In the modern day, iPhones and other portable devices are being used more and more as personal audio devices, or even as the primary home audio solutions. Since the iPhone launched, I’ve lost count of how many iPhone dock-equipped speakers have been released. But, as we rely less on physical connections, the wireless industry is booming. Personally, I think it’s a great move. I won’t be entirely happy with my digital life until everything is completely wireless. Whether its wireless charging, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, the transition is happening and we’re certainly moving away from the days where cable tidying systems are a necessity.
With that in mind, I had high hopes when asked to test out AQ Audio’s SmartSpeaker. It’s a wireless speaker unit that hooks up with your home wireless network and is compatible with Apple’s AirPlay. Not only that, it’s powered by a Lithium-Polymer rechargeable battery, so you don’t need to have it plugged in anywhere unless it’s charging up. Practically, it’s a great solution and smart too. You buy each unit as a single speaker, but if you purchase two, you can set one as the left and the other as the right speaker. That said, at £159/$179 each, it won’t be cheap. But from my experience, you won’t regret it.
Design wise, the best way to describe the shape is “tooth-like”. It measures in at 245mm tall, so it’s small enough that you don’t mind moving it around the house. The bottom is a rounded, squashed-oval shape which tapers up to a narrow flat edge at the top. The front is covered in a thin black material, while the back is a soft-touch gray plastic. Running in between is a thin brushed metal seam. At the very top edge are three buttons: volume up and down plus the power button and Wi-Fi indicator. On the back, at the bottom is a small indented section with all the necessary ports and the speaker stereo switch. There’s a 3.5mm input jack, power input and USB connector as well as the reset button. The base is covered in a bright red sticky rubber pad which helps ensure that your speaker doesn’t slide all over the place. Overall, it looks great. Minimalist, classy and won’t age. And, thanks to not having any proprietary dock connections, it’ll always be relevant – as long as Wi-Fi exists.
Using the speaker wired or wirelessly is a simple affair. Wired is obviously the easiest method; simply plug in a 3.5mm jack and hook up your audio device. But that defeats the entire purpose of the speaker. It’s called the SmartSpeaker for a reason. It’s made to be wireless. You have one of two methods of getting your iDevice to find it. Firstly: plug your iPhone in to the speaker using a USB cable and press the two volume buttons simultaneously. This automatically detects your network settings. Sadly, I didn’t get this method to work, so I had to use the second method: downloading the AQ Audio app from the App Store and setting it up manually. It didn’t take long to get it working, and wasn’t a major inconvenience.
I was pleased with the sound quality in general. I had it in my office and my bedroom to compare sound in both, and I was suprised at how well the small 24W speaker performed. Crank the volume up and it’ll happily fill a room with your music. Music seemed well defined, with some genres being more suited to the speaker’s range than others. In some ways, one of its biggest positives is also a negative. The sound is clear, and top-middle end frequencies were great. Vocals in particular were really clear. But it was lacking on the bass side. There are some songs with a driving low bass riff that you want to kick you in the guts, and shake you up a bit. Don’t mistake that for being bass that drowns out the rest. I just want it there, adding depth to the track. Sadly, no matter how much I pumped up the volume, I just didn’t get it.
All-in-all, it is a great speaker, and although it needs a bit of a bass boost, it performs adequately in any room of the house. Its biggest attractions are its portability and AirPlay compatibility. For those alone, it makes the SmartSpeaker a serious contender in the audio market. But, if you just can’t live without your thumping bass, you may want to skip over this one. To check out the speaker in more detail hit AQ Audio’s site: http://www.aqaudio.com
- Great portability
- AirPlay works really well
- Sound clarity and volume is impressive
- Great design
- It’s a little expensive if you want the full stereo effect
- Bass is weak