field 7 also has a Sound Field Optimization feature, which is designed to detect the sounds in the surrounding environment before automatically adjusting the audio settings to improve how it sounds in reaction to them. 

The ULT Field 7 promises to provide 30 hours of playtime, and can build up three hours worth of playtime after charging for 10 minutes. This stated 30 hours battery life is based on having ULT 1 or 2 on, and the lighting (which is just in the ends of the speaker) off. 

I found that the battery dropped 20% over about five and a half house with the lighting and Sound Field Optimization on. This suggests that this speaker could run for about 27 hours with these features enabled, which is good going considering Sony says that’s basically the worst-case scenario.

The design of the ULT Field 7 is a feature in itself. It has integrated carry handles that make it easy to maneuver, plus it has an IP67 waterproof and dustproof rating and is salt water resistant, so you can feel confident in the speaker's durability whether you’re having a party at home, in the garden, or on the beach. 

To further add to the party vibe, hidden behind the rear panel is an input for a microphone or guitar so you can use the ULT Field 7 as a karaoke machine, or a guitar amp, which is a nice bit of versatility. 

Speaking of amping up the sound, the Party Connect feature means that you can link this speaker to a wide range of other compatible speakers in the Sony range, so you can sync up the sound and lighting.

In other wireless tricks, it has LDAC higher-quality Bluetooth support, plus multi-point pairing so you switch between devices it's connected to easily.

Features score: 4.5/5

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker bass reflex port with lights showing

There's plenty of power from these bass reflex ports. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Sound quality

  • Impressively deep bass
  • Satisfying vocal clarity
  • Don’t expect a lot of detail

Despite this speaker focusing its efforts on heavy bass levels, it still delivers a balanced and pleasant listening experience across the board, as you’d expect from Sony. Yes, some delicate details are overshadowed by the amplified basslines, but anything aimed at parties was never going to be the audiophile's ideal choice.

By default, the speaker is set to the ULT2 mode. There is a noticeable difference when switching to ULT1 because, as promised, this setting does indeed deliver more depth. I am impressed with the way it handles low frequencies, giving much-needed definition to the low-end of tracks like Angel by Massive Attack, which is lost amid the amped-up bass of ULT2 mode. 

A good level of softness and detail are still detectable in vocals in ULT1 mode – and even in the punchier ULT2 mode, voices still sound clear. It doesn’t sound like you’re listening from outside the venue, which can be the case with cheaper and smaller speakers when you crank up the bass power. 

ULT2 mode succeeds in still delivering dynamic sound that makes you want to bounce along to the beat while being more refined. The bass isn’t overpowering when listening to Von Dutch by Charli XCX; the balance is there between the clear vocals and the energetic bassline.

The important thing with outdoor speakers is that they are able to carry big bass and clear vocals across the open air, battling breezes and other interferences, across a potentially long distance. The ULT Field 7 has no trouble with this – and unlike some, it actually sounds good while doing it. 

Listening to podcasts is a surprisingly detailed experience too. When listening to The Unbelievable Truth there was a good balance between the speech, buzzer sounds, and audience laughter and applause. 

This speaker delivers a satisfying well-rounded listening experience with a light touch when needed, which is particularly impressive considering it’s a beast of a speaker (in a good way) when it comes to its thumping bass registers.

Sound quality score: 4/5

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker standing upright on a stone floor

You can have the speaker flat or standing up. We'll talk about the latter option a bunch in the next section… (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Design

  • Ashtray vibes
  • Collects dust and debris easily
  • Robust and durable

I’m sorry to say that I’m a little less positive when it comes to the looks of the Sony ULT Field 7. It has been designed to sit horizontally on a surface or to stand vertically on one end. I don’t have particularly strong feelings when it is sitting horizontally. The control panel is easy to access, and the ULT Field 7 looks like what it is: a big speaker. But when it’s standing on one end, I can’t lie, it’s giving me the feeling of a public ashtray outside a hotel or conference venue.

On a brighter note, the button controls feel substantial and are easy to press. Sony has a habit of using a satisfyingly soft silicone material, and this is what’s used here too. The control panel houses the power, Bluetooth, play/pause, volume, and ULT mode buttons printed in pale grey. When the illumination is on, the ULT button lights up in sync with the circular ring lights that sit on either end of the speaker. These lights are more subtle than seems ideal, because they’re set quite far into the sides of the speaker – I feel like if you’re going to do this in a big speaker, you should really go for it, otherwise why bother with the battery drain? – but they make a nice touch. There are nine different lighting effects available, as well as the option to turn the lights off.

There is a hatch on the back of the speaker that conceals a number of additional controls, including a light button, which cycles through the illumination effects, a battery care button to protect against over-charging, an echo button, and key control buttons. This is also where the inputs live for a microphone or guitar, USB-A, aux-in, and the plug for charging (a figure-eight cable – no USB-C here).

