Portable boom boxes conjure up images of beach parties, basketball pick up games, tailgate merrymaking, and poolside gatherings. Looking at the picture of the Blue ant Wireless speaker system, one gets the impression that this is a reasonable sized portable music player. Looking more closely at the specifications, you discover it is actually quite diminutive and is designed for the desk, not the outside world.
The BlueAnts two stereo speakers are separated by rocker switch controls. The top one controls volume, the bottom track control. The middle buttons, although on a rocker switch, have a call button and a pause/play button.
All of these switches work wirelessly. For speakerphone calls youll need the regular old Bluetooth 1.1 specification. For wireless music youll need a Bluetooth 1.2 Windows Mobile Device that supports A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) and the ATC for track control. When you pair the speakers with your Treo (passcode of 1234), youll be presented with tick boxes for both hands free and wireless stereo. If you simply want to use the unit as a mini-boom box, youll just check the latter box.
The unit charges from a svelte AC adapter, which is 100-240v capable. The first charge takes about three hours and the amber light will turn green when complete. Subsequent charges should take around 2 hours. The unit is rated for 10 hours at 60db, for those of you who want to hurt your ears, youll only get 5 hours to do damage at 90db. Beneath the charging port on the back of the speaker system are two inputs: one for a microphone (not included), the other for a line in if you wanted to use the speaker system with a computer or iPod. Included in the box is a cable of about 4 inches that is necessary for such a connection.
There is also an on-off switch on the back of the unit. I should also mention that the unit ships with a USB Bluetooth adapter and drivers. This is actually useful for someone like me as my computer doesnt support stereo music streaming over Bluetooth. There is also an optional accessory, the BlueAnt A2DP streamer that allows music from ANY audio source to the speakers to stream to the Sonic speakers.
One last note, the manual is extremely well written and clear. The steps necessary for set up and operation are clearly laid out. As the number of functions and track control assigned to any device of this sort climb, the included matrix is necessary telling you whether you what short, long and double presses of buttons will accomplish. The manual is also thin and pocket sized.
This unit has many features and offers much in the way of flexibility. You can run it off battery power or plugged in. Music can either come off the hard line or stream over a Bluetooth connection. The small size is a plus since it complements the size of the Treo and can be carried nearly anywhere. It is not exactly a lightweight, though you could conceivably throw it in a purse or bag. Alas, this is just another example of a manufacturer not including an appropriate carry case for their product. Its not criminal, but it certainly is negligent and irresponsible.
The problem with the unit is the sound quality. Perhaps Ive been spoiled by the amazing Motorola HT820 headphone headset, but these speakers do not deliver the goods. They are muddy through and through. There is barely stereo separation, and a lack of clarity all along the range. I was surprised that even as a wired solution, the quality did not improve. The Motorola Headsets I used even kicked up their sound quality another notch when used as a wired solution. Here, the cable I received is under a foot, not enough to be of practical use.
As a speakerphone, these are passable. Generally, I could hold a conversation. However, all speakerphone solutions pose a threat as massive feedback can result. Audio switches must figure out who is speaking and clamp down on the speakers to avoid a feedback loop. The BlueAnt speakers took a moment to recognize what they should be doing and this resulted not in feedback, but a precipitous rise and fall of volume when a person started speaking. For the techies out there, these speakers are full duplex and have Digital Signal processing (DSP) to filter microphone input and speaker output. Also, the aforementioned problems come from the Echo Suppression and Noise Cancellation electronics of the system.
That said, portability is the best thing about them. Doing dishes in the kitchen, I could grab the speakers, drop them on top of the fridge, and have a bit of music while I scrubbed.
Would I recommend these speakers? Probably not. Although they do have a lot to recommend them including a great feature set as they are portable, can be used wired or wirelessly, off an AC adapter, or on the rechargeable battery. Not to mention their main use as a wireless mini-boom box or speakerphone. However the sound quality is just not up to snuff. At this price point though, there are not a lot of options and you may need to make some trade offs. Its your call.
You can get the Blueant Blue Sonic Bluetooth portable speakers here for $119.95.
Wireless speakers and phone