Today we’re going to spend ONE FULL DAY connected to bluetooth audio!
Speakers big and small, earpieces, smartphone docks, and earbuds. Whether you need one of these options or you splurge on all of them you’ll be able to cut the wires for business and pleasure. From waking up in the morning to starting a workday to fully enjoying your lunch break. Each speaker I’ll feature can do something that the others don’t. If you have the need and you want the exact piece to fit your personal want, please read on…
Waking up with the Dual Dock ND5630 by LG
Manufacturer – $249.99
Amazon – $249.99
Click here to see a video slideshow of the Dual Dock for iOS and Android
I begrudgingly wake up to the booming sounds of an LG bedside speaker dock. A fully charged docked smartphone awaits. I grab it off the dock to check my email, but first, a quick tap to the included NFC tag turns on WiFi, raises the media volume, and triggers a little Pandora that fills the room as I ready for the day. When I’m ready to leave, a second tap to the NFC tag turns WiFi off, and turns on my Jabra CONNECT app for our next piece the Jabra MOTION. That’s later though, first a bit more on the LG unit.
The LG ND5630 Dual Dock (name needs work) is one of the most feature packed shelf speaker docks that I’ve seen to date. Features galore, yet it has launched relatively quietly here in the states. I can barely find a trace of it on the web and I’ve only seen it available for purchase at my local Best Buy. Best Buy carries the full line which includes a smaller and larger version of the unit, if you find yourself considering the speaker dock seriously be sure to stop by and get a feel for the fit and finish of the speaker which is impressive across the whole line. A gloss white wrap with a matching white speaker grille and silver accents is very modern and clearly Apple-esque in it’s aesthetic. Luckily, it only looks like an Apple exclusive. The namesake feature of the Dual Dock is it’s iOS and Android dual functionality, and that’s just the start. You’ll have trouble thinking of an available modern feature that isn’t included in this docking speaker. NFC is embedded on top, Built-in WiFi allows connection through walls and furniture, no more line of sight limits. Apple’s Airplay and the DLNA standard take full advantage of the built in Wi-Fi for a very streamlined experience. You can stream from smartphone’s, tablets, even your computer’s music library to the Dual Dock. WiFi also offers a higher quality audio streaming over bluetooth. Though WiFi is a great option you should take advantage of, bluetooth is still included just in case. Going further, metal touch controls are responsive and very beautiful. A dimpled silver bar on the device’s top seems like a design piece but it’s actually a functional indicator bar. Fun icons appear like Androids little green robot to show you the current source that’s selected.
As far as sound, A 30w output fills a medium room with decent sound. A unique engineering touch is a partially sealed bass port around back. You know the holes on the back of speakers and subwoofers? One is sealed on the Dual Dock and one is left open. The sealing creates a cleaning more refined sound but tends to limit volume and punch a bit. In the end the effect is minimal but it’s nice to see a company thinking outside of the box. Lows are rich and full, but for the premium price tag they could go further. Highs can get a little fuzzy at the top of the volume and mids seem to follow. This isn’t the end all audio solution, but if you’re looking for a great balance of looks, sound, and up to the minute features and functionality, I haven’t seen a better fit to date. You’ll control the whole thing with an included remote control (watch type battery included) and the sliding smartphone dock can even stow away into the unit when not in use for a very clean minimal look while stored away on your shelf.
Off to work with the MOTION by Jabra
Amazon – $129.16
Click here to see a video slideshow of the innovative Jabra MOTION
Into the car and off to work. Whether you spend your 9-5 in an office, on a jobsite, or anywhere else, a bluetooth earpiece has become an accepted accessory for daily life. With state’s adopting stricter and stricter laws to promote distraction free driving, it’s more important than ever before to have an intuitive, simple way to communicate while driving if you choose to do so. Some of us are lucky enough to have built-in solutions in our cars, but the majority still need a simple way to look like they’re talking to themselves in traffic.
The Jabra MOTION is a step forward in many ways, but there are still some issues. To start, it’s LARGE. The size isn’t just for show though, the device is feature packed. NFC, bluetooth 4.0, an accelerometer, and a battery with 7 hours of talk time. Specs like that demand some room to breath. During use though, I found the MOTION was just a bit too large to be practical while worn. The boom mic folds away and storage isn’t an issue, but the device was difficult to put on in a hurry. I’d consistently need two hands to get it fit in my ear and even then, it wasn’t as secure as many other earpieces that I’ve seen. There is a multipurpose button on the earpiece which I would constantly press while fumbling with getting the piece stable in my ear. If you wear eyeglasses or have hair longer than a men’s business cut, this is probably not the earpiece for you sadly. I have longer hair for a man and I wear eyeglasses so getting the device to sit in my ear was that much harder. Even with my hair out of the way and my glasses off there wasn’t much relief. Another great feature of the MOTION that becomes less usable with long hair are the touch sensitive volume controls. Touch is a newer feature and it’s fun and feels futuristic enough, but time will tell if it’s a gimmick or a keeper. I personally like the tactile feel of a traditional button. In the case of something like a bluetooth earpiece, unfortunately touch just doesn’t work. An earpiece can’t be looked at during use. It sits among hair, glasses, hats, and other potential inhibitors and in the end it’s just not a great environment for a subtle control like touch. I have over the ear headphones and the feature works great because it takes glasses, hair, hats, etc. out of the equation. The touch works well when you’re able to use it, unfortunately you’ll need to be nearly bald with perfect sight to see that benefit.
