Category Archives: Speakers

Sengled Smart Lights Honored at CES



Sengled has a history of winning awards at CES and this year is no exception with two Honorees in the ‘Best of Innovation’ and ‘Eco-design and Sustainable Technologies’ categories. The former was won by the Sengled Pulse Link, which is an interesting way of improving television audio with the need for wires or expensive  AV amplifiers.

By way of explanation, the Sengled Pulse is a Bluetooth-controlled LED lamp with a built-in speaker, so music can be streamed from a mobile phone or tablet to the Pulse. I’ve reviewed some of these lights and I’m not going to pretend that they’re hi-fi quality audio and just leave it at that. The Pulse Link adds a transmitter into the mix so the (rear surround) audio output from the TV is input to the Pulse Link, which then transmits to a pair of Sengled Pulse lamps. The Pulse lamps can be positioned conveniently near the TV viewer, bringing the soundtrack closer. The Pulse Link Starter Kit is US$199.

The second Honoree is the Sengled Element, which simplistically, is a hub-controlled LED smart bulb. What makes the Element a little bit different is a focus on green credentials and a promise by Sengled to plant a tree for every bulb, making the Element CO2 neutral. The complementary smartphone app shows the energy savings compared with incandescent lighting so owners can see how they’re saving the planet. Price for the Element Classic hasn’t been set, but the Element Plus Kit is $59.99 for hub and bulb. Bulbs are $17.99. The Element Plus bulbs (shown) have white colour-temperature tuning and dimmer switch compatibility.

And purely because I like the idea, I going to mention the Sengled Everbright. This is an LED lamp with a built-in battery providing over 3 hours of lighting in the event of a power cut. Impressively, the lights can tell the difference between normal on/off switching and a power failure. Very clever and perfect if you live with a less-than-stable electricity supply. US$19.99.

Sengled are at CES 2017 at the Sands Expo, Level 2 Hall A #41336.


iClever Wireless Speaker Review



iClever LogoDesigning out the headphone jack on the iPhone was a brave move by Apple but the price of both Bluetooth headphones and speakers have fallen to the level of an impulse buy. Consequently the change isn’t quite as costly as it would have been a few years ago. Naturally audiophiles may disagree on audio quality grounds. Still, anyone with a Bluetooth equipped smartphone might be interested in this compact portable speaker for music on the go.

On review here is the iClever Wireless Speaker (IC-BTS04). It’s shaped like a small brick measuring 16.2 cm by 6.2 cm by 2.8 cm and weighs a little over 250g. Consequently, the BTS04 can be conveniently slipped into a cargo pocket or a backpack for travel. Unlike some of the more brightly coloured competitors, this speaker goes for understated black plastic and dark grey metal. It certainly doesn’t shout “look at me!”

iClever Wireless Speaker

Along the top there are five buttons for controlling music and managing calls. Round the side is the microUSB charging port and audio input socket, both covered by a rubber flap. There’s some nice details to the speaker, with small hex screws on the metal grilles.

In the box there’s the speaker itself, a carry strap, a 3.5 mm audio cable, USB charging cable and the usual assortment of instructions, guarantees and happy sheets.

iClever Wireless Speaker

Getting started is easy once you figure out which is the power button. Oddly it’s marked with a “minus” sign rather than the usual circle and bar but once that’s pressed for a few seconds, the BTS04 powers up and the LED on the middle multifunction button starts flashing for pairing mode. After that it’s the normal process which ends with a voice announcing “Connected” and the blue LED on the button going solid.

With music playing, the buttons work as expected. Play / pause, next track, previous track. For volume control, the two track buttons are used with long presses: to start with I found this a little fiddly and jumped tracks instead of adjusting the volume but I got the hang of it. In terms of loudness, it’s surprisingly loud for a pair of 5W speakers. It has little sticky feet on the bottom which keep it still on smooth surfaces, otherwise it would vibrate its way across the table at full volume. While the sound quality isn’t going worry Sonos or Bose, it’s fine for a some casual listening in the office.

