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Bluetooth Speakers

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Audio – Bluetooth Speakers

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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Even though both are meant for consuming music, Bluetooth speakers have a different utility as compared to headphones or earphones. While the latter focuses on an individual and have the advantage of proximity to ears, Bluetooth speakers have the responsibility of filling a room with sound efficiently.

Gone are the days when Bluetooth speakers were just an alternative to wired desktop speakers. Nowadays, premium Bluetooth speakers from established audio brands like Bang and Olufsen, Bose, JBL and Sony are the norm. There has also been an increased focus on durability in Bluetooth speakers. Most of our entrants had waterproofing, with higher-end models sporting at least IPX7. How well do they handle audio? Let’s find out.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: JBL Boombox

bluetooth speakers

Right out of the box, the JBL Boombox looks like something that would have ditched audio quality for sheer power. You couldn’t be further from the truth on this one. The JBL Boombox does pack a punch, which is expected from a speaker that weighs upwards of 5kgs. However, it doesn’t do that at the cost of clarity. There is a deep and rich acoustic feel to the sound of the Boombox, but it’s not too overpowering. There’s no perceptible distortion at higher volumes.

JBL has sculpted the sound on the Boombox with balanced mids and highs without being overpowered by the impactful bass. Another interesting thing is that for a speaker that is playing in a mono configuration, at times the Boombox managed to create the feel of stereo separation. This is no audiophile grade speaker, but something about the way the Boombox balances out the power between its lows, mids and highs are what makes it this year’s winner.

Runner-Up: Beoplay P6

The exact balance between portability and audio quality is quite difficult to strike with Bluetooth speakers. However, the Beoplay P6 manages to strike that exact balance and does so in style. Apart from looking like a work of art, which is expected from a B&O product, the P6 delivers way more power than you would expect from a speaker of its size. Even with the subdued lows, our test tracks sounded clear and well spaced.

The mids and the highs have a life of their own, with tracks like Hello from Adele soaring in their powerful vocals, and Hotel California from The Eagles making you want to forget your critical analysis and just get immersed in the music. If not for the Boombox’s sheer power, the P6 would have stood a strong chance for the top position.

Best Buy: UE Wonderboom Freestyle

“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”- this is the principle that UE has adopted while designing the Wonderboom Freestyle. The Wonderboom was already a good speaker and with the Freestyle upgrade, you get a lot of options for different skins. In the sound department, it carries the reliability of the original Wonderboom. You get a small package that can handle its highs really well, does a fair job with the mids, and loses out on the lows but none of it happens at the cost of clarity unless the volume is at max.

It is also important to note that this tiny speaker can get really loud. The Wonderboom Freestyle can fill a mid-sized room with music, which would have been more impactful if the bass wasn’t underwhelming. However, for the price, the Wonderboom Freestyle is quite a good choice.

Bluetooth Speakers

Zero1 Awards 2017 – Audio – Bluetooth Speakers

December 13, 2017 — by Digit0

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Bluetooth speakers are undoubtedly one of the most popular gadgets around. A few years back, what started off as a way to appeal to the urban youth has now evolved into serious business line for audio makers. As a result, the very nature of the products have evolved manifold over the past years.
Wireless Bluetooth speakers essentially started off as a makeshift alternative to powered desktop speakers, and the general consensus usually was, “this is about as good as you can expect.” However, today’s market has some seriously appealing wireless Bluetooth speakers from a wide range of manufacturers. From the likes of Bose and Bang & Olufsen to more mainstream companies like JBL, the latest wireless speakers are built to be good sounding speakers that also match the design standards of an urban lifestyle.
Additionally, while 2016 was the year where speakers became multifunctional, 2017 has been the year where the core audio performance has been improved. As a result, you now have more speakers within reasonable budgets, which sound really, really good.

