Kevin Hunt: Review: Tonez Audio CAN Bluetooth Speaker

'Cheapo' Bluetooth speaker battle makesthegrade speakermakesthegrade

A reader who noted my recent estimation of the Divoom Bluetune-Solo as the "best little cheapo Bluetooth speaker I've heard since the JBL Wireless" wasn't quite so impressed with that mini-soda can of a portable.

The reader said he had a better soda can.

The reader, Al Fleishman, whose Bull Marketing Group distributes Tonez Audio products, offered to send his can — named CAN — to prove it. Tonez Audio owner Tony Alberti promised there was no other can like it.

"We have not seen a product in its price category," he said, "that has the latest Bluetooth technology, included accessories and features."

OK, so now it's a can vs. the CAN. After an extensive taste test, this judge says it's Coke versus Pepsi. With no clear winner, it's personal taste. Yes, their sound is that close.

For the money — the CAN retails for $89.99, the Bluetune-Solo for $49.99 — the Solo is the better buy. But remove the price differential, include the accessories and features, and the CAN becomes the effervescent all-around winner.

•The CAN, with Bluetooth 3.0 technology, has a range up to 50 feet. The Solo, with Bluetooth 2.1, is limited to 30 feet. (In my primitive tests, however, the CAN struggled to maintain a connection with a Bluetooth-paired iPhone from about 27 feet, and the Solo sputtered at 20.)

•The CAN accepts onboard storage via a microSD slot. Add a card and you can take part, or all, of your music library with you. You can also transfer music from the CAN to a computer. The Solo has no card slots.

•The CAN has its own volume controls, a pause/play button and three-way mode button. (Bluetooth, memory card and an auxiliary input to direct connect a device using a 3.5-millimeter cable.) The CAN's press-and-hold volume adjustments — no tapping permitted — made it slightly more difficult to dial in a precise volume level. The Solo has no volume controls; only an auxiliary input.

In most cases, you'd probably adjust volume (and previous/next tune) using your Bluetooth-connected mobile device, but the CAN's controls allowed me to push the volume beyond the Solo's capabilities. It resulted in superior sound, at least until the sub-2-inch speaker driver that faces upward, naked except for a little crossbar above it, started to distort.

Do not overextend either the CAN or the Solo, which also uses a tiny, upward-firing driver (covered by a plastic mesh grille), or every tune will sound like the distorted electronic of the Flaming Lips and Prefuse 7's "Supermoon Made Me Want to Pee."

•Each has a micro-USB slot for charging and connecting to a laptop or computer.

•Each has a built-in microphone for speakerphone use.

•Each has a battery that should provide up to eight hours at moderate volumes. The CAN has a 430 mAh lithium battery; the Divoom a 500 mAh battery.

•Each is available in an M&M's assortment of colors.

•The CAN comes with an Apple-like wall charger, a USB charger for the car and a storage bag. The Solo has none of thosetrim, but the lower price remains more attractive.

Where it really matters — sound — these speakers were often indistinguishable when switching back and forth. The CAN, with its own volume controls, could play louder, with slightly superior bass and clarity. The Divoom, however, sometimes sounded bigger, with a broader sound field and greater resonance.

Coke or Pepsi? If you're looking for a bargain, stick with the Solo. If you'd rather not use one of the many streaming music services like Pandora or Spotify and want to carry around more music than your mobile device can hold, go with the CAN.

khunt@tribune.com

The details

What: Tonez Audio CAN portable Bluetooth speaker.

Price: $89.99 (also available at BestBuy.com for $79.99 and Amazon.com recently for about $70).

Good: Compact, solid portable Bluetooth speaker with better-than-usual wireless range, good sound and a microSD memory card slot.

Not good: Wireless range, indeed, is better than most but still could not come close to 50-foot limit of Bluetooth 3.0. Distorts at louder volumes.

Information: tonezaudio.com

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