The BTS04 works as a speakerphone too. When a call comes into the smartphone, pressing the middle multifunction button pauses the music and connects the caller. Pressing the button again drops the call. Don’t want to take the call at all? Long press the multifunction button.

iClever Wireless Speaker

Battery life is rated at 10 hours which sounds about right as I got more than a working day of tunes. The multifunction button glows red during charging or if the battery power gets low.

If I’m being honest, the iClever speaker doesn’t have a single standout feature, but it is a neat assembly of features that won’t disappoint – solidly made, reasonably loud, decent sound, blends in, doubles as speakerphone. Priced at US$27.99 or GB£24.99, it’s a perfect Christmas present for someone who prefers something discrete. I suspect teens and tweens would want something more colourful.

Thanks to iClever for providing the IC-BTS04 for review.


Sengled Pulse Solo Review



Sengled LogoLast year I reviewed the Sengled Pulse, a pair of Bluetooth-controlled LED lights with built-in speakers. The Pulse pair sounded surprisingly good but were somewhat indiscreet, being big and bright red. For those wanting something a bit more subtle, Sengled have developed the Pulse Solo, a smaller single LED bulb in white and silver that still provides stereo sound. Let’s take a look and see if the new Solo still delivers big impact from a small space.

I was recently on holiday in Mallorca and used the trip to test out the Solo. Never one to pass up a few gratuitous body shots, here’s the Solo soaking up the sun by the pool.

Sengled Pulse Solo

Sengled Pulse Solo

With a standard E27 screw fitting (B22 bayonet available too), installation is simple and the smaller bulb size makes it much easier to find suitable lamps. The dimensions are 72 mm x 142 mm, weighing in at 340 g, which is hefty enough for a light bulb. In terms of lighting, the bulb is more of a spotlight than anything else, though it’s not tightly focussed. As a result the Solo casts good light if the lamp is high up or intended to be directional, but I wouldn’t use the Solo in a side or table lamp. The brightness is rated at a maximum of 550 lumens which is slightly less than the 600 of the original Pulse lamps but is comparable with other LED smart bulbs, such as Philips Hue.

The LED light is on the warm side of white at 2700K – that’s extra warm white according to some commentators. Here’s the Solo powered up in one of Ikea’s finest illustrating the light colour and distribution.

Sengled Pulse Solo in Lamp

Once screwed in and powered up, the Solo is available for Bluetooth pairing in the normal way. I paired successful with a couple of devices, including a OnePlus 2 smartphone and Nexus 9. Once paired, the Pulse Solo works as a Bluetooth speaker without any further intervention. For greater control of the volume and brightness, there’s the Sengled Pulse app available for both Apple and Android devices. The app appears to connect to the Solo via a second Bluetooth device but the app handles that pairing by itself.

Sengled Pulse Sengled Pulse Sengled Pulse

The app’s changed a little since the last time and it’s now possible to control both the brightness of the lamp and the volume of the speaker from the same screen. Overall, this is an improvement but there’s no visual feedback on the volume level. You do end up with two volume controls, though, one for the Solo through the app and one for the mobile device itself.

As with the bigger Pulse, the Solo’s speakers are “JBL by Harman” and Sengled have managed to squeeze a pair of 1″ 3W speakers into the Solo. Obviously these aren’t going to be hifi quality as the stereo separation is neglible, bass is limited and they struggle with the treble (“esses” suffer) at maximum volume. However, it’s easy to focus on the negatives when the Solo is actually very listenable and fills a small room at full blast. It’s also quite fun when people can’t work out where the music is coming from.

