Hey, Tech Savvy fans! It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and all of your questions have been great — keep ‘em coming!
This week though I wanted to bring you some information about Bluetooth speakers. We’ve glanced at them before but thanks to our friends at The Sprint Store in Baxter I had the opportunity to get some hands-on experience with two great portable speaker options.
Before we get to that though, here’s a great tip from one of our readers. A couple weeks ago we talked about contact management systems and how to stay organized. One of our awesome readers wrote in to let us know about one more email list management app for iOS that I downloaded and tried — Mailshot Pro. By far this is the easiest distribution list creator I’ve seen for this OS. At $3.99 the Pro version may seem a little steep but it unlocks larger list options than the free version. It also allows you to add lists from your mail client, rather than having to start in the app, which is a nice feature over some of the others. Check it out. If you have lots of emails to manage, you’ll love this app!
OK, onto the main event! The guys at The Sprint Store in Baxter let me take a look at both the iTwist by (iSound, $99.99) and the Braven 625 ($179.99). Each of them performed admirably and if mobile sound is your thing these are definitely two options you want to look at.
The Braven 625s
The Braven 625s was hands down the better of the two. Not to say the iTwist isn’t a great value or that it wasn’t high quality — the Braven was just that much better. For a full list of specs you can check out Braven’s website, www.braven.com, but I would recommend stopping at The Sprint Store in Baxter and talking to the guys there. They love these speakers too and will definitely be able to get you the information you need. So what made the Braven 625s so great?
The aluminum exterior of the 625s is also padded with a texturized rubber housing making it shock resistant and the grill keeps your speakers protected from any accidental pokes and prods. In addition to the tough exterior, the 625s model is also water resistant, making it an ideal choice for the boat, the beach or the poolside. In the two weeks I spent using it, the speaker felt solid with no stress points that made me worry. The sturdy frame also made the speaker well balanced and even when I put it on full volume on a hard surface there was no vibration at all.
Oh, the glorious sound! This was without a doubt the best quality speaker system I’ve heard in a Bluetooth housing with speakers this size in a long time. While Bluetooth audio has been improving, consistently there are problems with tinny sound, or loss of low end, or volume that just isn’t up to par. The Braven overcame all of these obstacles with relative ease. The highs were clear as a bell, the mids were beefy and solid, and the lows came across with a full depth range. Now, I tend to avoid rap and a lot of other really heavy bass so I can’t speak for the full range of the bass, but with 5FDP, A7X and other rock and metal, the range was perfect.
Pairing the Braven was a breeze. You turn it on, hold the pairing button, find it with your phone and that’s it. The Braven also has external control for volume which is independent of your phone’s volume controls. This is a great feature as I feel it gives you better control over the audio quality in addition to the volume. It can help keep you from maxing out your speakers and getting that “buzzing” sound.
Some other Cool Stuff
OK, so the Braven has great sound quality but what else do you get for the price? Some really awesome features!
The Braven can also act as a speakerphone and with the high quality audio it trumps the others. Because it pairs so easily with your phone it is also effortless to use.
You can link them together. What? Yeah, that’s what I said. Link. Them. Together. That’s right, daisy chain these guys together and you can create as much sound as you want. In theory you could line these guys up along the inside of your entire house or cabin and bask in the glow of 360-degree audio bliss.
The Braven can also act as a portable power station for your phone. Plug your phone into the USB jack and you can recharge your phone while you’re listening to music. Speaking of power — the Braven is no slouch when it comes to battery life. Just listening to music, on a full charge, you can go for hours, workdays and just plain old days at a time.
Bottom line: The Braven 625s is worth every penny you pay, and when you compare that price to other Bluetooth speakers out there, or even other portable speaker options, your bang for the buck is undeniable with this piece of equipment.
The iSound iTwist
I’ll preface with the disclaimer I mentioned before — the Braven was better, in my opinion, but let’s take a look at why the iTwist is a great speaker and still a great value. It’s like I told Dana at The Sprint Store, I wish I had started with the iTwist, rather than becoming so enamored with the Braven right away, and I would have been more impressed out of the gate.
As it is, the iTwist from iSound (www.isound.net/twist-speaker.html) is still a great deal. It’s roughly twice the length of the Braven, which makes it something you would use to display and makes it big enough that you won’t lose it.
So let’s look at some of the same things we found on the Braven.
The iTwist was housed in what felt like polycarbonate, with something like a vinyl coating. It felt really comfortable, not hard edged or anything like that. It felt like something that would belong in a man-cave or the kitchen — something where you needed a functional speaker that also wouldn’t look out of place if it were easily seen. The speakers were housed behind a mesh covering that will do a good job keeping particles out.
Audio quality was good. It wasn’t great, but this is where I wish I had used the iTwist before the Braven. Compared to other speakers this size, the iTwist was perfectly capable of handling the music. Volume was good, no tinny or buzzing sounds and the range was decent, although I would have liked to hear a wider range of bass. It didn’t really hold a candle to the Braven, but when you consider it’s about half the price, I wouldn’t have a problem with that.
Pairing the iTwist was also a piece of cake. I activated my phone’s Bluetooth, turned on the iTwist, set it up to pair, and bam! Done deal. Like the Braven the iTwist also has independent external volume controls and the overall volume was very impressive. I also liked that the iTwist had its controls on the top of the speaker versus the side on the Braven. The iTwist controls were easier to see, and larger, which made it easier to control.
Other Cool Stuff
The only other cool feature that the iTwist shared with the Braven was the speakerphone feature. It was very nicely done with call quality being clear but I felt the Braven was able to deliver a more well rounded experience.
Battery life was also impressive on the iTwist. It charged very easily and at moderate volumes it was the Energizer Bunny of rechargeable speakers.
The Side by Side
OK, both speakers also had the ability to plug in an audio source via 3.5-milimeter (headphone) cable so if you don’t have a Bluetooth enabled device you can still use either of these products.
One thing I noticed worth consideration is the type of plug these devices use for charging. The iTwist uses a mini-USB and the Braven uses the micro-USB. Big whoop, they’re both USB, right? Not quite. The micro-USB that the Braven uses is the, now, de facto “universal” charger for all cell phones (except iPhones, of course), and that means I can use the same charger that I use on my Android phone. This equates to less cable clutter and less to carry with me.
We’ve had a number of questions come in asking about Windows 8, wanting to look at more tips and tricks. Don’t worry, I’m working on getting more information, so stay tuned as we try and decipher the transition from Windows as we know it.
That said, I’m a little torn on how to feel about Windows 8. On one hand, I applaud Microsoft for taking what I feel is the next step towards mobile integration. They tried to create a system that would be universal from PC to mobile to tablet. In the years to come I think we are going to see a complete integration of these systems that will change how we use each of these devices.
However, I say “tried to create” because I don’t think they quite hit the nail on the head. They tried to keep enough separation in each component of the system that what they ended up with was either a great mobile OS, or a great desktop OS — but not a system where they each worked nicely together.
I’d love to hear your opinions and questions on Windows 8!