Category Archives: Speakers

EarFun Go Portable Bluetooth Speaker Review



These days, listening to music is all too often a solitary affair. The earbuds are in, the playlist is loaded and it’s time to yourself. On the other hand, there are situations where the music needs to be a shared experience with friends and family: here the EarFun Go portable Bluetooth speaker can help out. Let’s take a look.

The EarFun Go is a portable Bluetooth personal speaker with 24 hour battery life and IPX7 water resistance. It’s a roughly cylindrical unit with flattish parts for the buttons along the top and the speaker grille on one side. It’s about 17 cm long and 6 cm tall. There’s a hanging loop at one end, and round the back there’s a rubber plug covering the USB C charging port and 3.5 mm aux in. Covered in a soft touch rubber coating with four little nubbin feet, the Go is black. All black.

For those uninitiated in water resistance ratings, IPX7 means that the device will survive immersion in up to 1m of water for half an hour. In reality, this means it’s perfect for pool parties or going to the beach where there is a risk the speaker’s going to take a dunk, but it’ll be fished out in fairly short order. Weighing in at 430 g, it does initially float but I get the feeling that once the air has escaped from behind the grille, it’ll be heading for Davy Jones’ locker. I’d be inclined to attach a small float to the loop for activities on open water. If you want to see the EarFun going in a bucket, check out the YouTube video.

In the box, there’s only the EarFun Go itself, a 60 cm USB C cable and instructions. What else were you expecting? Ok, a carry pouch or bag might be a handy little addition.

Pairing with a range of smartphones and tablets was faultless and once connected up, it was time to crank out the tunes.  The Go supports Bluetooth 5.0 which is in most high-end phones from 2018 onwards e.g OnePlus 6, Pixel 2, LG G7, iPhone 8. To be honest, I’ve no idea why Bluetooth 5 is better than 4…

The EarFun Go has two 6W speakers and it is surprisingly loud and clear but it’s not going to get a beach party going. Remember, it’s only a little over 6″ long. The Go is perfect for tables, sun loungers, picnics and beach towels. Audio quality is good for something this small, though it’s relatively easy to pump up the volume to distortion levels.

It is possible to pair two EarFun Gos together for wider stereo separation. I wasn’t able to try this as I only had the one speaker. Sorry.

Battery life is phenomenal. The manufacturer states “Up to 24 hour playback” and I don’t think they’re far wrong. I used the Go for over a week listening to music and podcasts for a couple of hours a day, and I still had 27% battery life remaining. Charging the battery takes about four hours from flat. I’m not going to disagree with that, either.

And for the EarFun Go’s final party tricks….there are five embossed buttons along the top: power, Bluetooth connection, multi-function, volume down, volume up. All the buttons do what’s expected of them, though the multi-function does a whole lot more. To start with, pressing the button once, twice and three times will respectively play/pause, skip forwards and skip back. Pressing the multifunction when there’s an inbound call will pick up the call, and pressing it again drops the call. And finally, holding the button down for 2 seconds will launch your digital assistant of choice, such as Alexa, and allow it to answer questions. I haven’t seen this feature before but I can see it being handy at times.

Any downsides? Well, there can be a bit of distortion at higher volumes, but my main gripe is that it’s only available in boring black. The EarFun Go deserves to be in bright colours, like red, blue and orange.

Here’s the full spec from the website
– Bluetooth Version: V5.0
– Bluetooth Profile: A2DP , AVRCP , HFP , HSP
– Transducer: 2 x 40 mm
– Output Power: 2 x 6W
– Signal-to-noise ratio: >=80dB
– Battery: 3.7V, 4400mAh
– Play Time: up to 24 hours – varies by volume level and audio content
– Charging Time: About 4 hours
– Dimensions: 58x171x62 mm
– Weight: 430 g

If the EarFun Go needs to be in your life, it’s available from both Amazon.com for US$39.99 and from Amazon.co.uk for GB£35.99. There are some special offers so check those out to save some extra cash.

Overall, the EarFun Go is a fun little portable speaker perfect for keeping you and your buddies entertained, even when it’s wet.

Disclosure: The EarFun Go portable speaker was sent to me for review at no cost.


Clazio Spark Shows Off at CES 2018



The Amazon Echo Show might be getting all the headlines, but it’s not the only show in town. Here we have the Clazio Spark, the most powerful smart speaker on the market – it’s a mini-media centre with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Todd and Dake discuss getting the right colour for the rear of the device.

