Last time I reviewed the iClever folding keyboard, part of a box of products sent to me by the company. Their products get generally favorable marks on Amazon reviews.
Bluetooth speakers are popular, in spite of the fact that, like cassette tapes of 50 years ago, the Bluetooth standard was not intended to be a high quality sound medium. However improvements in the technology make BT More than acceptable for all but the most critical applications, especially in portable speakers.
Many big name audio companies have put their names on these battery powered mighty midgets, which reproduce audio with varying degrees of quality. I own several, including a Bose Soundlink Mini (around $179.00 at Costco), and an iHome IBN6EX (about $60 on Amazon).
By their very nature, compact speaker systems face challenges when it comes to being able to reproduce meaningful amounts of good thumpy bass. Low frequencies have very long wavelengths which means that a speaker has to move substantial air to give you that sense of the beat.
The Bose has a special charging cradle and power supply, which means that you have two additional pieces to keep track of, while the iHome has a unique charger to keep its battery full.
On the other hand, the iClever doesn’t even have a charger in the box, any 5V 1A charger will bring the battery up via the standard micro-USB port, so you can use your cellphone charger and a cable you probably have a dozen of with the iClever.
Instead of the usual “Push and hold forever” on/off button, the speaker has a slide switch on the back panel, next to the USB charging port and a standard 3.5mm aux input jack. On top are four touch controls rather than mechanical buttons with each button handing a dual function. Tapping the first button skips to the next track, holding it turns the volume down, and so on. The buttons are sensitive, but difficult to find by feel, a raised bump would help.
As a long time radio person, at the end of the day it’s about the quality of the audio, and the iClever BTS08 stacks up well to the higher priced Bose speaker. Notes are clear and crisp with drivers rated at 10 watts RMS, 20 Watts peak and a passive forward-firing oval shaped bass diaphragm that works reasonably well.
While not quite “party loud” the speaker did a very solid job playing music off my Kindle Fire as I worked on this review. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” played with a crisp bass line that was remarkably free of muddiness. High notes were clear without being screechy. Running the volume to maximum using the touch-sensitive controls on the top surface resulted in only slight distortion.
The build quality of the speaker is impressive given the price point, with a wrap around red metal mesh grill fitting well to the plastic body. The speaker has a good solid heft and hits the sweet spot between portability and sound reproduction quality.
Battery life was not fully tested to shutdown, but I left the speaker on for several hours playing music in the background in the studio, and there seemed to be plenty of juice for a full day out and about. The speaker is not outdoor rated like the iHome unit but it should survive most outdoor situations as long as you don’t expose it to excess moisture or leave it in direct sunlight for extended times.
Overall the iClever BTS08 gives good value for the price point.