Renewable Bluetooth Speakers - Solar Sound 2 Reviewed

Written by Paul Moons on . Posted in Audio

Solar Sound 2Last October we reviewed the environmentally friendly Solar Sound bluetooth speaker from Devotec. The Solar Sound 2 is the latest revision of this green music machine.

 


Read on for our full review.

First Impressions
At 16.5 x 5.8 x 5.8cm, the Solar Sound 2's dimensions are nearly identical to the original unit. While an informed observer will notice some minor changes, the main visual difference between the old and new is the all new matte finish.

Unlike the "fingerprint magnet" all gloss original, the Solar Sound 2 has an elegant matte finish on all sides bar the top, where the sheeny solar panels stay faithful to the original.

Solar Sound 2

Depending on your taste, the new matte finish is best described as different and for our money is really an aesthetic push: While the matte finish is far less conducive to fingerprint marks, it seems to blur the lit up appearance of the touch buttons. You win some, you lose some.

Solar Sound 2 with Original Solar Sound

Like the original, the Solar Sound 2 is fairly minimalistic in its overall design: The front panel features a backlit Devotec logo and three touch sensitive buttons. These three buttons are multifunction and allow for all the basic controls one would expect from such a unit: On/Off/Play/Pause, Volume Up/Next Track and Volume Down/Previous Track. The front panel also features a small oval hole which houses the internal microphone.
 

Solar Sound 2 with iPhone 3GS

The top of the unit features a 6.5V, 130mA solar panel which appears identical to the one found atop the original Solar Sound; The two sides contain two 30mm 2W speakers and the rear panel features a main power button, two 3.5mm headphone ports (for both line in and line out); and a mini USB port for charging.


 

Solar Sound 2


The USB connection also allows for what Devotec calls a "power boost" which they claim can increase the power output by up to 25% when the Solar Sound 2 plays back music whilst connected to a PC/Power point via USB connection. 

Also clever is Devotec's inclusion of the line out port which provides users of the Solar Sound 2 the ability to stream music from any bluetooth device to a Hi-Fi. This allows the Solar Sound 2 to become a Bluetooth passthrough which is a handy additional feature. 

Accompanying the unit in the box is a small carry case, two retractable cables (USB/USB mini and 3.5mm/3.5mm), a foreign plug pack to be used in conjunction with the retractable USB cable and a short User Manual.

Usage
Like the original Solar Sound, getting music out of the Solar Sound 2 was child's play. After turning the unit on (and a quick traipse through our iPhone 3GS's settings), the Solar Sound was good to go.

Setting up the Solar Sound to work with our MacBook Pro was just about as easy, although the MacBook Pro got a little confused at first as initially connected to the Solar Sound 2 as a mono only device. After a quick reboot, the stereo connection worked perfectly.

 Solar Sound 2While audio is always a very subjective proposition, in our playback tests, the Solar Sound 2's sound was good. In A-B testing against the orignal Solar Sound, the new unit's sound appeared to be somewhat fuller than the original. The Solar Sound 2 was also noticeably louder at its highest volume in both "power boost" and battery powered operation, but sonically sounded best when at half to three quarters of its full volume.

While the manual suggests that the upgraded battery allows for 5-10 hours of continuous operation using Bluetooth (5-20 hours when connected via line in) we found that after an initial charge, moderate use was easily countered by regular bathing in the suns rays: During testing, we didn't actually plug the unit into the mains or a PC but merely left the unit on the window sill!

 Solar Sound 2While the uprated speakers, upgraded battery and matte finish are clearly labelled in the specifications, the most notable feature difference between the Solar Sound 2 and the previous model is the elimination of the annoying maximum/minimum volume tone. See our previous review.

When connected to am iPhone 3GS running an old firmware, the Solar Sound 2 behaved like the original unit in that it was able to play and pause tracks (using the touch sensitive buttons), but not able to skip/return to the previous track. Again, like the original Solar Sound, our 2010 MacBook Pro was able to utilise all of the Solar Sound 2's touch sensitive button functions.
 

Solar Sound 2 on iOS4

Update: After further testing with a new iPhone 4 running OS4.1 we found that pressing (touching) the advance track button on the Solar Sound 2 for about two seconds yielded a track advance (or track return/previous track).

We also gave the internal microphone a run with the iPhone 4 (running iOS 4.1) which also worked without a hitch. This was a welcome improvement as we found the microphone performance on the previous model less satisfactory.

Bluetooth signal was on par with the previous model as well with the often cited ten metre operating radius being on the money.

Specifications
    •    2x 2W speakers for proper stereo sound
    •    Wireless connectivity to any Bluetooth® phone or MP3 player supporting the A2DP and AVRCP profiles
    •    Plug into any standard headphone jack with the included 3.5mm headphone retractable cable
    •    Built in Mic for hands free communication when paired with a suitable phone
    •    Large solar panel for charging the built in Lithium-Ion 1600mAh battery
    •    Up to 10 hours continuous play time via Bluetooth® from the battery and and can even play from no battery on a sunny day!
    •    Touch-screen panel for remotely controlling your music, including Fast Forward and Rewind buttons, as well as Volume Control
    •    Gold Plated audio connectors and silver coated, oxygen free copper speaker cabling
    •    Line out function for streaming music over bluetooth to a hi-fi
    •    Includes protective case, AC/DC plug and charging cable
    •    Charging time: from 4 hours by AC/USB, about 12-24 hours from solar panel
    •    Small Dimensions: 16.5 x 5.5 x 5.5cm
    •    Weight: 320g (not including pouch or accessories).
    •    PowerBoost function

Conclusion
While there are no smoking gun improvements, the overall package has certainly evolved enough to warrant its 10 pound price increase. For at least this reviewer, the removal of the original unit's "you have reached the maximum volume" beep is reason enough to upgrade to the Solar Sound 2.

The Solar Sound 2 is available directly from Devotec's website for 69.99 Pounds.

Our rating: 8/10

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