2017 Zero1 award winner: Bose SoundLink Revolve+

Bose Soundlink Revolve Plus

When it comes to core performance, Bose has truly outdone its competitors this year. The lantern-shaped wireless speaker is the first 360-degree firing speaker from Bose in the wireless and portable space, and is a nod towards the trend of cylindrical speakers being belted out by all audio companies in this industry.
The shape has had benefits, as the SoundLink Revolve+ does not need to be placed at a specific angle to get the best audio output, and that makes considerable difference when it comes to everyday usage. Alongside, it produces commendable audio performance, with clean, well-composed and superlatively balanced sound that makes it stand out among a crowd of other Bluetooth speakers.
The Bose SoundLink Revolve+ excels in pronouncing the mid frequencies, all the while retaining deep lows and clean highs. All this is coupled with the sweet, warm timbre, and very low distortion levels in its sound. The design of the speaker may be a bit polarising, but there is no doubt to its premium positioning from the single sheath metal body and indented rubber buttons.
To sum all that up, the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ is the Zero1 Best Performing Bluetooth Speaker of 2017.

Best Buy: UE Wonderboom

The Wonderboom is a typical example of what Logitech’s audio specialist arm, Ultimate Ears, has always excelled at – build small, ultra portable and impressively good-sounding speakers at affordable prices. While the UE Roll 2 was our budget pony for 2016, this year’s Zero1 Best Buy award has gone to its new family member – the Wonderboom.
The UE Wonderboom retains the depth of low frequencies, and vocals and soaring guitar riffs also sound well balanced and clean, in tandem with bass lines. Its small dimensions mean that it can fit into almost any corner of tightly packed backpacks, and the reasonably small price tag means that even more people can afford it.

Bluetooth Speakers

Zero1 Awards 2016 – Portable Speakers

December 16, 2016 — by Digit0

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Portable speakers are essential gadgets nowadays. On occasional tours and house parties alike, portable speakers offer the best of audio fidelity and form factor versatility to discerning users. 2016 saw a number of portable speakers enter our test labs, and needless to say, we heard ‘em all with equal enthusiasm and vigour.
We’ve had bigger players lower prices for their entry segment offerings, smaller companies challenge established audio-makers, and a significant drift has been evident among buyers who now prefer speakers with more peripheral features than bare necessities.
With that being a clear reflection of a shift in lifestyles, portable speakers are no longer luxury gadgets. They are deemed as essentials – gadgets that seamlessly fit lifestyles and demeanours, while doing what they were meant to do in the first place – play good audio. With these in mind, we rank the best of 2016, from the world of portable Bluetooth speakers.

Zero1 Winner: Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A1

portable speakers

Bang & Olufsen has typically catered to the luxury segment of technolgy, and with the Beoplay A1, the Danish luxury giant has provided the best of finesse and audio quality in possibly one of its most competitively priced speaker.
Mid frequencies are equally well detailed, and the audio is finely balanced to give proper emphasis to vocals. There is an exciting balance of rhythm and vibrancy in the audio, and the dynamic range of the speaker makes almost every track sound more detailed than any other speaker in the neighbouring price ranges manage to sound. Highs are pristine and balanced to sound loud and yet not piercing. The entire audio delivery is cohesive and tightly knit, sounding akin to more expensive, wood-crafted bookshelf speakers.
The Beoplay A1 holds equal composure from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Minuet & Badinerie and Opeth’s Deliverance to John Coltrane’s Equinox and Pink Floyd’s Live Rendition of Another Brick in the Wall. It also includes a USB-C port and a multi-function key that can be programmed to your preference.
All of this combines to make the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A1 the best Bluetooth speaker that we’ve tested in 2016.

Runner-up: UE Boom 2

Logitech’s energetic, affable speaker, the Boom 2, presents an upgrade over the already commendable UE Boom. The activity-oriented speaker does not sound as rich or expansive as the B&O Beoplay A1, but is bright, detailed and lively in its own right. The audio performance fits its demeanour of an active, rugged speaker, with sufficient bass that keeps the thump alive. The low frequencies are rich in terms of clarity and are well-detailed, and complement the bright, warm mid frequencies. Vocals sound bright and lively, and are not overpowered by the rich, loud bass performance. Clarity and audio balance is great in the UE Boom 2, and it tackles the highs with equal composure.

