Wayne Thorp will speak at the 2015 AAII Investor Conference this fall; go to www.aaii.com/conference for more details.
For this column I have reviewed a few wireless speaker systems, including the Jawbone Jambox and soundmatters soundmatters foxL v2.2. Both are shaped like a bar or brick, and both deliver impressive sound, given that they are so small and compact. My biggest complaint was their cost—each is nearly $200. For the last few weeks I have been trying out a new Bluetooth speaker unit—the Satechi Audio Cube. This device matches the Jambox and foxl in terms of projection and sound quality while being slightly more portable. What really sets it apart, however, is its relative impact on your wallet.
Upon unpacking the Audio Cube, you see that it is aptly named, since it is almost a perfect cube, measuring 3.1 inches by 3.1 inches by 2.9 inches. While it certainly isn’t bulky, I found that the Audio Cube’s shape does make it a bit more cumbersome to carry in a bag than the other Bluetooth speakers I’ve looked at. Weighing in at 9.6 ounces, approximately the same as the foxL, the Audio Cube strikes a balance between being portable and not coming across as being cheap or flimsy.
With its black rubberized coating, the Audio Cube has a minimalist design. On top you will find physical controls for volume, reverse/forward, power and pause/play. On the back is a mini-USB port to charge the internal lithium-ion battery. There is also an auxiliary input jack to connect the speaker to non-Bluetooth devices.
As is the case with all other Bluetooth devices, you must first pair the speaker with your phone, media player or tablet. After that, the speaker should be identifiable as long as the speaker is on and your device’s Bluetooth receiver is on. I had no trouble pairing the Audio Cube with my iPhone 4S, iPad, iPod touch or Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Whenever I try out a portable speaker system, I start with low expectations. However, the Satechi ST-69BTS Audio Cube proved that these low expectations are unwarranted. Like the other Bluetooth speakers I’ve reviewed, the Audio Cube delivers amazing sound for its size. The dual-channel speaker system delivers up to two watts of power. The speakers deliver distinguishable stereo sound that is robust across the full spectrum of sound. The highs are crisp, not tinny, and the bass is full without being distorted even at high volume settings.
Satechi rates the Audio Cube’s battery life at six hours. While this is a bit less than the foxL or the Jambox, it is still enough to allow me to sit on my deck and listening to a Detroit Tigers baseball game streaming over my iPhone.
Satechi has come through with the ST-69BTS Audio Cube. I put its sound quality on par with the foxl v2.2 and the Jambox. About the only thing it doesn’t offer is hands-free calling, which the other two devices do. Personally, however, this is not a functionality I am looking for in a portable speaker such as this one. By omitting this feature, Satechi has been able to pass along considerable cost savings—the Audio Cube costs $45, versus roughly $200 for both the foxL and the Jambox. The slightly reduced battery life is also forgivable, given the blend of performance and value the Audio Cube offers. Overall, this device has leaped to the top of my list when it comes to Bluetooth speakers.
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of “Gadget Corner.” All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.