Sony markets the ULT Field 7 as easy to transport, designed with convenient carry handles built into either end. While these handles do make picking it up a lot easier, it doesn’t change the fact that this speaker is on the large side, measuring about 20 x 9 x 9 inches / 512 x 224 x 222 mm and weighing about 14 lbs / 6.3kg. I’m quite a petite person, and while I can carry the speaker between rooms, it would be a struggle for me to wander down to the beach with it.

While the speaker itself has a good dustproof rating, the outer fabric and silicone ends and feet pick up dust and debris easily. So it'll definitely work happily wherever you take it (within reason), but you will probably find that it starts to look less-than-pristine quite quickly, and fabrics like this aren’t super easy to clean.

Now, I know I bashed the appearance earlier, and I still stand by my opinion that it looks like somebody attempted to jazz up an office trash can with some RGB lights – but ultimately, this speaker is designed to be durable, so it makes sense that it looks somewhat utilitarian.

So while I’m not happy about how quickly it starts to look dirty, the intention is to have the ability to listen to music in wet, dusty, or sandy environments, without worrying about it taking its toll on the hardware. At least the rating means that it’s somewhat washable, so all is not lost even if it gets a little grubby.

Design score: 3.5/5

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker controls

There's a row of controls on top – including the ULT bass control, which changes color, to emphasize how extreme it is. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Usability and setup

  • Quick setup
  • Disappointing app

Setting up the Sony ULT Field 7 was simple. The speaker powered on easily, and I just had to press the Bluetooth button and my iPhone spotted it straight away.

The appearance of the Sony Music Center app feels low-budget, which is disappointing for an established brand like Sony. My less-than-positive opinions were further proven when switching between apps, as each time I left the app it appeared to disconnect from the speaker, so it takes a moment to reconnect each time I move away from the app. I found this particularly frustrating when fine-tuning the settings, as every time I hopped onto the Apple Music app to change tracks and get a feel for the changes I’d made, I had to start from the home menu again when I returned to the Sony app. 

In addition to the delay from switching between apps, it took over a minute – sometimes longer – for the app to connect with the speaker after powering it on, whereas other Bluetooth speakers I’ve tested will reconnect to an app in seconds. Perhaps this will be improved by software updates in the future, but just note that it might be frustrating if you try it soon.

When tapping on My Library, the app is able to access Apple Music and my media library, so I can get straight to my chosen media through the app, if I choose to. (Obviously, like 99% of people, I mostly choose to just use whatever app I usually use.)

Tapping on Music took me straight to the Apple Music section within the app. There is a tab for audio input, for those times that you might want to use it as an amp for playing guitar, or to blare out some karaoke. There’s also a tab for USB input, so you can play music from a storage device. There’s a dedicated tab to take you straight to Spotify, if that’s your service of choice. 

Alongside the ULT1 and ULT2 modes, you can also alter the EQ settings manually in the Settings tab. Frustratingly, you need to head back to the Sound Effect tab to select Custom mode before the app will let you alter the EQ. Generally, other apps will intuitively switch off other modes when you customize settings, but this is just another example of the Sony Music Center app being disappointingly clunky.

Usability and setup score: 3.5/5 

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker's handle held in a man's hand

The handles at each end make it easy to grab and move, though you wouldn't want to go too far. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Value

  • Good audio quality for the price
  • Great for parties (if not audiophile listening sessions)
  • Over-priced for an occasional speaker

This speaker may not equate to being good value for the money if you only throw a party every once in a blue moon, but if you enjoy blasting tunes outdoors on the regular, then you’ll be getting what you pay for here, thanks to the durability and sound quality. I think it’s a sound investment for the right person.

That feeling of value is partly helped by the good range of features offered here, from two bass-boosting modes, to the sound adaptation based on audio around it, to karaoke and guitar plugs, to multi-point pairing.

I think the overall versatility is harmed slightly by it being as large and heavy as it is, which may bring down the value for some – its value as a beach speaker is reduced if you don't want to carry it to the beach because it's large and heavy – but that's balanced by it being well-built and having a good IP waterproofing rating.

Value score: 4/5 

Should I buy the Sony ULT Field 7?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Also consider

How I tested the Sony ULT Field 7

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker power and ports close-up

(Image credit: Future)
  • I tested the speaker for one week
  • I played music continuously to determine battery usage
  • I listened to music and podcasts

I tested the Sony ULT Field 7 over the course of a week – after a thorough run-in. I listened to a range of different music genres, and podcasts, listening out for how the speaker handled bass, mid-tones, treble, and so on. 

I mostly used the speaker in TechRadar's music testing room, where I could really get a feel for what it's capable of – but obviously I used this portable speaker in other locations as well.

To determine how fast the battery would run down, I played music continuously at 25% volume, and continuously checked to see how quickly the battery indicator changed, tracking the time along the way.

I played music to it from an iPhone, a MacBook Air, and a Fiio M11S music player with LDAC support. My main music sources were Apple Music and Tidal, but I also used Spotify and podcasts.

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