Previously known as Clarity, the Clazio Spark is an all-in-one smart speaker that combines a 7″ Android Nougat tablet with a professionally developed speaker and both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice services. The HD screen (1920 x 1200) is set into a retro-modern design and when combined with a 4K HDMI out, creates a lovely media centre that can play music, show films, make video calls. If you can do it with an Android tablet, you can do it on the Spark with the additional benefit of Alexa.

The Spark isn’t tied to a power cable as the 4,800 mAh battery gives around 5 hours of music and about half that for video. There’s a 5 MP front facing camera for video calls and a microSD card slot for more storage. Is there anything the Spark can’t do?

After successfully crowdfunding on Indiegogo in early 2017, the Spark is preparing to go into retail with an expected price of US$269. You can still contribute to the Indiegogo campaign with “pre-orders” to get some good deals but the usual caveats regarding crowdfunding apply.

I’m with Todd on the colour.

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Word Up! The Cotodama Lyric Speaker



The Cotodama Lyric speaker is one of those products that makes you go, “Whoa!” In fact, you’ll probably feel that way twice. First, although the Lyric is high fidelity speaker, it’s not what you hear but what you see that makes it special. Watch this.

Yes, the Cotodama Lyric displays the playing song’s lyrics on a semi-translucent display in time to the music. The speaker links with SyncPower Corporation (PetitLyrics), Japan’s largest lyrics database, recognises a song, analyses the mood and its “expression engine” to chooses fonts and animations to match so people can see the lyrics as the artist actually sings them.

For example if a slow love song is chosen, the Lyric speaker will react and show a more delicate font that drifts across the speaker. If no lyrics are found, or an instrumental song is played, the speaker shows abstract graphics that animate in sync with the music. No more singing the wrong words to the music!

The Lyric hails from Japan and each speaker is handmade. Consequently, only fifteen of these speakers are made each month. If you order one, there might be a little wait.

Jin Saito, CEO of Cotodama says, “In Japan, there is a culture of appreciating words themselves as art such as Shodo (calligraphy) and decorating your favourite words with Kakejiku (hanging scroll).Through making the Lyric speaker’s visuals with the artists and the programmers, we have strived to put Japanese aesthetics into our product and contribute to the world’s music industry.”

The Lyric Speaker uses Wi-Fi to connect to the free app which is compatible with Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play, SoundCloud, Youtube, and other services. The speaker can play 96khz/24bit FLAC files, has a range of 40Hz to 40kHz, and has two coaxial loudspeakers and two drone cones.

Hopefully, you appreciate the first “Whoa!” The second is the price – it’s GB£4,320 and US$4,500. Whoa! More details and dealer contacts over at Cotodama Lyric Speaker.


Studio 19 Portable Wireless Speakers at CES 2018



I’d never heard of Studio 19 before their press release landed in my inbox, but this London-based audio firm have made a few waves with their speakers, winning the Stereonet “Best Innovations Award 2017” at the International Hi-Fi Show Australia.

The Solo E600 and E500 speakers are portable wireless speakers with built-in batteries (8,800 mAh / 8 hours) and both Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity. They also look good so I’m thinking that these are speakers for your patio or garden, rather than for throwing in a picnic basket or rucksack. They really are beautifully designed in powder-coated stainless steel (and available in Space Grey, Gold or Charcoal Black).

Interestingly, the speakers have a graphic equaliser built in, so music can be tuned even further to add more bass, mid-range or treble to music. This can also help any deficiencies in the audio caused by Bluetooth transmission or mp3 compression.

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The Solo series produce a precise acoustic sound that is designed to pamper the ears with an enhanced 360-degree 3D sound engine which is combined with the DPAC (Dual Pressure Air Compression) technology creating a super bass system. This breakthrough patented Dual Pressure Air Compression Technology – “DPAC”,  innovative driver configuration, combined with air pressure, delivers a full-range sound with deep low bass and astonishing clarity of sound in an ultra-compact size. With the help of DSP Enabled, this additional digital processing power, it is possible to implement supplementary audio processing features that provide a means of modifying the sound of the music being listened to, resulting in an amazing, more dynamic sound.

Powered by an 8,800 mAh built in battery, the Solo range is 100% portable with no compromise in sound performance with a max output up to 200 watt. With an array of sounds that spread in wide directional waves and circulate within the room, users can and immerse themselves within this powerful, spherical and precise, clear, quality of sound wherever the speaker is positioned in the room. Unlike conventional 360-degree sound, the Solo ranges enhanced 360 degree optimised sound flows not only left to right but top to bottom and the multi and omnidirectional sound gives the impression of being in a multi speaker environment.

The Solos are going to launch on Kickstarter shortly, so no details on pricing but if you are at CES, check them out in Eureka Park.


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.