To summarise, the Sengled Pulse Solo is a smaller less obtrusive solution than the larger red Pulse, but the reduction in size is at the expense of audio quality. Aside from my foreign travels, I found the Solo was a tidy solution to desk clutter too, as I could put the Solo into my work lamp, providing both warm light and musical entertainment without cables everywhere

In the end, I think that people who like high quality sound for listening will find the Solo wanting and should perhaps considered the larger Pulse, but for many people who want a little casual backgound music, the Solo will work out fine. The Pulse Solo can be bought direct from Sengled for €59.90 though the bayonet version (B22) is available for only GB£27.93 on Amazon.co.uk.

Thanks to Sengled for the review Pulse Solo.


iClever Outdoor Wireless Speaker Review



iClever LogoOn review here is the iClever Outdoor Wireless Speaker IC-BTS03. It’s an IP65 water resistant Bluetooth speaker with a 10 hour playtime. Perfect for outdoor tunes! Let’s take a look.

The iClever Speaker is a orange and black cuboid with speaker grilles on two sides, controls on the top, inputs on one side and a camera mount on the bottom with a rubber carrying strap on one corner. Roughly, 10 x 9 x 5 cm, there’s a bit of a ruggedness to the speaker too with a rubberised exterior and informal drop tests show that it’ll stand up to the odd accident. IP65 specifies that the speaker is totally protected against dust (6) and it’s sealed against low pressure water (5). Basically, it means that it’s ok to get splashed or dropped in shallow water.

iClever Wireless Outdoor Speaker

In the cardboard box, there’s the speaker, a USB-to-microUSB cable, a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm jack cable and instructions. The USB cable is used for charging only and can’t be used to play music from a PC or laptop. Both the microUSB charging port and the aux in socket are under a rubber flap that needs to be peeled away to get access. iClever Wireless Outdoor SpeakerWhen charging, the sole LED on the front will light up red and it’s green when the aux socket is in use.

Across the top, the controls are straightforward – power, volume down, play/pause/answer, volume up. When turned on, the BTS03 is straight into pairing mode with the LED flashing blue. A voice helpfully intones, “Power on. Pairing”. You can then connect to the speaker in the normal way, receiving “Connected” when done and the LED goes a solid blue. As a bonus, the iClever can work as a speakerphone too – it’s kind of fun (or bonkers) if you are with a group of friends.

On the bottom, there’s a standard camera screw fitting which makes it compatible with a wide range of mounting accessories.

iClever Wireless Outdoor SpeakerThat’s the physical out of the way. What does it sound like? Well, if you are expecting this to sound like a $500 Sonos, then you are going to be disappointed. If you expect it to be a $30 5W portable speaker weighing less than 300g that you can throw into a bag for a day at the beach, you’re going to be happy enough. The sound is clear, with vocals coming across well. As you’d expect, the bass is under-represented but crank up the volume and there’s a fair beat. It’s not massively loud but it fills a room well enough.

Overall the iClever Outlook Wireless Speaker ticks all the boxes for an outdoor speaker. Semi-rugged, long battery life, splashproof and reasonably loud. It’s available now from Amazon.com (US$30) and Amazon.co.uk for GB£17.

Thanks to iClever for the review unit. Unboxing below.


Philips Fidelio E6 Provides Surround On Demand



Philips LogoWatching movies at home is nicer when you have surround sound. However, it is not easy to put together a surround sound system. You have to plan ahead, mount speakers, and figure out how to hide all those unsightly wires. Philips Fidelio E6 provides an extremely simple way to get surround sound on demand.

Scott spoke with Senior Manager of Philips Electronics, Ken Chan, at the Gibson Brands Booth at CES 2016. They talked about the Philips Fidelio E6 Surround on Demand speakers. What might look like one speaker is actually two detachable speakers.

The speakers sit next to your TV. When you are ready to watch a movie, remove the top speakers and place them in the back of your living room. After the movie is over, you can easily put the detachable speaker back where it was. Philips gives you a very clean and tidy solution for true surround sound without any wires.

