Small speakers used to mean small sound, which is why most people relegated their pint-size units to the home office by the computer. Thanks to the incorporation of new designs and technology, wireless portable speakers have come of age, packing enough power to play as loudly as something a lot larger. As a bonus, many of the new speakers in the marketplace function also as speakerphones.
Monster’s Clarity HD Micro speaker is one example. Available for $219.95, it employs advanced AAC and apt-X digital processing to produce clean, clear stereo sound and phone calls … and it’s small enough to slip into the back pocket of your jeans.
A special Voice Command and Control function lets users make and answer calls and play music via simple voice commands. Bluetooth capability allows users to stream songs from their smartphones to the speaker. With a range of 30 feet, it’s loud enough to entertain a crowd. Another cool twist: The speaker grille is interchangeable. Currently, the grille comes in black or white; additional colors like pink will be available in the fall.
Another newcomer to the high-def portable speaker category is Pioneer with its XW-SMA1, XW-SMA3 and XW-SMA4. In support of the company’s HTC Connect program, all three allow wireless streaming of audio files from HTC One smartphones (as well as Apple AirPlay) to the speakers. Like Monster’s Clarity HD Micro, Pioneer’s new suite doubles as another type of device—a WiFi access point. The enabling technology, Wireless Direct, enables users to stream music from their smartphones to the speakers when a traditional Wi-Fi or home network is not available. “Because the speakers use Wi-Fi, there’s no additional compression, so they provide excellent sound quality …,” says Chris Walker, director of AV marketing and product planning for the Home Electronics Division of Pioneer Electronics.
Available in August, the Wi-Fi speakers will retail for $299 (XW-SMA1), $399 (XW-SMA3) and $399 (XW-SMA4). The SMA1 and SMA3 each feature dual 3-inch speakers and a 3/4-inch dome tweeter; the SMA3 adds a rechargeable battery. The SMA4 features five speakers, including dual 3-inch speakers, a dedicated 4-inch subwoofer and dual ¾-inch tweeters.
With more than 400 million Sound Blasters in use in PCs today, Creative Technology has expended into standalone speakers with its new line of wireless Sound BlasterAxx loudspeakers. They can play audio (music and movie soundtracks) streamed via Bluetooth from iDevices as well as Android phones and tablets, and feature a backlit display to fine tune the music to the listening environment. For example, a night mode lowers the volume of high-impact explosions and bursts of sound so that the audio doesn’t disturb sleeping family members. An SBX Dialog Plus mode, meanwhile, enhances the intricacy of the human voice so movie dialog is easier to hear. As a bonus, the speakers can function as speakerphones. Retail prices range from $99.99 to $199.99.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.