The backyard is the next frontier for home electronics integration, but for some people, the integration part is just too much work. They’d rather get a nice portable speaker, put it on a patio table, and get on with the grilling. That’s the Soundcast Melody. It’s a portable speaker built to withstand foul weather and the occasional drop of bird splatter.
The $449 Soundcast Melody is comfortably uncomplicated. You can connect your music source (in most cases a smartphone or tablet) via Bluetooth, or the AUX input if you want to use a non-Bluetooth source such as an older MP3 player. It uses Bluetooth v3.0 with AAC/AptX Lossless Quality. Under the grills are a total of eight speaker drivers, four for bass and four for everything else to create a 360 degree soundfield. The rechargeable battery is said to last up to 20 hours. There’s also a built-in handle for carrying it around.
Bluetooth speakers are getting pretty common this year, but the Melody’s portability and rugged construction are what sets it apart. You can set it out on your patio, running off the battery, and not worry if a rain shower passes over your cookout or someone kicks some wet sand on it at the beach.
Connecting your Bluetooth device is easy. I pressed the button to put the speaker in pairing mode then identified it in my iPhone’s settings menu and was done. No pairing code was required, though that may differ depending on your phone or tablet. After that five-second process I was listening to Pandora channels streamed from the internet to my phone and then over Bluetooth to the Melody.
You can control your music with your smartphone’s controls or with the volume, play and pause buttons built into the top of the Melody. I found it easiest to push the Melody’s volume buttons up high and then remotely adjust the volume with my phone, because that method gave me a little more headroom to play with.
Bluetooth’s wireless range, on paper, is about 30 feet, and that’s out in the open. I put the Melody on my back porch, then went in the house with my phone in my pocket. After about 15 feet I heard the Melody stop playing. In my house I could place the Melody in my office and walk all over the upstairs floor, in and out of rooms, going at least 25 feet from the unit, while it still played. When I took a couple steps down the stairs the music stopped.
Outside, the Bluetooth range was better than the standard 30 feet. I was close to 50 feet away, walking across my yard, before the sound stopped.
I had no problem wirelessly reconnecting my phone after shutting the unit off. I didn’t experience any drop-offs or pauses in playback (which I have with other Bluetooth products).
The sound is very good for a portable outdoor speaker. You get a combination of reasonable bass and nice detail. One thing you don’t get is a stereo soundfield—that’s common with any small tabletop system, but even more so with this one because of the 360 design of the speakers. The Melody is designed to be one unit that can cover a wide outdoor space. You can place it anywhere in your backyard and get essentially the same sound experience, so channel separation isn’t part of the plan.
For such as small player, it’s also plenty loud for most back yards. I could easily crank it up enough to bother my neighbor’s croquet game. If you want to get a little more audio boost out of it, put it next to a wall to let the reflections work for you.
While the primary use for this system is outdoors, it works just as well inside, and the 20 hour (actually less, depending on the volume) battery makes it easy to take from room to room. It doesn’t look like an indoor speaker though, so if you’re interested mostly in something for your office or bedroom, you don’t need the weather-resistant qualities of the Melody.
If you don’t want to invest in an installed outdoor music system, but want something that’s reliable and sturdy, you can’t go wrong with the Soundcast Melody.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.