The Philips Fidelio E6 Surround On Demand speakers have internal Wi-Fi. The detachable speakers have a battery inside them that charges when the speaker is attached. It can be fully charged in two hours. You can watch ten hours of movies, with surround sound, on a fully charged speaker.

The Philips Fidelio E6 is not yet available in the United States, but may launch in Spring or Summer. The retail price $799.

Scott Ertz is a software developer and video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Eton Solar Powers for Good and Bad Days



Eton LogoEton‘s motto is “Empowered by nature” and in this case, it’s powered by nature too, with a full range of solar powered gear. Scott gets charged up with Sharon Cook, Eton’s VP of Marketing.

First up is the Rukus Xtreme, a solar powered Bluetooth speaker with USB charging ports. Five hours of charging gets around eight hours of playing time and with an IPX-4 rating, the Xtreme won’t mind a few splashes either. Available for US$179 (MSRP $199).

Next is the the Xtreme’s baby brother, the Rugged Rukus, which is perfect for camping or hiking weighing just a pound. Retails for US$79 (MSRP $99), it charges and plays for similar times to the bigger Xtreme and has the same IPX-4 rating.

On standby for emergencies, Eton have the Scorpion II, a “rugged, portable multi-purpose digital radio, that charges smartphones with crank power back-up and weather alert”. Think of this as being the information equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife or Gerber Multitool. You need one of these in your emergency packs and at US$50 you’d be a fool not to get one.

Finally, FRX5 is the big brother of the Scorpion II, with all the emergency features you can think of from torches to emergency beacons, am/fm radio to NOAA weather alerts and SAME regional alerts. Powered by solar, crank, rechargeable batteries or three AAAs, you can charge via USB if you need to. Perfect for the home or car at US$100 (MSRP $129).

Note Eton is known as Soulra in some countries.

Scott Ertz is a software developer and video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Altec Lansing BoomJacket Bluetooth Speakers at 2016 CES



boomjacket-blue-front-1024x512Scott Ertz interviews Jill Byeff, marketing for Altec Lansing Speakers. They discuss Altec Lansing’s BoomJacket line of waterproof, shockproof Bluetooth speakers for active outdoor lifestyles.

The BoomJacket speaker is priced at $199.00 and is IP67-rated waterproof, sandproof, shockproof and snowproof construction. It is also floatable and submersible and has a 50 foot Bluetooth range. It has a 40 hour battery life at spoken word volume level. The BoomJacket also features a built-in universal mounting mechanism for easy attachment to equipment and structures like bikes, kayaks, jet skis, and motorcycles.

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Aud Air Joins iLuv’s Lineup of Portable Bluetooth Speakers at CES 2016



iLuv Aud AiriLuv Creative Technology introduces the newest addition to their line of portable Bluetooth speakers. The Aud Air is ideal for both the home and on-the-go. Aud Air provides lossless high quality audio streaming from mobile devices, music streaming services and computers through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, allowing users to enjoy their favorite music no matter where they are.

Featuring iLuv’s jAura sound technology, the Aud Air offers listeners the ability to wirelessly connect multiple devices together to create a unique multi-room listening experience at a fraction of the price of other products on the market. Multiple units can either play the same music for a true stereo experience, or different music in various rooms for a diverse multi-room experience.

The Aud Air takes just minutes to set up thanks to the easy-to-use Aud Air app, which controls the speaker from a smartphone or tablet and allows users to personalize their music settings. The Aud Air’s Wi-Fi capabilities not only let users play their favorite music from their mobile devices, but it also connects directly to internet radio stations and streaming music sources like Pandora, iHeartRadio and tunein.

iLuv’s Aud Air has an SPR of $99.99 and is available now at iLuv.com and other select retailers.

The Aud Air will be on display at the iLuv Booth #8625 at CES January 6-9 in Las Vegas. The booth will feature brand new products from iLuv, including 2K IP cameras and Wi-Fi enabled lightbulbs.


