Kevin Hunt: Review: Soundfreaq Sound Spot Bluetooth Speaker


If this were the animal world, the Soundfreaq Sound Spot would be an indoor cat, physically capable of surviving outdoors but best suited to the comfort and safety of home living.

Get the mouse, Sound Spot!

So maybe Sound Spot isn't quite domesticated yet. Yet Soundfreaq designed the Sound Spot as a docile decorative piece with a "midcentury design inspiration." That sounds very much like a Bluetooth portable speaker that's scared of the outdoors. It's essentially a 5-inch plastic square, so this little nugget doesn't easily fit into cargo pants pockets or a knapsack like a real indoor-outdoor mobile speaker like the UE Mini Boom.

It took some time to recover from this mobile-only-within-the-house approach and some of the most awful sound I've heard in a portable speaker before the Sound Spot finally settled down. But at $69.99, it's much better than expected for the price — even good enough to become a faithful household companion.

The Sound Spot is layers of ribbed plastic, like a Ruffles potato chip, except for an oversize metal speaker grille protecting a single 2.25-inch driver. The version I tried, basic black, is somewhat less design-inspired that the alternative white-grille-on-faux-wood model that immediately announces itself as midcentury.

Single drivers tend to work well in small compartments. Soundfreaq must care about sound: It protected the driver in metal instead of plastic, didn't it? It also included a three-position tone-control slide switch on the back. As well-intentioned as the Flat-Warm-Bright sound settings might be, I could barely tell the difference. None was offensive.

The Sound Spot has a standard on-off push button, with the remaining controls aligned on the top panel capacitive — it's a simple touch and hold, or tap, instead of the usual push.

trim

The USB output on the back, which charges mobile devices, is an honest-to-goodness luxury. The Sound Spot's battery lasts about seven hours on a charge — Soundfreaq includes a USB cable for charging but no wall adapter.

The Sound Spot does not seem the type of speaker suitable for a PC or laptop. Nor will it likely partner with a second Sound Spot using the auxiliary output connection, particularly when the only way to get actual stereo sound is with the mobile device directly connected to the speaker. The sound would remain dual-mono when using Bluetooth, yet with range that — at least in my house — ranked among the best portables I've auditioned.

The Sound Spot, once paired with a iPhone, sounded small and thin for the first few hours before finally opening up a bit and eventually sounding at moderate volumes as relaxed — with a bigger sound field — as the smaller, yet more portable, UE Mini Boom, ($99.99, ultimateears.com).

The Sound Spot, it turns out, is quite a little treat.

Soundfreaq Sound Spot portable Bluetooth speaker

Cost: $69.99

Good: Good sound, excellent Bluetooth range, charges mobile devices.

Not so good: Unwieldy for true indoor-outdoor portable use.

Informatoin: soundfreaq.com

Control4 Wireless Music Bridge

What the streaming world needs is a bridge that permits all devices, Apple (AirPlay) and Android and other mobile devices (DLNA), to play music wirelessly through a home audio system.

If only there were more devices like Control4's Wireless Music Bridge, a $300 little black box designed solely for the company's professionally installed home-automation systems that moves music from mobile devices (and computers) to a connected audio-video system.

The starter-kit Control4 system reviewed here last year includes control of kitchen lighting, two televisions, music in four rooms, heating and cooling systems and an outdoor security camera. Everything's controllable via a Control4 (control4.com) touch screen or mobile device app. Until the Wireless Music Bridge, however, Control4 owners had few options to play music streaming services like Pandora, Spotify and Slacker through a mobile device except docking it in one of the company's Apple-only iPorts.

The Wireless Music Bridge not only connects with both Apple and Android devices on a home network, but it also has a Bluetooth option — perhaps for visitors you'd rather not entrust with the password to your home network.

For control freaks, there's nothing quite like stepping into a house, starting iTunes Radio, selecting Control4 WMB from the AirPlay menu and suddenly hearing music from multiple rooms.

khunt@tribune.com.

Soundfreaq Sound Spot portable Bluetooth speaker

Cost: $69.99.

Good: Good sound, excellent Bluetooth range, charges mobile devices.

Not so good: Unwieldy for true indoor-outdoor portable use.

soundfreaq.com

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