Apple HomePod Mini Review

Smart home technology isn’t just a sci-fi fantasy or the plot of a Disney Channel Original movie any longer, as companies and technology have now progressed to the point where consumers are capable of having a voice command do so much by saying so little. While companies like Google and Amazon have been quick to adopt smart speakers, it’s taken a few attempts from Apple to really nail that experience for users in their ecosystem of products. Their latest version of a smart home device, the HomePod Mini, is what it says it is on the tin: a smaller version of their HomePod device, meant to be both speaker and gateway for home automation.

Specifications:
Weight: 0.76 pounds

Connection: Bluetooth, WiFi

Speakers: Built-In

Microphones: 4

 

Setup: As Easy as They Come
Upon unboxing the HomePod Mini and plugging it into the wall, you’ll be treated with a swirling light on the top touchpad, as well as hearing a sound akin to the THX logo. Once the unit is active, you’ll need to have an iPhone or iPad handy to walk through the next few steps, which doesn’t take long at all; I couldn’t quite capture the specific prompt, but there’s a moment where your iPhone will ask you to frame the HomePod Mini in your camera in order to finish setup, which is both a neat trick and a cool bit of functionality.

After setting up, which only takes about two minutes, you’ll be prompted by your device to try out a few different Siri-based voice commands to get a feel for what she’s capable of doing.

 

Design: Apple in Every Way
The look and feel of the Apple HomePod Mini are decidedly Apple; it’s very minimal, and the overall design isn’t much bigger than a standard mid-size candle you’d find at Bath and Body Words, but with details that really establish it as an Apple product, down to the white accents, the polished look and just how striking it appears in a home. I had my review unit placed on the lip of a window in my office, and, even with the white cord rather visible, the Mini eventually just disappeared into the background of my space. I imagine it will be even less noticeable if you were to tuck the cord (which attaches to an included 20-watt charging brick via USB-C) behind a dresser to hide it further out of sight. The mesh itself is softer than it looks and not at all like the wire-y sneaker material you’re used to seeing. There are also no included USB ports, so it really is just the orb-like device, and that’s all.

As far as design touches for the actual functionality go, once again, it is particularly Apple in its execution. There’s essentially only one main button area, which is at the top of the HomePod Mini itself; the touchpad controls allow you to toggle the audio (pause or play) while also letting you adjust the output volume. The pad is also illuminated and will emit light depending upon the activity (when I played music, it was white, while using it as a speakerphone was green).

 

Features: A Solid But Unsurprising List
Some of the biggest features in the HomePod Mini are ones that are pretty straightforward, including using it as a speaker and as a voice-activated control for various other devices through the Apple HomeKit architecture. The speaker functionality is pretty straightforward; you can play all kinds of audio through it by either leveraging Apple’s own products like Apple Music or by casting audio to the HomePod itself. You can pair two units nearby and get full stereo output, allowing for a more balanced experience. AirPlay 2 integration means you can beam pretty much anything to the unit and get it to play, leveraging an almost Bluetooth-like connection to play your audio.

Like all Apple devices, you can use Siri for voice commands, but the HomePod Mini is really meant to use Siri as frequently as possible. You can use Siri, combined with HomeKit, to do all kinds of automation, from adjusting the temperature to turning off the lights, setting an alarm, creating a reminder, asking for quick information, or even using it as a two-way relay. The possibilities of what you can do with the HomePod Mini are really extensive; it’s just a matter of having those respective services plugged into HomeKit and then actually using them.

 

Performance: Big Sound Despite Its Size
Let’s start with audio. Upon playing a song on the HomePod Mini, you’ll notice how good it sounds for a speaker of that price and size. You’re not going to really get the nuance of a song in the same way you’d get listening to it on a set of wireless headphones, but I was surprised how I was able to get some details like the synth-hums of the Tron: Legacy soundtrack or the baseline on a Tame Impala track. There’s definitely a textural element to the songs, which is impressive for a speaker of this size.

Equally as impressive is how full the sound is in a given space. Even at half volume, the playback filled up my office nicely; I never felt much of a need to crank it up much past that, unless I wanted to rock out. I have hefty Bluetooth speakers that don’t even accomplish that job as well as the HomePod Mini does.