UB+ Modular Speakers at CES 2016



UB+ modular speakersUB+ is a newly launched audio brand. They will be showcasing their existing modular speaker products, and unveiling their latest range of new products, at CES 2016.

UB+ is the maker of the award winning UB+ Eupho portable Bluetooth speaker and the UB+ Eupho Brave expansion casing. The UB+ Eupho Brave casing is made from solid ash, and can integrate 6 UB+ Eupho speakers.

Users can easily switch between large and small speakers. They can enjoy UB+ Eupho Brave as a sounder to complement their TV. Remove one UB+ Eupho speaker from the casing and take it with you when you go out to enjoy awesome music on the go.

In addition, UB+ Eupho will unveil their latest range of products that also make use of the modular speaker concept. UB+ EuphoXL is a speaker module that is designed to fit with other products easily. It allows designers from different fields to fuse high quality sound elements into any design even without having prior acoustic knowledge.

Visit UB+ at the Venetian Suites booth 31-315 at CES 2016.


Sengled Pulse Lamp and Speaker Review



redlogoThe Sengled Pulse is a pair of Bluetooth controlled LED lamps (or lights) with built-in stereo speakers. Who would have thought it? A single product bringing together two technological memes; functional convergence and the smart home. Let’s take a look and see what the Sengled Pulse offers on both these themes.

Sengled Pulse Box

Two things struck me as I opened the Sengled Pulse box. The first was the bright red colour of the lamp cases and the second was the size of them. These are big heavy bulbs and it’s going to restrict what fittings can be used with the lamps. The fitting options are further reduced by the direction of the light emitted from the lamps as there’s little sideways illumination. In short, a pendant fitting with a large shade is your basic option.

Sengled Pulse Lamps

The Sengled Pulse is installed just like any other lamp – screw it in! Both screw and bayonet bases are available, which will please UK readers, though in this instance, I was supplied with the screw base variant anyway. Once screwed in and turned on, the lamps are white and bright, and a little brighter than my current Philips Hue bulbs. The box says 600 lumens.

One lamp is designated as the Master and the other as the Satellite. To get them connected together, the easiest way is to power them up close to each other. Once they’ve paired, the Pulses can be moved apart. The other option is to use the Pulse app: more on this later.

Communication with a smartphone is via Bluetooth and the usual process applies for pairing the smartphone with the Sengled Pulse lamps. I was testing with a OnePlus 2 and had no problems.

Sengled Pulse Brightness Sengled Pulse Volume Sengled Pulse Adding

Once paired, the smartphone can control both the brightness of light and loudness of sound through the Pulse app, available from the Apple App Store and the Google Play. Music or other audio plays directly from apps via Bluetooth. The Pulse app is straightforward with two tabs, one for lights and one for sounds. The app handles device management too and a clever pairing feature uses the smartphone’s camera to scan QR codes on the sides of the Pulse lamps. Up to eight Pulse lamps can be joined together.Sengled Pulse QR Code

The app is a bit short on “smart home” features. For example, there’s no way to set the lights to come on at a pre-determined time or to automatically turn on when a Bluetooth connection is made. I was hoping for more.

The speakers in the Pulse lamps are “JBL by Harman” which means that they ought to sound half decent and they do. Music is clear with perhaps a little too much treble at times but given the size of the lamps, there’s never going to be much power behind them. Big powerful songs like Frozen’s Let It Go or Adele’s Skyfall lose their impact. Without damning with faint praise, the Pulse’s sound better than you’d expect speakers-in-lamps to sound and they’re fine for casual music and radio listening.

Ultimately, the Sengled Pulse is a neat solution which compromises the sound to fit everything into the lamp shell, but if convergence is your thing (or you want cool looking red LED lamps), the Pulse is available from Sengled’s online shop for €129 (which is about GB£100) or US$149. It’s available from other online and real-world stores too.

Thanks to Sengled for the review Pulse.