If you travel as much as I do, you’d appreciate that being able to pack a small external speaker in your luggage is a great benefit: between my iPhone, MacBook Pro and iPad, there are lots of devices that can produce good audio, I just need something to plug into ‘em.
Ideal travel speakers are tiny but somehow have great sound and good bass response and don’t require any wires at all, since space is at a premium when I’m packing. Oh, and they should weight next to nothing and look cool. I know, dream on, there are indeed some sort of compromises that I have to make.
YUBZ (which is pronounced “why you busy?”) has an interesting entrant in this market with its rather pricey Magnum bluetooth speaker because it’s also a fully functional hands-free speakerphone device for iPhones and other bluetooth cell phones.
It’s interesting. But is it worth $90? Read on…
I’m a big fan of bluetooth and have a number of devices that my iPhone automatically connects with, including my Toyota Highlander. I get in the car and *poof* phone calls are on the handsfree system. Until I spent some time with the Magnum, however, I didn’t realize the bandwidth limitations of bluetooth. In a word, it’s not a very good communications protocol for music.
Yes, I know about the A2DP protocol which is supposedly the stereo music extension to the standard bluetooth, but based on actual experience, it didn’t work very well at all, I frequently dropped to staticy audio, and more than once the connection dropped entirely, leaving me to fiddle and power cycle to try and reestablish the connection.
Having said that, my experiences with the Nokia bluetooth headphones was reasonably good (see my review of the Nokia BH-905], though I’ve switched back to wired headphones for day-to-day usage. Then again, the Magnum uses bluetooth 1.2, while the Nokia device is built around the far more robust bluetooth 2.1 protocol base.
The inherent limitations of stereo bluetooth weren’t the greatest frustration I had with the Magnum, however. That was left for the frustrating power management that the device had. In their zeal to design a device that was extraordinarily low profile, they stripped off too much control and I was constantly grumbling about wanting a power on/off switch or button. Instead, the YUBZ Magnum has its own “smart” power management system that frequently resulted in it being powered on and draining the battery hours after I’d walked away with the bluetooth source device. The result? Batteries were drained far faster than they should have been.
On the plus side, the device sounds amazing. Its crisp bass and non-tinny high frequency response meant that anything I could successfully play sounded terrific, and paired with an iPad, meant that I had a very nice portable movie theater I could pack in a small suitcase and enjoy in my hotel room.
It also works as a bluetooth speakerphone, which is pretty slick. Once it’s paired with your bluetooth phone, if a call comes in you can just tap on the power button (there is one, but it doesn’t do on/off as you’d expect) and the call’s answered and you’re live. People on the other end said it was a typical “trapped in a box” microphone from their end, which is a drag but rather inevitable with these sort of devices in my experience.
The Magnum is pretty big, over 8-inches long and 2.5 inches in diameter, so it’s almost like packing another shoe in your case, but if you can handle the inherent flakiness of bluetooth audio playback, it might well be worth that $90 street price.