Portable Bluetooth speakers are like the boombox of the 80s, right now they are plentiful, affordable and ubiquitous. My some time shooting (photography) buddy packs one in his camera bag for when we are out doing something on location.
The Archeer A320 caught my eye and they were kind enough to ship a sample to the DigitalReviews desk for testing.
The Archeer A320S is a 2.1 channel portable bluetooth speaker. The design is reminiscent of the House of Marley's line of portable speakers. It is beautifully simple with the bamboo front and back panels, and canvas wrap over the center of the unit. I have always had an eye for timber pieces and this one certainly caught my attention from the moment I set my eyes on it.
Under the hood is two 5W full range drivers and a 15W subwoofer. The drivers and sub surfaces are fully exposed which no doubt would be cause for concern around little fingers, but the easy fix is to put it out of reach. There is a port on the back allowing for more airflow to enhance the bass.
The A320S is a solid unit, it feels great in the hand between the wood and canvas. I think the transition between materials works well, although I suspect the canvas will struggle long term with usage and dirt. Controls are on top of the unit, clearly defined and large enough that things can be operated at a glance. The volume buttons pull double duty as Next Track and Previous Track control. A small discreet indicator sits in between the controls to indicate the status. On the back of the unit is a 3.5mm direct connection jack, a reset button, charge indicator light and a microUSB socket for charging.
Archeer recommends charging the unit before first use. This takes 9.5 hours using a 5V/1A adaptor, or 6.5 hours using a 5V/2A adaptor. The microUSB cable is provided, but you will have to come up with the adaptor yourself which shouldn't prove a problem in this day and age.
The Bluetooth pairing was as painless as it gets. Press the power button for 5 seconds (after the initial charging), open up the Bluetooth menu on the device side and attempt the pairing. The indicator light flashes green to indicate the unit is ready for pairing, blue for standby. My phone paired up with it on the first go and I was ready to rock some tunes.
Addicted to bass. Archeer makes no bones about it. For my first track I thought I would pit the A320S against James Blake's Limit to Your Love, or sometimes more affectionately known as limit to your bass. In Blake's own words "It's a physical track, with the sub at a frequency that rattles you. I made it to be devastating in a club, on a huge sound system." The cycles in this track is so low you could just about see it on the drivers. Archeer achieved a nice full sound with the 8" spacing between the two full range drivers, by putting the back of the speaker near a wall amplifies the already solid base even more. While it didn't make me run to the toilet blasting out Limit to Your Love, it certainly was good clean sound being pushed through.
Next up was Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal. The opening of the song with the heartbeat is exceptional for a speaker system this small in size. I cranked up the volume in a 7 x 4m room with floorboards, the A320S actually filled the room really nicely with excellent emphasis on the bass. Standing directly front and center of the speaker makes the mids and highs more pronounced, and a decent bit of the bass travelling through the soles of my feet. With all the albums I listened to, from pop, R&B, classical, all across the spectrum the A320S has consistent strong bass, decent mids and highs. Closing my eyes and just listening, I could feel myself being drawn into the songs.
There are no EQ settings on the A320S. Everything is done through your phone, or Mark 1 Mod 0 method of manually moving the speaker away from nearby surfaces. If you really want to tone down some of the bass, putting the unit on its back helps.
During the review, I notice that the A320S fades out to a low volume when I get notifications and calls, and fades back into the previous volume level afterwards. You could always disable the phone audio in the Bluetooth profile from the phone side
On the website the battery is rated at 5200 mAh with 11 hours of playback time at 50% volume. The printed pamphlet says 2 x 4400 mAh battery with 20 hours playback at 50% volume. Based on my usage the website is far closer to the mark.
The Bluetooth connection between the speaker and my phone is rock solid, coming up quickly every time without issues, it is better than the connection between my phone and my car.
In the package comes with a microUSB cable and a fairly robust carry bag to transport it around in.
The buttons may not hold up in the long run if it is used often, although it is more likely that the phone is used to control the speakers.
Currently at approximately AUD$90, one could do a lot worse with a bluetooth speaker. Overall the build quality and the sound quality of the Archeer A320S is fantastic for the price. DigitalReviews.net would like to thank Archeer for sending the sample.
Bluetooth version: 4.0
Driver output: 15W + 5W x 2
Playtime: estimated 11 hours at 50% volume
Battery capacity: 5200 mAh
Input: 5V / 1.7A
Bass boost: Subwoofer