Though you’ll find some accounts of inconsistency, the motion answer function worked well for me every time using a Samsung Galaxy Note 2. The MOTION is uniquely equipped with an accelerometer that allows it to sense movement and react in very functional ways. First is an auto answer function. A bluetooth in your ear all day is convenient, but it’s gained a stigma over time. People have come to expect that someone is unattached from any one on one conversations they have while wearing an earpiece and the single finger motion and a, “give me just a minute” have become standard practice. The MOTION allows you to leave the earpiece on your desk while not in use. Give your friends and colleagues the attention they deserve and when a call is coming in, just reach for the device and as you bring it to your ear the sensed motion answers the call automatically. The other benefit of motion sensing is that the MOTION dynamically changes volume and noise cancellation strength based on things like your walking speed, wind disturbance, and the surrounding voices. I didn’t notice any dramatic changes while in very noisy environments but the earpiece was extremely clear on both sides of the conversation consistently. That’s just to say it wasn’t exceptionally loud or clear in noisy environments. Maybe my ear isn’t sensitive enough to feel the difference, but the audio was good regardless of environment.
A few remaining points to mention. First, a very useful companion app available for iOS and Android makes it very easy to manage quick connections and sound profiles. Bluetooth 4.0 means that the app and its persistent notification will give you the device’s estimated battery life while connected. Lastly, some great voice controls make the device that much more usable. Voice commands and prompts for Caller ID make it so you’ll rarely have to reach for your phone while using the MOTION. The bulk of the device makes it impractical for me to use personally, but I wish I could find another earpiece that was so feature packed with a more comfortable fit.
Your lunch break with TUNZ by TYLT
Manufacturer – $149.99
Click here to see a video slideshow of the compact but powerful TUNZ featuring NFC and backup battery charging
TUNZ is another piece from TYLT. TYLT is entering the electronic accessory market in one large push of innovative, feature-packed devices with great design to boot. I’ve already featured the VU wireless charger on the site and I’ll be featuring more from TYLT soon. Products like the very exciting ENERGI backpack with built in 10,000 mAh backup battery, and built in channels to run charging cables to every pocket in the bag. TYLT has a lot to offer and most of the pieces are feature-packed but still affordable. The TUNZ bluetooth speaker tries to offers a lot, but for a premium price. Speakers this size don’t usually break the $100 mark, but speakers this size don’t usually offer embedded NFC, the ability to charge your smartphone, decent touch controls, and enough bass to impress.
The speaker is small enough to fit in a bag or briefcase and take out while you eat your subway sandwich in the park on your lunch break. As small as it is, TYLT packed two 3-watt speakers into the speaker along with a passive radiator to provide the punchy bass. While you’ll feel the bass and the box gets pretty loud, the sound isn’t what I’d hoped for with the higher price point. Across the board, highs, mids, and lows were all a little cloudy at times. Vocals were natural when they were isolated, but when a full band kicked in things became less clear. I’d even hear some hissing at times when at max volume. Compare this to the still reigning king of my bluetooth speaker reviews, the Jabra Solemate, which doesn’t get as loud as TUNZ but maintains a clarity even during very complicated layered music. The volumes on the Solemate seem to have been limited on purpose to maintain this quality, there is only so much you can do with a smaller sized speaker. The Solemate just has a refined sound across its range that many small speakers that I’ve seen can’t match. Lows are clean and powerful, mids are clear, and the highs shine without cracking or hissing. Again, the volume of the TUNZ is louder, but it does end up coming at a price.
The Solemate can’t compete with TUNZ in terms of features though. The embedded NFC comes in very handy to trigger bluetooth and launch music apps and the speaker includes a copy of Tagstand’s NFC task launcher. The app is already free in the Android market, but it’s nice that they point you in the right direction, it’s a very capable app. A 2800 mAh internal battery promises a full 20 hours at 50% volume, 50% isn’t very realistic though. At best, you’ll use the speaker at 75% volume as I did and I’d see about 12 hours use which is not bad at all. That internal battery can also be used as a backup for your smartphone. A full sized USB port charges at 1A which is enough for most smartphones but not tablets or larger phones like the Galaxy Note 2. The touch controls were some of the more responsive that I’ve seen, but the multipurpose play/pause button needs a light touch to work best, don’t mash down. The decorative silicon bands are nice and help to angle the speaker up at a listener on a table, but they also help to dampen vibration. Overall it’s a very fun device and it’s power to size ratio is hard to beat, I just hope future iterations of the speaker either work a little more on sound quality or at least lower the price point. This would easily be one of the best portable bluetooth speakers on the market at $100.
STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO: Bluetooth connected during your daily workout and an evening dinner party with friends
ENJOY YOUR GADGETS!