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.