Casting audio to the HomePod is easy to do, even if it’s a little gimmicky. The way the functionality works is that you can either just select the HomePod from your list of speakers or place your phone over the top of the HomePod to almost drag and drop the audio into it. There’s no native integration with Spotify, a huge bummer, as Apple wants you to use their Music service. I didn’t activate my free six-month Apple Music trial to test with the Mini, but the device will learn your music preferences over time and you can even ask it to play “something you’d like,” which pulls from what you have listened to and curates similar songs on the spot. It’s a great feature; I just wish it wasn’t tied to Apple Music exclusively. You can, however, still use Siri to pause and play songs, even while using Spotify.

Speaking (pun intended) of voice commands, the Mini does a great job of recognizing what you want it to do when speaking to it. Pausing and playing music off a voice command doesn’t take much time at all, resulting in a pretty short amount of downtime after asking it to execute a function. The Mini can even recognize multiple voice profiles, so my girlfriend was even able to pause music or execute other commands without much hassle at all. In fact, if you ask HomePod what’s on your calendar for the day, you’ll get a different response based upon which person is asking. This is super helpful if you have a large household of people who may be interested in using a handful of different functions. You can even run Siri Shortcuts (similar to If This, Then That functionality), assuming you’ve spent the time setting them up on your phone prior. Oh, and you can set multiple timers, which is always helpful when cooking.

I don’t have a ton of home automation stuff in my house, but what I did have, the HomePod worked great with; asking Siri to turn off the lights and start my sleep timer worked pretty flawlessly. However, those who have extensive home automation functions will need to check and see if each respective device works with HomeKit.

KEF LSX II wireless music system

High-end British audio company KEF tells us it has substantially improved the LSX wireless music system we named an Editors’ Choice in June, 2019. The second-generation KEF LSX II is set to ship June 23, 2022 with a retail price of $1,400.

The system uses the company’s W2 wireless platform first introduced in the larger and more expensive LS50 Wireless II speakers and LS60 Wireless floorstanding speakers. The LS50 Wireless II also earned our Editors’ Choice award, in November, 2021.

KEF touts the LSX II’s versatility, thanks to the company’s KEF Connect app that lets you stream Qobuz, Tidal, Deezer, Amazon Music, internet radio stations, and podcasts. You can use Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast seamlessly to stream audio from compatible devices, and there’s also Bluetooth if you need it.

If you prefer to use native apps, the LSX II allows streaming direct from Spotify Connect, Tidal, and Qobuz. The system is also Roon Ready. Airplay 2, Chromecast, or Roon will allow you to stream to multiple speakers. The connectivity doesn’t stop there. You also have the ability to play music from a NAS drive or music server. If you’re into high-res audio, KEF offers file support up to 24bit/384kHz (PCM), DSD, and full MQA rendering.

The LSX II takes the two-stereo approach designed to create a three-dimensional soundstage and features a combined 200 watts of amplifier power. KEF touts its 11th generation Uni-Q driver array that’s specifically designed for this loudspeaker. The company has placed the tweeter at the precise acoustic center of the woofer, which KEF says will eliminate the traditional “sweet spot” listening position to deliver accurate sound to every listener in a room.

There’s also a full array of wired connections, including HDMI ARC for TV connections and a USB-C port if you want to use the speakers as a desktop system with your computer. There are also optical and AUX connections if you want to connect a turntable, CD player, or game console. Should you find the system’s low-end lacking, you have the option connect a KEF subwoofer via a dedicated output.

The LSX II takes the two-stereo approach designed to create a three-dimensional soundstage and features a combined 200 watts of amplifier power. KEF touts its 11th generation Uni-Q driver array that’s specifically designed for this loudspeaker. The company has placed the tweeter at the precise acoustic center of the woofer, which KEF says will eliminate the traditional “sweet spot” listening position to deliver accurate sound to every listener in a room.

There’s also a full array of wired connections, including HDMI ARC for TV connections and a USB-C port if you want to use the speakers as a desktop system with your computer. There are also optical and AUX connections if you want to connect a turntable, CD player, or game console. Should you find the system’s low-end lacking, you have the option connect a KEF subwoofer via a dedicated output.

 

 

This speaker recreates engine noises for safer scooter and electric bike rides

Manufacturer Segway-Ninebot has launched a portable Bluetooth speaker that replicates the sound of a traditional internal combustion engine; the unit can be attached to your scooter or electric bike, so you don’t go unnoticed in traffic.

