5 bluetooth speakers: make your music mobile

We test a range of wireless speakers that can enhance your audio anywhere you go.

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Matrix One

2.5 x 2.5 x 2.0 in. (2.5 in. when opened) Weight: 2.8 oz. Price: $79.99 (direct)

From the first, you know that the Matrix One is meant to be portable; it comes with a small travel bag along with a lightweight USB cord that doubles as a wired connection. (Unfortunately, the instruction leaflet is so portable as to be nearly illegible; I had to find a magnifying glass to read the tiny print.)

Matrix One

The Matrix One is a round white ball with silver and red highlights; the top is slightly recessed with a silver bar over it. One very different aspect of the device is that you don't simply turn it on -- you twist the two halves, and it pops open like a small accordion (this apparently enhances the bass sound).

The controls for the One are a bit awkward -- mainly because they're so small. A tiny rocker switch acts in several capacities; you raise the volume by pushing it to the right and holding it, and lower the volume by pushing it in the opposite direction. In order to go to the next track or the previous track, you move it to the right or left and immediately release it. To pause and play you push it straight in.

There is also a separate power switch with separate positions for Bluetooth and line-in connections. According to the company, the battery should last for up to 14 hours on a charge.

I was actually surprised at the sound I got from the Matrix One. The audio wasn't as full as what I got from the Logitech Mini Boombox, but it had a fairly good bass, especially considering the device's small size, and was quite loud and full enough for a small room (say, a hotel room).

As with the other very small speaker in this roundup, the Jam, I could hear a few seconds of static between the time I paused the audio and the time it cut off altogether. However, in the case of the Matrix One, it wasn't nearly as audible; I had to put my ear right down to the speaker to hear it, and most users will probably not notice it at all.

Speakerphone

As a speakerphone, the Matrix One will do in a pinch. It announces a call with a rather quiet series of tones; you push the rocker switch to the side to pick up. (The first time, I pushed the rocker switch in and accidentally hung up on the call.)

From my end, the audio was slightly muddier than what the Mini Boombox provided, although I didn't notice any breakup at all. On my caller's end, the sound was a bit tinnier and what she described as gravelly, although when I turned the device so the mic was facing me, she said that the quality was almost equal to that of the Logitech speaker.

Bottom line

All in all, I became rather fond of the Matrix One. The sound isn't quite up to some of the more expensive speakers in this roundup, and the controls could be a bit easier for adult hands to use, but it's incredibly portable and perfect for throwing into a backpack or suitcase.

Logitech Mini Boombox

2.3 x 2.8 x 4.6 in. Weight: 8.0 oz. Price: $99.99 (direct), $80-$127 (retail)

The name of the Logitech Mini Boombox has, for me, rather unfortunate connotations -- I remember the days before personal mobile audio products when decidedly un-mini boomboxes deafened many NYC subway riders -- but otherwise, it's a nice little portable audio system.

Logitech Mini Boombox

The review unit came in black with the sides in red; there is also a model that is white with a black top, and one that is completely black.

Except for an on/off switch, mini-USB connection and Aux input in the back, all the features are accessed by touch controls on top of the unit -- they are illuminated by red LEDs and aren't visible unless you touch the top once. They let you go back to the previous track, go forward to the next track, pause/play, or raise or lower the volume. There's also a control that either pairs the Mini Boombox with your Bluetooth device, or answers a phone call, turning it into a speakerphone.

Unfortunately, while this is rather neat effect -- and could be useful at night or in darkened rooms -- I found it a bit inconvenient on two levels. First, it means that you have to touch the top twice in order to perform any function. Second, it would have been a lot better to have physical buttons that you could feel as well as see.

A small LED on the front lets you know how the battery life is doing; it shows blue when it's charged, red when it's starting to get low, and blinks red when it's nearing the end of its life. According to the company, the battery should last up to 10 hours on a charge.

For its size, I found the sound of the Mini Boombox surprisingly rich and clear, ideal for a nearby desk or bed table. As with the other, smaller speakers, there is very little stereo effect (not surprisingly, considering how close the speakers are to each other), and there is the expected distortion when it gets loud -- but on the whole, I was quite impressed, especially considering the size of the device.

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