31 October 2014

FEATURE: Christmas Stocking Fillers - Wireless Speakers

Dreaming of a loud Christmas.

In our most recent run-down of gifts to give audiophiles this Chrimbo, we took a look at some awesome new headphones. This time we're cranking up the volume a bit and bugging our neighbours by inappropriately playing White Christmas on Halloween, full blast. Its all for a worthwhile cause though, as we test eight wireless speakers.

Edifier Bric Connect

The Bric Connect is an unassuming Bluetooth speaker from Edifier with a toned-down, fade-into-the-background style. Perfect for behind a computer monitor or up on a shelf out of sight, the Bric Connect boasts a 12 watt output, portability (by way of six AA batteries - not a USB charger) and a remote.

Although it might not impress with its looks, the Birc Connect pumps out some clear, room-filling sound. It also features a pretty sensitive microphone, making it a perfect smartphone loud speaker, aided by the ability to answer and end calls with a button on the top. This would be a great gift for someone quite practical who is looking for relatively close-set music and call features for a home office or smaller space.

Around £80

Nakamichi Dragon Lilly

Whereas the Bric Connect was subtle and practical, this offering from Japanese firm Nakamichi is... well... not. The huge Dragon Lilly is a Bluetooth speaker which certainly makes itself known in any room, with its curious shape and terrific output.

Connection options with this include trusty Bluetooth, but also WiFi, NFC and an auxiliary cable for you old-schoolers. There is a remote, a touch-sensitive interface on top, and... well... big flowering sides that supposedly help make the music sound better. The quality of sound is pretty awesome, and the clarity and lack of distortion at high volumes is clearly what your money is being spent on here. We'd get this for someone (that we really like - see price) who appreciates odd, attention-snagging tech.


Boompods Doubleblaster

One of the better performing 'small plastic and colourful Bluetooth travel speakers', the Doubleblaster features a six-hour USB rechargeable battery, a connection range of up to 10 metres, and a neoprene carry pouch. We effing love carry pouches!

There are a lot of small Bluetooth speakers out there right now, most of which will set you back about £30. The Doubleblaster stands out from the crowd by having speakers on both sides, creating a pretty good depth of sound which certainly helps to add feeling to just a 3 watt output. Great for younger people or those on the go.

Around £39.99

Ultimate Ears Boom

With stylish looks and its own dedicated app, the Boom from Ultimate Ears is a fascinating device. Although weighing in at a similar level as the Doubleblaster, the Boom will set you back more than £150 (depending where you buy) - but we can really see why.

First up, this speaker can be paired to two Bluetooth devices at once, allowing you swap and change music sources - great for parties, or if you're a particularly argumentative couple. One Boom can also, by way of the app, be linked to another, creating a stereo state of playback. There is also an alarm function so you can wake up to your favourite tunes.

But the real investment is in the sound. This is one of the best small Bluetooth speakers we've ever tested, and the depth of musical reproduction and clarity is pretty amazing. Couple that with a water-proof and dust-proof body and whoever you get this for should consider themselves very luck indeed.

Around £160

Philips Wireless Portable Speaker

We know, catchy name right? Although tech giants Philips have opted not to bother naming their latest portable Bluetooth speaker, they have managed to put together a pretty decent gadget, complete with some intriguing style.

The most noticeable thing is that aluminium twist knob at the corner which controls volume and adds to the device's premium feel. Despite that, the sound quality wasn't that much clearer than the Doubleblaster (which is £15 cheaper) and the battery languished at around the 4-5 hour mark. Still, as portable Bluetooth speakers go this one has a good look and a kind of grown up feel about it. Like you'd get it for dad or something.

Around £45

Visit www.philips.co.uk  

Cambridge Audio Go

The Go Bluetooth speaker from British company Cambridge Audio is a mid-sized piece of tech with a large open faced grill and looks that only a mother could love. Sure, it isn't the most attractive of speakers, but check out Cambridge Audio's website and you'll discover that, to them, it's the sound that matters most.

You can connect to the Go via Bluetooth or NFC, and the on-board battery will keep the sounds blasting for up to 18 hours! And those sounds are excellent, with reproduction at both high and low volume levels sounding absolutely wonderful. The Go creates a warm and deep room-filling sound that seems as if it is coming from a much bigger, more expensive, speaker. Get this for yourself. Seriously, screw those "friends".


Libratone Loop

Another wireless speaker to place heavy emphasis on looks (and price!) the Loop from Scandinavian company Libratone looks, at first glance, like a piece of soft furnishing. The circular shape, added to the front furry grill, makes it an odd one to view, but that strange appearance has the flexibility to be either propped up on a flat surface, or wall mounted.

Connections can be made to the Loop via Bluetooth, auxiliary cable, USB, AirPlay (for you Apple-ites) and DLNA, so you're spoilt for choice. The noise this thing can put out into a room is very impressive, and the 360 degree ability has been achieved well. As a feature piece in your living room you might prefer this over the bizarre Dragon Lilly mentioned above, but buying it as a gift would mean you've obviously got cash to burn.


Stellé Audio Pillar

Another tubular speaker, the Pillar from Stellé Audio is sleek and minimalist, whereas the Boom was bright and funky. This is also much bigger and heavier than the offering from Ultimate Ears, although you can also purchase special Pillar carriers to help you lug it around.

Although primarily a desktop speaker, the Pillar comes with a built-in battery that will last you up to 15 hours, and connects with Bluetooth. The whole package, along with Stellé Audio's other products, is aimed squarely at women; something further confirmed when you switch it on a nasally Australian female voice greets you with "Hello". Once pumping out the tunes the Pillar performed pretty well, but was unfortunately completely outpaced by the uglier and cheaper Cambridge Audio Go. Although the sound seemed a little too localised and not at all room-filling, perhaps those sexy looks might be enough to sway you to buy it for, we don't know, a fan of Neighbours maybe?


Visit www.stelleaudio.com/uk
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