It’s more than a fun gimmick; it’s about ensuring the safety of all concerned — the driver and other road users, particularly pedestrians.

Although the concept may sound fun and offbeat, it’s actually very serious

Since electric scooters and bicycles are essentially silent, they pose a significant danger, with high risks of collisions and various accidents. But with this new concept, it’s difficult not to hear them approaching.

The Ninebot Engine Speaker can play several sounds, indicating varying degrees of power: one or two cylinder engines, V8 and V12.

But the most interesting thing is that the sound is modulated according to whether you are accelerating or braking.

A rumble sound signals the driver is taking off. Some pedestrians might think that a sports car is right behind them, but it’s a regular electric scooter!

Thanks to its mounting system, it can be attached to the handlebars but can also be strapped onto the pole or under the saddle on a bike.

Those who wish to do so can also use this speaker in an electric car; with the windows down, they will be sure not to go undetected.

This Bluetooth speaker, which can also simply play music, is priced at US$149.99. More expensive than a horn, but more impressive too.

Segway has already made a name for itself this year by launching a scooter, the KickScooter GT2, which can reach a top speed of 70 km/h, ideal for having fun on a track or for off-roading recreational use on closed private property. — ETX Studio

 

Monoprice drops three new THX Certified compact on-wall home theatre speakers

Californian audio and technology specialist Monoprice (which recently launched the intriguingly affordable M1000ANC wireless headphones) has just added three THX certified on-wall home theatre speaker propositions to its popular Monolith line.

We’ll start with the meatiest product in the trio (pictured, above). For those who want the clean look of a soundbar but demand the performance of a true home theatre speaker system, the Monolith M-OW3 could be the answer to your prayers. It combines front left, centre, and right channels into a single thin and stylish wall-mounted speaker. Each of this passive soundbar’s three channels features a high-performance 4.5-inch concentric driver with an inset 20mm silk dome tweeter, an optimised waveguide, and two 4.5-inch passive radiators.

This “potent” LCR speaker also boasts a flat frequency response from 70Hz to 20kHz and it has been THX Certified Select Certified (the immersive surround-sound standard founded by iconic filmmaker George Lucas in 1983) for “spectacular home theatre performance in just about any room”. The Monolith M-OW3 also boasts 84.8dB sensitivity, 4 ohms nominal impedance, five-way spring-loaded binding posts and keyhole slots on the back for easy wall mounting.

Featuring a slim and elegant cabinet design, the smaller Monolith M-OW1 (above) speaker pair packs the same high-performance 4.5-inch concentric driver with an inset 20mm silk dome tweeter, featuring an optimised waveguide and two 4.5-in passive radiators per unit. Ideally suited for use as front-, centre- and surround-channel speakers, these 4-ohm on-wall speakers promise a surprisingly flat frequency response from 70Hz to 20kHz.

Lastly, let’s look at Monoprice’s Monolith THX Certified Compact Satellite speaker pair. Monoprice bills them as a perfect solution for front left and right, height or surround channels, again featuring a high-excursion 4.5-inch concentric driver with an inset 20mm silk dome tweeter and optimised waveguide. Though smaller in form factor than the other on-wall options, these MDF-encased, precision-tuned and cube shaped speakers boast a flat frequency response down to 80Hz.

All of the speakers are available immediately. Prices? The Monoprice Monolith M-OW3 is $500(opens in new tab) (roughly £380 or AU$660); the Monoprice Monolith M-OW1 also costs $500(opens in new tab) per pair (again, that’s around £380 or AU$660 and before any duties); and the Monoprice Monolith Compact Satellite speakers are $250(opens in new tab) per pair (around £190 or AU$330). Interesting…

 

Want to affordably add Dolby Atmos to your home cinema? Save $250 on these Klipsch height speakers at Best Buy

If you have an AV receiver capable of decoding Dolby Atmos that is feeding a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound package, it might be time to properly take advantage of its full skillset. Because until Sunday (3rd April), you can save $250 on a pair of Klipsch’s Reference Dolby Atmos speakers at Best Buy.

These upward-firing ‘add-on’ speakers are designed to simply sit atop your front-channel speakers (and rear-channel ones too if you buy two pairs) to give your speaker package height channels – essentially, overhead sound effects.

