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Tech Savvy: Put a Hex on Your Audio

Hey there, Tech Savvy fans! This week we get a to start by taking a look at some items that will be making a second appearance in our annual gift guide. By looking at them a little early, I'm going to be able to give you some more in depth information than you'll get in just the gift guide, so save some of these upcoming reviews and use the gift guide to compare then in early November.

I've been meaning to revisit an area that is constantly changing, growing and improving and this week we're taking a look at the Hex TL Bluetooth speakers by Hex Audio. There are a lot of different things you will want to take into consideration when looking at different styles, sizes and features.

To start, the Hex TL is the largest one we'll be taking a first hand look at. It's the mid-size option in the Hex line with also includes the SL, XL and Canz. Even though it's mid-sized, it still comes in at nearly 10 inches high, 5 inches wide, and almost 3 inches deep. It is one of the larger speakers that you would still consider portable.

In addition to the DC power you can plug in with the included adapter, you can also run this speaker on 8 AA batteries. One word of warning, the charger will not charge the batteries if you are using rechargeables, so you need to plan accordingly. The company boasts up to 12 hours of playback on battery power, but keep in mind that will vary depending on volume and quality of your batteries.

The Bluetooth portion is simple to connect; in general this has been a vast improvement of the earlier generations of bluetooth audio peripherals. If anyone else remembers using the old Blackberry Bluetooth gateways from about 10 years ago, you can relate. In case you do run into trouble, or if you have a phone that doesn't have Bluetooth, there is a headphone jack input and a dual ended cord comes with the speaker so you can continue using it.

The housing is made of a sturdy plastic, it has a little flex to it, so it will be a little resilient to bumps and knocks. The speakers are protected by a grating made of the same material rather than cloth or fine mesh coverings. I like this approach because it seems more durable than some of the fabric options which may snag or tear.

The TL model comes in three colors - black, red and white - and they look very nice. They would easily blend in at home, at the office or at the beach. The shape is actually very much like a computer speaker, like a slightly flattened cylinder, and could fit moderately well into a backpack. In larger bags, or on a semi-permanent location, I think is where it is most appropriate.

So, let's get into the meat of things. One major concern I always have with speakers like this is the quality of the sound. If I am paying good money for something, I don't want it to sound like the alley cat chorus singing the tin can anthology. Fortunately, the Hex TL doesn't disappoint. One of the reasons it's larger than some of the other portables is the hardware that is packed into this thing. Most speakers out there have two smaller (2 to 3 inch) speakers mounted to some sort of tube system that acts as a pseudo subwoofer. The Hex incorporates three completely separate speakers that give you a subwoofer, horn and tweeter. Basically, dedicated equipment to lows, mids and high. This is really a treat to listen to, everything comes across clearly, without distortion, even as you turn the volume up.

The volume is nothing to turn your nose up to either - it easily filled my kitchen and living room with high quality sound and my family had a little dance party. Even with the volume cranked the housing didn't vibrate much and the speaker stayed where I left it. This is another major advantage to having a larger housing and a little more weight.

On the top of the speaker are very basic controls - power on/off, volume up/down and a pairing button. There is also an indicator light that will flash when on, pairing and connected. In a world where there are more and more buttons, configurations and things to keep track of this is incredibly simple. These controls were designed to run the speaker, not make you a cup of coffee.

Breaking this down into what I see as the best applicable uses really ended up being dictated by the size of this speaker. While the sound quality is outstanding, it's big enough where I will make the sacrifice for some sound for a smaller size depending on my situation. This speaker is absolutely right at home on a desk, a shelf in your living room or in a cabin. It may also be a viable choice for taking on a boat where a little more sound might be preferred. I would not take it with me in a backpack, it's large enough where I will be more inclined to take a smaller option, or opt for headphones instead and be selfish with my music. Final thoughts on size: it's really not as heavy as you would think given its size, weighing in around one pound, which is neither really obnoxious, nor is it the lightest one we've taken a look at.

It probably wouldn't be my first choice as a beach blanket partner either, even as a family we try and travel as light as we can to the beach and this would be voted out by the kinds before the noodle floats.

One other limiting factor that you should consider with this speaker is that it does not have a microphone. This means that unlike many of the other options out there, this speaker will not be able to make or take phone calls that come through your phone. Again, depending on what you are looking for in a speaker, this may not be a big deal for you. Personally, I like having some of those options in something that I will be keeping close to me, say in my office for conference calls. This may then just make the decision on how you use the Hex TL - home/living room/cabin rather than an all in one office replacement.

Another point to consider is that these speakers do not have any type of audio equalizer built into them. With many smartphones and tablets having these capabilities built into them, it's not always necessary on the speaker end. Some people like the control of having audio adjustments on the speaker itself, personally I don't see the need with this one because it has such a full sound already.

Retailing online for $79, the Hex TL is moderately priced. For the quality of the sound, and product, I would definitely say it's a fair, even a good value. Personally I would have liked to have seen a microphone but for the price it's still a good deal. This would be something to keep on the list for any college age people you know, or someone looking for a reasonably priced audio option for a second home or cabin - the Hex TL is definitely worth a look. Check out their website, www.808audio.com for more details and to see details on the rest of the Hex series.

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