Our smartphones and tablets have increasingly become a primary source for entertainment. Video games, music, television, and movies are becoming easier to access and, with advances in screen technology, are more beautiful than ever. Unfortunately, your audio is one of the few drawbacks to your favorite device, whether it’s iOS, Android, or Windows mobile. That doesn’t mean you have to suffer with sound that’s too low or distorted though, because there are an array of options that fit every student’s needs, most importantly budget.
Each speaker was tested in the same scenario, in a closed area approximately the size of a dorm room. Every speaker was pointed at the decibel meter, which sat 12” apart, and the same song, Guns N’ Roses “Welcome to the Jungle,” was used to test them all, though additional songs were randomly selected to test bass and potential distortion.To be fair to each product, the speakers were graded individually and not on a curve, or against each other.
The Bang – Coloud.com – $25.00
The Bang is interesting because it’s small, very portable, and has a decent amount of life, around eight hours, before it needs recharging. This is partly due to the fact that it’s not a Bluetooth speaker and relies wholly on a 3.5mm connection. Along with price, one positive is the fact that you can daisy chain multiple speakers together to mimic stereo sound. The 40mm drivers don’t allow for any noticeable bass and the volume topped out at 87.1 dBA, but was very clear and had zero distortion. Having no micro-USB charging cable included is questionable, though.
Divoom – Airbeat 10 – $49.90
Another small speaker, the Airbeat 10 packs quite a punch considering its size. The bass isn’t considerable, again due to the size, and the claims that the included suction cup can turn “any flat surface into a subwoofer” wasn’t as impressive as advertised, despite the clear, crisp 95.5 dBA it pumped out. It comes with a clamp that fits nicely on a bicycle though, and the design allows for weather resistance, meaning you can get it wet without worrying about destroying it. The 500 mAh battery lasts slightly less than 6 hours at best, but recharges quickly on any USB power source. Thankfully, it also features a microphone and additional play button, allowing you to use it as a speaker phone.
Rapoo A600 – Rapoo.com – $99.90
The retro look, with large buttons and metal casing, makes the A600 an eye-catcher and serves as a way to enhance the overall sound. It blasted out 96.2 dBA in testing, though most impressive was the booming bass and lack of distortion, even at max volume. It has some heft to it though, and will serve you best on a shelf or desk rather than being toted around. The A600 accepts NFC connections, making it extremely easy to connect to your phone or tablet, and allows for two devices to be connected simultaneously via Bluetooth 4.0, but it’s not a feature that is particularly useful unless you own multiple devices. The battery life and recharge time was average at best, but the sound and included accessories make up for the hassle of recharging.
HexSL – 808Audio.com – $59.99
A great beginner’s speaker, the Hex SL plays noticeable audio cues when turning on and off, as well as when pairing the speaker via Bluetooth. The speaker is fun to look at, and while the soda can-like design makes it ideal for cup holders, on your backpack, or messenger bag, it’s bulky to carry on its own. The design does serve a purpose for sound, with 360 degrees of audio rather than directional, and it can reach extremely high volumes, topping out near 100 dBA. Unfortunately, at max volumes the sound grew distorted and caused the battery to drain significantly faster. It can last up to 12 hours on one charge if you keep the volume low, though at preferred levels you’ll get less than 10 hours, but recharge time isn’t unreasonable.
Voombox Ongo – Divoom.vom – $79.90
Another installment from Divoom, the Voombox Ongo is far more impressive than it’s little brother, the Airbeat 10, but also more expensive. That’s thanks to wonderful audio and impressive bass that topped out at 95.9 dBA and stayed clear regardless of the content. The battery lasts less than the advertised eight hours and takes a while to recharge, closer to four hours than to three, which is the biggest drawback to the speaker. Resistant to water, it also includes a bicycle mount, which makes it great for those who spend time outdoors, though it may be a little too big to be hauled around with you everywhere.
Touch Speaker Boombox – ThumbsUpUK.com – $39.99
It doesn’t use Bluetooth, but it doesn’t use cables to connect to your phone either, leaving only one explanation: witchcraft. By simply setting your phone down on the Touch Speaker Boombox, any sound is amplified to an astounding 103.5 dBA. Unfortunately, when listening at that volume the sounds is incredibly distorted. Additionally, there’s no bass to be heard at any volume, making it a neat piece of tech to have, but not particularly useful considering the price. The upside is that battery is quite powerful, lasting more than 10 hours when played at a volume that doesn’t allow for distortion.
SyrenPro – iLuv.com – $129.99
Of everything tested, the SyrenPro had the most impressive sound, but is also the most expensive. Topping out at 108.7 dBA, the music remained clear and enjoyable, and the bass drop was heavy enough to shake the walls. It’s a large piece of hardware, meaning it’s not ideal for taking with you anywhere. The battery life, just shy of four hours, reinforces that statement, but by plugging it into the wall you’ll have an impressive speaker for dorm life. It’s weather-resistant as well, making it nice for the beach, but it’s so large that keeping it near the pool is probably the better decision. Still, if you’re looking for top-notch audio, this is the speaker to invest in.