Dolby Atmos technology represents the pinnacle of immersive home cinema today, and such speakers are designed to make it easy for owners of existing surround sound systems to benefit from it. So, with a saving of $250 to be had, why not take the plunge?

So long as you have an Atmos-supporting AV receiver and a speaker package, these Klipsch height channels should slip seamlessly into your home cinema system. Simply place them on top of your existing front and/or rear speakers, plug them into the appropriate sockets on your amp, and start playing a movie or show with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.

If you’re looking to add Dolby Atmos to your system without swapping out your whole speaker package, installing in-ceiling height speakers or downgrading to a Dolby Atmos soundbar, these add-on Klipsch speakers could be just what you need – especially at this discounted price.

Save big on the Marshall Emberton: The small speaker with the big sound

The price of the compact Marshall Emberton portable speaker has been cut by £40 in the UK and $19 in the US making this a great time to experience the audio firm’s smallest-ever speaker.

Here at Louder, we’re big fans of Marshall’s range of headphones and speakers thanks to their brilliant sonic qualities. And that’s no surprise given that the Marshall name has adorned rock’n’roll stages all over the world, with their cabs blasting out sweet sounds for decades.

And the good news is that if you’re after a portable Bluetooth speaker, then the Marshall Emberton is now on sale on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK, Amazon have cut the price on the Black version from £149.99 down to £109 – a neat saving of £40.99, while BestBuy in the US have reduced the price on the Black & Brass edition from $169.99 to 150.99

Marshall’s smallest-ever speaker is perfect for outdoor use, with the Emberton offering more than 20 hours of music playback from a single charge. To bring that point home, it’s also armed with IPX7 water-resistance and is loaded with Bluetooth 5.0 which has a range of 30ft.

Most impressive of all, however, is that it packs quite a punch and that’s thanks to Marshall’s True Stereophonic tech– a multi-directional sound which delivers 360° audio.

 

 

Sonos challenged by new Dolby Atmos soundbar that promises BIG sound from a small speaker

Soundbars are a brilliant way to boost the tinny audio from your flatscreen telly without going to the lengths of filling every nook and cranny in the room with speakers for a complete surround sound setup. However, even some sounders are a little unwieldy. Sonos Arc features some truly dizzying audio from a single speaker – offering a surround sound experience from a single unit – but at 45-inches wide (114.3cm) it’s big enough to ride Big Thunder Mountain unaccompanied by an adult at Disneyland Paris. In other words, you’ll need to measure the size of your media unit before you add it to your shopping basket.

That’s where the latest soundbar from Polk Audio comes in. This compact speaker hopes to bring the bombastic sound you’d want from a Dolby Atoms-compatible soundbar to a much smaller package …just 14-inches (37cm). That’s not tall enough for any ride.

The MagniFi Mini AX is designed to bring Dolby Atmos sound for your next blockbuster night at home and offer a great way to wirelessly beam music from your smartphone to tablet. Polk Audio has included its 3D Audio Mode, which uses software to upmix the audio to create a 360-degree virtual surround sound. This includes virtual height channels, which should create the impression of speakers fixed into the ceiling.

Polk’s patented VoiceAdjust system is also baked into the MagniFi Mini AX. This leverages the centre channel driver to single-out the dialogue, so you can independently increase the level of speech without impacting anything else. For those who want to watch a blockbuster late at night but don’t want to disturb the neighbours or younger members of the family, this is a brilliant way to ensure dialogue remains crystal-clear but that gunfire, explosions, car engines, theme songs and other sounds don’t rumble the walls.

Unlike rival soundbars from Bose and Sonos, the MagniFi Mini AX isn’t an all-in-one Dolby Atmos system. Instead, Polk Audio bundles a powerful down-firing subwoofer as part of the MagniFi system. This wireless speaker connects to the soundbar automatically and can be placed anywhere up to 6.7 metres away – perfect for hiding away the subwoofer and keeping the décor of your living room intact.

Polk Audio says that its next-generation subwoofer provides “a deep, effortless bass that Polk is known for and can be tailored for your preferences using the BassAdjust feature, which optimises the blending of low frequencies between the soundbar and subwoofer”.

