Bluetooth Speakers: Unwire your music!

05th August 2014
Bluetooth Speakers:  Unwire  your music!

With  the mobile phone as good as any music player,  a wireless speaker is a must-have for  sharing and partying
Anand Parthasarathy checks out some mid-price wireless speakers
Does anybody remember the Walkman?  Sony stopped  making the classic portable cassette  music player in 2010, some thirty years after inventing it.
iPod anyone? Not too many takers, I'm afraid, when Apple's own iPhones, double as pretty good music players.  
Last week,  headlines in Japan  spoke of the Sony Walkman rising  from the grave: the company had launched a new solid state music player called the ZX1 with 128 GB of storage -- but  the asking price in Yen ( the equivalent of Rs 45,000)   told most of us: "Relax, it's not for the likes of  you!" Our mobile phones remain unchallenged as  the music player, they threw in for free.
That said,  the mobile phone is a great storehouse of music, but not the best  device to enjoy . Unless you are an antisocial loner or stuck in a noise-free zone,  headphones are not an optio: sharing is half the fun.   But it's silly to stick a lot of wires to  attach a speaker to a cell phone -- which is why  a wireless speaker system is today a  must-have accessory for phone-totting music premis. 
This is where Bluetooth technology comes to the rescue, joining the   player ( in a phone or  stand-alone)   and the speaker  as long as they  are  not more than  10 metres  apart. 
The problem with Bluetooth speakers  today, is a problem of plenty:  between the cheapest at  around Rs 400 and the costliest, there could be a   100-fold price difference.  Assuming that most of  us may not  consider  spending tens of thousands of rupees  on an accessory to  a phone which costs much  less than that, I have been trying out a few  mid price-range Bluetooth wireless speakers  and was surprised to see how innovative they have become; how they second guess the secret wish lists of  the average music-loving customer.
One of the most portable is Logitech's  X100 which fits comfortably in the palm of your hand, comes with a rubber skin for outdoor use  and  plays for about  5 hours on a full charge. Power switch, volume control, and Bluetooth connectivity button,  a 3.5mm audio jack for connecting other devices  and a micro-USB port  for charging are all  embedded flush with the wall of the speaker. An unseen mike   turns  the X100 into a speaker phone in case you have an incoming call on your phone.  At Rs 2995, it is both pocket sized and pocket friendly  -- and this  baby sized speaker  can  sing real loud  too!
Simple Audio is an audio  device maker based in Scotland who quickly acquired a reputation among  serious music lovers for  delivering very decent sound quality. The company was recently acquired by  PC accessory supplier Corsair  -- and celebrated the occasion by launching Simple Audio 'Go', a  chunky but still hand-sized Bluetooth 3.0 speaker  whose  USP is a  separate bass-enhancing driver and two stereo speakers. The built-in microphone  may not be anything new but   some  clever echo-cancelling technology  makes the  hands-free  speakerphone mode of  taking a call  far superior to many Bluetooth speakers I have tested.  The asking price  of Rs 6999  might seem a bit steep, but SimpleAudio is able to  charge a premium because it has  earned a reputation among audio freaks.
Finally   the BT-02 1 N speaker from Hong Kong-based Astrum  provides  a second, more  recent technology in addition to Bluetooth,  that  makes wire-free pairing even easier: NFC or Near Field Communication.  If yours is a recent smartphone with NFC, you can avoid drilling down a menu to  detect the Bluetooth   device:  Just bring the phone close to the speaker and give it a  light tap to   get the speaker playing your music.
Another thoughtful  feature: the rechargeable battery in the speaker also doubles as a  1600 mAh emergency power bank for charging your phone. But I would not  call this a truly portable speaker -- it won't fit in any pocket of mine! It is available in India from Emporis Peripherals, Kolkata, for Rs 2699 which  looks like a great bargain.