The Evolution of Bluetooth Speakers: A Review of Four Speakers From Mini to Mega.

The Bluetooth speaker market continues to evolve. But rather than delivering consumers a bunch of also-ran mid-sized speakers designed for adequacy, the speaker market is taking a cue from evolution. Bluetooth speakers are evolving to fill consumer niches. Like the beetle, a creature that has evolved from near microscopic forms to gargantuan entities, Bluetooth speakers range from tiny, pocket-sized offerings to huge, credenza-filling sizes.

The first niche focuses on the diminutive, a speaker for the space challenged. The 3W Qmadix Q-Pop Bluetooth Mini Speaker ($39.99) $27.39 is a tiny mono speaker that may not take up much room in your packing, but packs a big punch. And with the shrinkage of all things electronic, this speaker not only emits sound, but also includes a microphone so it can act as a mobile teleconferencing system. It is hard to say something negative about such a small device that does what it does pretty darn well. And like the beetle, it also comes with multiple colorful protective outer layers that help it adapt to its local environment. The Qmadix Q-Pop is a a dry-land speaker. Like most speakers, it charges its 600 mAh battery with a micro-USB cable, and runs about three to four hours on a charge. And if you are worried about the 2 x 2.3  x 2.3 inch (54 x 60 x 60 mm) device getting away, it comes with a leash. Well, a wrist-strap. When comparing all of these speakers, the Q-Pop came in second on various sound test, a little bright at times, but offering better overall sound than two out of the three more expensive speakers.

Most of you will be familiar with the diving beetle that grabs a bubble, wraps it around its abdomen and submerges into a pond in search of nourishment. Well, the NYNE AQUA($159.95$129.95 is the diving beetle of this review, sporting an exterior that not only shuns water, but keeps its electronics dry while it floats in your pool (its IPX7 rating keeps it in working condition after being submerged in up to a meter of water). Unlike most Bluetooth speakers that sport only a single driver, the Aqua is fully stereo. There’s not much channel separation given the X inches between speakers, but some stereo is better than no stereo (regardless of what Apple tells you about iPhone or iPads and their single sound channel.) And like its tiny cousin above, this speaker also acts as a speakerphone. So yes, you can leave your phone high-and-dry next to your beach towel and still carry on a conversation with your bestie. The sound is good and loud, if not ideally toned as a replacement for your entertainment system—though it offers a good enough amount of base and enough highs to complement a small pool party. The Aqua comes with high quality USB and audio connector cables and a silicon sling so it can be hung on a shower, or out in the rain, for up to ten hours of wet play time.

The titan beetle either fascinates or shocks. At up to seven inches in length, Titanus giganteus hisses and snaps rather than shrinking away. This big bug finds its analog in the 9.5 x 2.8 x 4 inch Braven Braven 805 ($199.99), a 2.8-pound behemoth of a portable speaker that like many a beetles in this tale of evolution, is a scaled-up version of its earlier Braven brethren. Unlike earlier models, though, the 805 must be charged via its own proprietary power supply (which comes with international adapters.) The 805 sports a battery big enough to charge a 2.1 mAh device during playback. The 805 eschews the rubber end cap of smaller Bravern models in favor of a more open design, and the elimination of lost parts. Like all the speakers in this review, it can also act as a speakerphone. Convenient controls sit atop the speaker. On the sound side, the Braven 805 favors bass, which can make for a slightly murky listening experience, though with plenty of volume though for most intended uses. And while not completely waterproof, the 805’s iPX5 rating makes ita good companion to take to a water pistol fight. The Braven will run for up to 12 hours if you don’t suck it dry charging your iPad while listening to Mantovani.

The final speaker in this review is also a giant among speakers, and you know that just from its name: Logitech Ultimate Ears UE Megaboom ($299.99$179.99 . While the Megaboom isn’t as long or as massive as the Braven 805, it looks and feels powerful. Its tube enclosure erupts with 360 degrees of sound. The Megaboom’s wide tube and rubber controls makes it feel like something that wants to be carried. While this speaker won’t charge other devices, it will answer your phone—and the Megaboom will not only repel water, but it will survive a one-meter dip (unlike the NYE Aqua, the Megaboom is, however, only made to survive near water, not to work in water). The UE Megaboom is perhaps the most insect-like of these speakers, with its shinny mesh exterior, its wide rubberized control running down the carapace, its evolved circular footprint that takes-up very little space, and its surprisingly big booming voice that quickly broadcasts why the branding gods bestowed its name. Of this round of speakers, the UE Megaboom was far and away the best sounding across a use cases. The UE Megaboom is supported by an app that allows for EQ control, an alaram and support for other features.

The last two speakers, the Braven 805 and the UE Megaboom, offer a capability becoming more-and-more common among higher-end Bluetooth products: stereo synchronization. Connect two speakers and true stereo arrives. I was able to test this with the UE Megaboom and the older Boom, and it greatly enhances the listening experience. Pairing is available via an app or a special sequence of buttons on the devices.

We all live in multiple niches and we often want our entertainment to join us. The Bluetooth speaker market has produced devices for nearly every leisure or work style choice. These speakers represent just a few of the most recent to diverge from the trunk of the speaker family tree.

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