Like similar solutions from Bose and Sonos, the Polk Audio MagniFi Mini AX can connect using HDMI ARC and eARC. There’s also support for optical. The MagniFi Mini AX is Roku TV-ready, which means that viewers who rely on Roku streaming set-top boxes or Roku TVs will be able to adjust preferences for the soundbar from within the main settings menu.

There’s also a 3.5mm port in the back of the MagniFi Mini AX if you want to connect another audio source. Not that you’ll need it, out of the box, this speaker supports both Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast and Spotify Connect. The latter allows users with the Spotify app to wireless beam playlists, albums and podcasts to the speaker with a tap. AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast both offer lossless, wireless ways to send audio from smartphones, tablets and computers (AirPlay 2 only works with Mac) to the speaker without the hassle of pairing over Bluetooth, the inferior audio quality, and the ping of your notifications interrupting your favourite track.

Polk Audio’s MagniFi Mini AX launches later this month in the UK with a price tag of £429. The company also offers optional Polk SR2 wireless speakers, available for £159 each, to add designated rear channels to boost audio from DTS:X to DTS:X 5.1 playback.

“With MagniFi Mini AX we set out to create the world’s best sounding, ultra-compact Dolby Atmos soundbar,” said Frank Sterns, President of Polk Audio. “By integrating the immersive surround capabilities of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and then optimising it with Polk’s patented SDA technology, we’ve created a product that’s not only as enveloping as a soundbar three times its size, but with a level of soundstage accuracy that’s unmatched in its class.”

 

 

Sonos too pricey? Audio firm launches its most affordable speaker yet TODAY

Sonos just launched its most affordable speaker – the Sonos Roam SL. This brand-new speaker, which was announced back in February, boasts a waterproof design, 10-hour battery life, wireless charging, and the lowest price tag we’ve ever seen from Sonos. The Roam SL follows in the footsteps of the Sonos One SL, which drops the far-field microphone array that enables hands-free voice assistants Alexa and Google Assistant in favour of a £20 price cut. Likewise, the Sonos Roam SL doesn’t support any AI voice assistants but, aside from that omission, you’ll enjoy the same features as the first-generation Sonos Roam that launched last year… for £20 less.

Sonos Roam already held the title for the most affordable speaker in Sonos’ lineup – matching the price tag of the Sonos One SL at £179, so it’s impressive that Sonos has dropped that cost again with the introduction of the new Sonos Roam SL.

For those who missed the introduction of the original Sonos Roam, this clever speaker works like any other Sonos speaker inside the home – with songs, albums, playlists, radio stations, and podcasts beamed wirelessly via Wi-Fi from your smartphone, tablet or PC. However, it’s when you pocket the Sonos Roam SL and head outside that things get really interesting. That’s because the Sonos Roam SL transforms into a Bluetooth speaker when it’s away from your Wi-Fi network.

Pair the speaker with your smartphone or tablet and you’ll be able to wirelessly stream playlists and podcasts when away from home. Sonos has designed the Roam SL to survive a trip to the beach or pool too, thanks the dust and waterproof case. Sonos Roam SL is rated IP67, which means that it can withstand submersion in one meter of water for 30 minutes. It’s designed to handle a few bumps and bruises too, so it should have no qualms about a few road trips, BBQs in the garden, or camping holidays.

Even the stylish triangular design was chosen to allow listeners to place Roam SL vertically for a smaller footprint or horizontally to provide more stability on uneven surfaces outdoors.

Despite the omission of the far-field microphone array, the battery life between the Roam SL and the Sonos Roam remains unchanged – with 10-hours of wireless listening when unplugged from the mains. With the Battery Saver setting is enabled, Sonos says this diddy speaker will be able to last 10 days or longer in sleep mode.

Charging is handled via a USB-C cable or any Qi-certified wireless charger. Sonos has designed its own wireless charging cradle, which can be used as a dock when the Sonos Roam SL is inside the house and used like a standard speaker from the smart audio brand.

Sonos Roam SL is compatible with AirPlay 2, which allows iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac owners to wirelessly beam lossless music to the speaker without pairing. As long as both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, you’ll be able to start sending music, podcasts, radio and more. You’ll also be able to synchronise playback across multiple speakers in your home (alternatively, you can send different songs to speakers in each room). Of course, this is something that Sonos’ own app allows you to do, but you’ll be able to group together any AirPlay 2 speakers when relying on the Apple-developed system – even those made by rival firms, like Bose.

