4 Bluetooth speakers: Mono colors with stereo sound

Today's smartphones and tablets still have less-than-stellar speakers. Try one of these for a better audio experience.

I found the Solemate's sound to be clear and crisp, although it wasn't quite up to the standards of the Switch or the Pill, and some of the audio details that I got from the other two were slightly blurred here. Volume seems to bring out the best in the Solemate; when it got louder (and it could get very loud), the beat of the bass seemed to increase in relation to the music, and there was little distortion.

As a speakerphone, the Solemate performed adequately, although there were some digital drop-outs (not as much as with the Zooka, however). While I'm not sure I'd depend on it for long calls, it would perform adequately in a pinch.

Bottom line

The Solemate is a good Bluetooth speaker with a decent bass range and good sound, especially when it gets nice and loud. It is also a convenient travel speaker; it comes with both a protective bag and an embedded audio-in cable. However, I think it might be more attractive to buyers if the cost was slightly lower, especially considering the competition.

Conclusions

Although it's got a fun and innovative form factor, the Carbon Audio Zooka simply didn't have the audio chops to compete with the other three devices in this roundup. The sound from its two speakers was adequate, but not nearly as clear or deep as the other three. However, if you want a gift for an enthusiastic tablet user, and don't want to spend more than $100, you could consider it.

The Jabra Solemate did a fine job, and especially excelled at offering volume without distortion. It also provided a fine bass line, and I liked its design; if you occasionally use non-Bluetooth devices, the embedded audio-in cable is handy.

However, I think the two winners here are the Native Union Switch and the Beats Pill. In fact, I had a great deal of trouble choosing between them. Both offered very clear, sharp sound with good ranges and fine bass. The Beats Pill did a bit better at this last, so songs with a heavy background beat, such as the Blood, Sweat & Tears number, did really well.

On the other hand, the Switch was slightly clearer, so choral numbers with intertwining melodies, such as Bernstein's Candide finale, came off extremely well. I also felt that the Pill occasionally sounded a bit flattened with less bass-dependent orchestral numbers; but both did fine with quieter numbers, such as a single voice and piano.

So as far as those two are concerned, I would choose depending on what your needs are. The Pill's design is more convenient for carrying around than the Switch (even though it's slightly heavier), and if you want something to throw into your backpack or suitcase, this is the one to look at.

However, if you're looking for a speaker to use in a home office, I'd go for the Switch. It doesn't only offer fine sound (and is priced $50 less than the Pill), but it was the only speaker of the four that worked as a speakerphone without any digital glitches to get in the way.

Barbara Krasnoff is reviews editor at Computerworld. When she isn't either editing or reviewing, she blogs at The Interesting Bits ... and Bytes; you can also follow her on Twitter ( @BarbaraKrasnoff).

Read more about mobile/wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.

This story, "4 Bluetooth speakers: Mono colors with stereo sound" was originally published by Computerworld.

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