One aspect that has been holding back portable audio technology is sound quality. The sheer physical restrictions of portable devices have caused manufacturers to skimp on crummy speakers, which clog the market with distortion and noise.
An early unit to show promise was Jawbone's Jambox (reviewed in Brunch on Oct 16 last year), which demonstrated true portability. But there has been a flurry of releases since. A newcomer, the Beacon Audio Phoenix, has taken up the challenge of portable audio, and it sells internationally. But at only US$99 (3,120 baht), can it reproduce those luring bass lines while on the go? Let's take a look.
Even in the gadget world, first impressions are important and the Beacon Audio Phoenix shines straight out of the box. A soft mesh wraps around the device and covers the two speakers with a grid of holes to let the sound out. Only two ports are needed at the back _ 3.5mm and mini-USB for charging. On top is a square button rocker, illuminated to show its pairing status. This simple control is fine since audio is mainly manipulated at the source. The device sits on four short feet to buffer it from vibration. It's a cute unit with a simple and sensible design. But its strength lies in what it offers in audio rather than aesthetics.
One of our complaints with the Jambox was that the speakers face the same direction. The Phoenix solves this with back-to-back speaker orientation, which means that some of the sound benefits of stereo are lost, but it gives a better sound performance overall when filling a room with audio. A big plus is the volume capacity of the unit. Even the Jambox labours a little at higher volumes, where the distortion kicks in and the levels skew. The Phoenix rides through the volume range comfortably, throwing out more volume than its modest dimensions would suggest.
While we thought the battery of the Jambox was impressive, the Phoenix does even better. With a few hours' charge, it will run for a weekend without problem _ even a week-long trip with a couple of hours' use every day. True portability.
The advertised range of 10.7m is generous, but it will accommodate pairing within the same room.
Admittedly, the loss in audio quality over Bluetooth is a stumbling block for audio buffs. But at this end of the market, the main priorities are portability and reasonable audio at the right price and the Beacon Audio Phoenix delivers. The bloggers like it, and so do we.
Jawbone prices itself out of competition here, as do most others including Pioneer (AirPlay range), Philips (Shoqbox) and Braven (625s Lightning), who all seek the higher-end market. The Phoenix delivers comparable audio at often less than half the cost and better portability.
And the good news is that the company will ship internationally including to the Kingdom, via their website for a fee of $25. At under 4,000 baht, it packs a worthy punch.
The Beacon Audio Phoenix is available for $99 in red, black and blue. Visit www.beaconaudio.com. Email email@example.com with any gadget thoughts.
About the author
- Writer: Richard Mcleish