If you bought a Sonos Roam last year, or want to order two Sonos Roam SLs, these speakers can be paired together to listen in stereo. This is possible when away out on the road, as well as using your Wi-Fi back at home. Of course, like everything available in the Sonos lineup, you’ll be able to group the speakers based on the rooms in your house, adjusting the volume with a single volume slider (something that Google can no longer offer after a US court found that it was infringing patented technology developed by Sonos) or individually.

Sonos Roam SL is available to buy right now for £159, with the first speakers shipping from today, March 15, 2022.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Speaker Review

The return of Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin speaker is a welcome development for every music listener who cares about audio quality, but has transitioned away from physical media like CDs and vinyl to music streaming. The speaker, which is on sale for $100 at $699, manages to combine the hardware and performance of a traditional home audio system, which typically features a standalone amplifier and stereo speakers, with the convenience of a modern smart speaker. In this arena, the Zeppelin is unmatched.

THE LATEST SPEAKER IN A LONG LEGACY
The thought of spending hundreds of dollars on a single speaker might sound absurd in a world where you can get a pretty good sounding Bluetooth speaker for under $100, but the current-generation Zeppelin is the latest in a line of high-end speakers that was launched in 2007. That original model was released at the height of classic iPod’s popularity, with a physical dock that allowed you to charge the dedicated music player.

Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin speaker line was released in the mid 2000s, but it’s an extension of the British audio company’s legacy. Since it was founded in Worthing, West Sussex in 1966, Bowers & Wilkins has been driven by the desire to build and sell audio gear aimed at music listeners who demand to hear their music in the highest quality possible.

The original Zeppelin allowed you to play music from your local music library without any cables. We’re well into the music streaming age, where millions of tracks are available in a couple of taps. The way many of us listen to music may have changed, but the Bowers & Wilkins’ strategy has remained the same: Create the coolest-looking, best-sounding speaker for music lovers.

To that end, the company has updated the Zeppelin three times over the past fifteen years, and the fourth-generation model we’ve been testing is its biggest leap forward. Not only does this speaker accommodate all the needs of a modern music listener, from compatibility with every wireless streaming standard to support for Amazon’s Alexa, it’s exceeded our expectations in almost every way.

THE ZEPPELIN’S ELONGATED SHAPE ISN’T JUST FOR LOOKS

One thing Bowers & Wilkins didn’t change is the Zeppelin’s iconic look, which has only been refined slightly each time a new version is released. This is a big speaker, with a width of 26 inches, and a height and depth of seven inches. If you’re looking for a Bluetooth speaker for your beach bag, or one that can be subtly placed on a bookshelf, look elsewhere.

The Zeppelin, perched on its curved, metal stand, looks distinctive and demands attention. If you’ve never seen the Zeppelin before, it’s easy to write off its elongated shape as a cheap gimmick, but it serves a very important purpose. The speaker’s extreme width allowed Bowers & Wilkins to place its drivers (the part of a speaker and headphone that produce sound) far away from one another. Each side of the Zeppelin features one 1-inch tweeter and a 3.5-inch midrange woofer, with a six-inch subwoofer in the middle of the speaker.

This multi-driver design serves two important purposes. First, it allows the speaker to direct sounds that fall in a specific frequency range to the driver that can play it the most clearly. High frequencies (known as treble) get routed to the tweeters, midrange frequencies (referred to as mids) get sent through the woofer, and low frequencies (aka bass) come out through the middle woofer. This sounds technical, but the end result is clearer sound, and the ability to hear different instruments more clearly. While listening to rock music, we could easily distinguish the bass from the crashing of cymbals, vocals, and guitar. Lower-end speakers typically have one or two drivers that handle sounds from the entire frequency range, which is why your music might sound muffled.

One thing Bowers & Wilkins didn’t change is the Zeppelin’s iconic look, which has only been refined slightly each time a new version is released. This is a big speaker, with a width of 26 inches, and a height and depth of seven inches. If you’re looking for a Bluetooth speaker for your beach bag, or one that can be subtly placed on a bookshelf, look elsewhere.