Best buy: UE Roll 2

The UE Roll 2 delivers excellent audio for its price. Albeit slightly attuned bass that can be equalised from its app, the overall audio is very clear, and the speaker can last for nearly 10 hours on a single charge. You get pleasant, detailed mids and clear highs, and soundstaging is great, too. The saucer-shaped speaker is water-resistant and comes with a floatie and daisy chaining capability to further amplify its value proposition. It also retained connectivity up to 80 feet in our tests, by far the most extensive, and thus, makes for a good purchase.

Bluetooth Speakers

Bluetooth Speakers

December 18, 2015 — by Digit0

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In search of best audio performance out of a category of products that’s becoming popular very fast

Bluetooth speakers have grown manifold in prowess, of late. With the best of audio makers vying for supremacy, what we have are wireless speakers that deliver excellent audio quality, and also act as power banks, boom boxes, alarm clocks, and much more. You can also pair two (or sometimes, more) of the same speaker to provide stereo audio, or synchronise your home audio across multiple rooms. Additionally, you can even be a little rough with some of these. Certified sand and water resistance is a feature that many of these bundle. Great for your next private pool party or beach soiree right?

The judging criteria for our tests was led by audio output quality, with other aspects being quality of build, durability, range of connectivity, waterproofing, multi-functionality, daisy chaining (multi-unit connectivity), battery life and portability. While some were too big to deserve the portable tag, the sheer quality of audio made up for the large dimensions or other added features. Here’s listing some of this year’s best bluetooth speakers and of course our one true performance behemoth.

Zero1 Winner: Beolit 15

Bang & Olufsen simply hit the spot with the Beolit 15. Yes, the design is rather different, but build quality is supreme. The front mesh, to the feld-textured plastic, oozes class. The only thing that feels out of place in this unit is the leash, that is essential if you are to carry this picnic box of a speaker around.
The audio quality is exemplary. Bass frequencies are pronounced, and is pronounced with a powertrain that serves as the backbone for tracks that you play. Mid frequencies are equally pronounced, and are high enough to ensure that the audio, in no way, seems flat. The high frequencies are sharp, but are marginally cut off at the peak crests, so that high pitched vocals retain the tonal quality and texture. Audio timbre is excellent, there is no distortion, and to top it all, volume levels are very high.
The Beolit 15 is ideal for audio lovers and casual camp-goers alike. At its price point, however, B&O will find more audiophiles as takers – people who are not concerned about the weight of the device or its looks (it looks really good, only unorthodox), but hardcore audio. At such exemplary audio performance, added features like good battery life, multi-device pairing and the capability to double up as a power bank are nice incentives, making the Bang & Olufsen Beolit 15 the undisputed best Bluetooth Speaker of 2015, and the winner of our Zero1 award.
Price: Rs. 35,000

Runner-up: Creative Sound Blaster Roar

Coming second is the Creative Sound Blaster Roar. At Rs. 15,999, what you get is loud, powerful audio. Although the highs are slightly biased, it doesn’t take the warmth and texture away from tracks, and the bass drivers at the back are quite pronounced. The ‘Roar’ button adds an extra volume boost, and this will come handy in larger gatherings. This one also happens to integrate a power bank, speakerphone, voice recorder and mp3 player, making it the most equipped speaker, coming second to the Beolit 15.
Price: Rs. 14,000

Best Buy: Ultimate Ears Boom

The UE Boom is water- and stain-resistant, and works perfectly well even after splashing it with water multiple times. The cylindrical speaker body delivers loud, clear audio with an extra punch of bass, which makes it a fun, peppy speaker to carry around. At Rs. 13,490, it is a versatile speaker that keeps the average music lover and enthusiast happy, and even have something to offer to discerning listeners. With very good audio performance at a competitive price, the Sound Blaster Roar wins the Best Buy award for Bluetooth speakers.
Price: Rs. 14,000