Portable sound has come a long way since the days of the 'ghetto blaster'. Now it's easier and cheaper than ever to play some tunes anywhere you like. All you need is a phone and some wireless bluetooth speakers. And there are plenty of bluetooth speakers to choose from.
4Cabling has just issued a new and very cheap model, the T1, which it claims is the thinnest bluetooth speaker in the world. Not only is it very thin at 12mm, but it's smaller than most smartphones, measuring a tiny 100mm by 50mm, not much bigger than a credit card. Priced at $25 they certainly are very affordable too.
The big question is: how is the sound quality?
Have a look at the findings of Roel Verhoeven below.
The device comes in three colours (black, white and smurf blue) and has a soft touch housing. It has a clean look and fits nicely in your hand. There are no holes in the casing to betray that it is in fact a speaker you are looking at. This keeps the dirt out but makes you wonder if sound can get out. More on that later. It charges through a supplied USB cable but to keep costs down it doesn't come with a charger.
Two buttons on each side of the device provide you with the usual on/off, pairing and volume controls and in addition allow you to skip to the next and previous tracks. This latter feature is sometimes lacking in more expensive BT speakers (like the Jawbone Jambox).
The T1 easily connects to all devices I tried. Pairing mode and successful pairing are announced by a voice with a curious mix of a German and Chinese accent. Illuminated buttons indicate the power status and when the device is charging.
So the size and price are right, but what about the sound quality? I was curious to see what sound quality would fit in such a small box at this price level, but I was left a bit disappointed. As can be expected from a small device, low frequency sounds are almost absent. The sounds that do come through lack crispness though. It plays reasonably loud (80dB at 0.5m is specified) but at maximum volume some distortion is noticeable.
I've (subjectively) compared the sound quality of the T1 with the in-built speakers of the LG Nexus 5 phone and an iPhone4. The T1 beats the Nexus 5 by having more volume but iPhone owners would enjoy a notably crisper sound by leaving the T1 at home. You will also get better sound from most other bluetooth speakers and the majority of portable devices such as laptops and tablets.
This makes me wonder for who this product is designed. It is clearly intended for mobile use, which means you'll probably use a phone to feed it music. But this is the thing: a lot of mobile phones will have built-in speakers that are about as good as the T1 or (in the case of more premium phones) even better. You may get a bit louder sound, but does that justify having to buy and carry around another box?
My advice is to spend a bit more money to get something that gives a dramatic improvement on your phone's speakers.
For more info, have a look at 4Cabling's site.