The Zeppelin, perched on its curved, metal stand, looks distinctive and demands attention. If you’ve never seen the Zeppelin before, it’s easy to write off its elongated shape as a cheap gimmick, but it serves a very important purpose. The speaker’s extreme width allowed Bowers & Wilkins to place its drivers (the part of a speaker and headphone that produce sound) far away from one another. Each side of the Zeppelin features one 1-inch tweeter and a 3.5-inch midrange woofer, with a six-inch subwoofer in the middle of the speaker.

This multi-driver design serves two important purposes. First, it allows the speaker to direct sounds that fall in a specific frequency range to the driver that can play it the most clearly. High frequencies (known as treble) get routed to the tweeters, midrange frequencies (referred to as mids) get sent through the woofer, and low frequencies (aka bass) come out through the middle woofer. This sounds technical, but the end result is clearer sound, and the ability to hear different instruments more clearly. While listening to rock music, we could easily distinguish the bass from the crashing of cymbals, vocals, and guitar. Lower-end speakers typically have one or two drivers that handle sounds from the entire frequency range, which is why your music might sound muffled.

SET-UP ONLY TAKES A FEW MINUTES

The Zeppelin may look imposing, but Bowers & Wilkins did a great job making it easy to configure. The first step is to find a place to fit the Zeppelin given its width. For the best results, we recommend placing it on a dedicated side table, or the top of a small bookcase. You’ll want to pick a place where the speaker is out in the open to avoid the issue of sound reverberating off the top and sides of an enclosed area, like the middle shelves of a media console.

To get the most out of the speaker, you’ll want to download Bowers & Wilkins’ “Music” app, which is available on iOS and Android. The app will automatically detect the Zeppelin once it’s plugged in, and you’ll be able to name the speaker, connect it to your WiFi network, enable its Amazon Alexa functionality, and stream music to it from your streaming app of choice. All of this should only take five or so minutes, though in our experience the setup process took a couple of tries to work. This may be due to the fact that we were running a beta version of iOS at the time.

If you want to bypass all of that, you can hit the speaker’s “multifunction” button (a big circular button on top of the speaker with three lines in the middle), to switch it over to Bluetooth mode. This setting requires no app to set up. We recommend setting the Zeppelin up using Bowers & Wilkins’ app to see whether its features are worthwhile to you. If you primarily use Apple devices to stream music, running through Bowers & Wilkins’ standard setup procedure will also enable AirPlay 2, which allows you to stream higher-resolution music to the Zeppelin.

Once it’s set up, you can link the Zeppelin to your Amazon account using the Alexa app on your phone or tablet. Doing so will allow you to use Alexa to play music from your streaming service of choice totally hands free. If you’re familiar with Amazon’s Alexa, and want to easily create an on-the-fly playlist while preparing a meal or cleaning, it’s a good option to have.

NO SMART SPEAKER ON THE MARKET CAN MATCH THE ZEPPELIN’S SOUND

It’s safe to say that the latest version of Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin speaker is the best wireless speaker we’ve ever tested, and it gave many powered speakers and multi-component stereo systems a run for their money. In the audio world, it’s easy to get tripped up in gear, and worrying about whether the speakers you’re using are the best match for your amplifier. Eventually, you find yourself getting selective about the speaker cables and power plugs you use (guilty), and these nagging feelings can interrupt your enjoyment of the music.

Instead of worrying about any of that, we were able to queue up the music we wanted from our streaming service of choice — or local music library — and start playing songs. It may seem hyperbolic, but in our hours of music listening, the Zeppelin never let us down. Its consistency of producing well-balanced sound, where no instrument or element of a song overpowered another one, was almost alarming. We never had the familiar experience of a song’s bass drowning out its vocal track, or cymbals getting drowned out by a kick drum. The Zeppelin won’t be able to fix a song that’s been mixed poorly, but it isn’t going to mess up the sound of a good song, either.

We listened to music from several genres when testing out the Zeppelin, and found ourselves unable to stump it. The clanging sound of the honkey-tonk style piano in the intro of The Band’s “We Can Talk” rang through clearly underneath the song’s whirling organ. The iconic saxophone line that drives John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” sounded sharp on top of the bed created by the drum, bass, and piano tracks. Lorde’s ethereal voice was astonishingly clear on “Solar Power,” but never drowned out the harmony vocals beneath it.

There are dozens of additional examples we could give of the Zeppelin knocking it out of the park where audio quality is concerned, but we’ll end by citing the bass drum that kicks off Courtney Barnett’s “Elevator Operator.” Its powerful, consistent beat punctuates the syllables of the words Barnett is singing. Each sound enhances the other, making the complete song better than the sum of its parts.

One funny quirk we found during our testing is that the Zeppelin can get loud. We rarely moved our digital volume knob past 50 percent, so you should have no problem turning it way past 11 if you plan on using this speaker in a big room. This feature makes it equally good when listening to music while doing loud tasks like vacuuming or cooking, and while hosting big parties.

THE BOTTOM LINE
We could go on and on, but the bottom line is that anyone will be able to appreciate how good their favorite music sounds coming from the Zeppelin. For most folks, it’ll be the last speaker they ever need, which makes it well worth the investment if you love music but don’t have the space or patience for a traditional stereo system. Just don’t be surprised if you hear “wow, what’s that?” when guests see it for the first time.

Tronsmart Bang speaker Review

The new year always brings new devices to the market, and Tronsmart is doing its part to keep with the trend. As a brand that’s been in the space for years, it has been hard at work on its new lineup. Our friends there have allowed us to test the latest Tronsmart Bang speaker being released today.

Design
The Bang speaker is built like a small tank. It has a very sturdy industrial design that should allow it to go pretty much anywhere. The device has a good ergonomic feeling handle and the weight seems balanced while holding it.

Each side of the Bang speaker is flanked by woofers that add to the boom of the audio. These also have an LED ring for ambient light that can be influenced by music playback. There’s another coinciding light bar on the bottom front of the Bang just below the Tronsmart logo.

The internal speaker on the Bang is powered by 60W of power. This boosts both the main speakers on the inside as well as the two woofers on each end of the device.

Tronsmart has made sure this is an adventure speaker for those that love to party on the go. It includes a 10800mAh battery bank that allows accessorial charging via the USB-A port on the back. You’ll also find a USB-C port but this is for charging the Bang speaker only.

Rounding out the back panel of ports is a microSD card slot and auxiliary 3.5mm audio jack. This allows you to truly enjoy music in a variety of ways and recharge your phone while on the go with the Tronsmart Bang speaker.

Some of the final mentionable specs are that the Tronsmart Bang is IPX6 waterproof and dust resistant. This should make it great for any indoor party or outdoor adventures.

Sound and controls
The audio experience on the Bang speaker was a little mixed for me. I expected this giant speaker to have a little more rich and bass-heavy sound. It’s not bad but I was disappointed that it didn’t provide more thump.

You can, however, tweak this more to your liking via the Tronsmart apps’ dedicated EQ. You can manually adjust the audio elements or pick from eight preset options. This is a good option for those more audiophile buyers to fine-tune their experience.

Rounding out the back panel of ports is a microSD card slot and auxiliary 3.5mm audio jack. This allows you to truly enjoy music in a variety of ways and recharge your phone while on the go with the Tronsmart Bang speaker.

Some of the final mentionable specs are that the Tronsmart Bang is IPX6 waterproof and dust resistant. This should make it great for any indoor party or outdoor adventures.

Sound and controls
The audio experience on the Bang speaker was a little mixed for me. I expected this giant speaker to have a little more rich and bass-heavy sound. It’s not bad but I was disappointed that it didn’t provide more thump.

You can, however, tweak this more to your liking via the Tronsmart apps’ dedicated EQ. You can manually adjust the audio elements or pick from eight preset options. This is a good option for those more audiophile buyers to fine-tune their experience.

Battery life
Tronsmart estimates the battery life at 15 hours total with the LED rings turned off and the volume at around 50%. I’ve found this to be relatively accurate. I was able to kill the capacity on the Bang speaker on my first run in more like 12 hours but I was pushing it pretty hard with external charging my phone as well as playing audio.

Charging the Bang back to full can be done over USB-C. However, this is a slow 10W port so it takes some time to completely refill the banks. In my testing with the Bang, it took three hours or more to charge.

Conclusion
Tronsmart has a decent portable speaker in the Bang. The rugged design and built-in power bank make it a great solution for party-goers while away from the house. Its sound also makes it a good companion device while at home.

The Bang speaker is available today in the US. Pricing is $110 which sets it square in range with other speakers in the market. You can purchase it directly from Tronsmart’s website with the link below.