Avantree Pluto Air Hifi Bluetooth mini speaker review

The Avantree speaker is a compact package with a USB charging cable and a plush carry bag.

The Avantree speaker is a compact package with a USB charging cable and a plush carry bag.

With the rise of better music players and streaming services in the last few years, we have also seen a rise in the number of speaker systems, personal earphones/buds and other ways to actually hear the music being offered up. In public situations, folks usually want to have their music pumped directly into their ears, both for music fidelity and for privacy. (Let’s leave the discussion of using speakers in offices and street benches intruding into the soundspace of others for another time, OK?)  Sometimes a small speaker is needed when you do want to share music, and the Pluto Air Hifi Bluetooth speaker from Avantree looks like a good candidate as a travel speaker.  Let’s give it a look.

The Pluto Air speaker is a 2″ high 1.75″ square. There is a metal perforated grill on top, and a rubbery ring on the bottom with an inset, three-position switch on the bottom. Two round plugs (charging and AUX IN) complete the package. There are many color combinations available, from solid charcoal to woodgrain and black to pastels with white on the upper half. I was sent a blue and white model to test.

The speaker comes in a plastic vacuum-formed case surrounded by a cardboard hanging box. Included with the speaker are a 18″ USB to round charging cable, a 36″ standard mini stereo AUX audio cable, and a beige cloth drawstring bag sized to hold all components. The unit arrived with a partial charge, so that I could start using it right out of the package.

The slider switch is recessed, and clicks into each position. The grey rubber band improves grip on slanted surfaces, also provides a good contact, which improves sound.

The slider switch is recessed, and clicks into each position. The grey rubber band improves grip on slanted surfaces, also provides a good contact, which improves sound.

Usage is standard for both AUX-in and Bluetooth. For AUX, merely set the slider switch on the bottom to “Wire”, connect source to the “AUX in” port, and hit play. Bluetooth, of course, requires pairing. Hold the bottom switch to the Bluetooth symbol when moving from the other positions, and a blue light flashes to indicate discovery mode. Put your source in discover, find the Avantree speaker, and connect. Easy peasy.

Once connected via either method, you’ll be quite surprised by the clarity and volume of sound that emerges from this little speaker. It’s not directional, so the sound from a video seems to be coming right from your screen, unless you’ve placed the speaker far away. I went on a bike ride, with the speaker in its drawstring bag hooked to my handlebars, and enjoyed music, occasionally punctuated by Runkeeper’s progress reports on my mileage/pacing. I got about 90 minutes of playback time from a fully-charged unit before it stopped working. A few days later, in the office early for some dull desk work, I paired the speaker with my phone (in my pocket), and went about my work bathed in sound. I connected it to one of the computer’s USB ports for charging, so I left work with it fully charged! Nice touch, Avantree! That same day, I came home and watched a video podcast in the kitchen on my iPad, and was surprised how much more volume I got from the Bluetooth connection than from the built-in speaker. When I walked over to another part of the room, I could just take the speaker, and leave the iPad on the stand and keep up with what was going on, rather than balancing my iPad. Nice.

Negatives are few: battery life is a bit sparse. You’ll be hard-pressed to complete a full movie using it in Bluetooth mode. Wired mode may give a little longer life, but I’d doubt you’ll get past two hours. There’s also no feedback on how much battery you have left, whether it is charged, or anything of the type. Best bet is to just charge it up and use it ’til it dies. The USB cable for charging has a round, pin-in-the-middle plug on the other end, which means it’ll be impossible to replace if you leave it at home or lose it. Why it’s not mini- or microUSB is a mystery. It’s only passing charging voltage, not sound or anything, and surely the more common USB jacks are less expensive. (I know, Apple added a proprietary connector with the iPhone 5 and newest iPod touches, but they have already shipped more phones than this company will ever make of these speakers! If you have that kind of volume, plus available replacements, make your cables whatever shape you choose. Otherwise, stay with standards!)

Last on the list of negatives is a slight hum as the battery gets to about the last third of life. Not noticeable in many environments, but if you’re using it to watch a quiet movie, it’ll drive you crazy. I’m not sure if this is a problem with just my specific unit, or if it’s interference or what. I noticed it in several different places – my home office, my work (where none of the same machines except my phone were operating), and in my dining room with only my iPad.

Even with the slight quirks listed, it’s still a great little speaker and enhances listening in a major way. Four stars out of five!

 

Product Information

Price:$44.99
Manufacturer:Avantree
Requirements:
  • Sound-playing device with Bluetooth or AUX connection.
Pros:
  • Small, but has great sound
  • Rechargable
  • Bluetooth pairing is fast and stable
Cons:
  • Hum during last part of charge
  • Battery won't last through full movie
  • Proprietary charging cable - in 2012!
Posted in: Audio, Video, TV Gear, Bluetooth Gear, Reviews

7 comments… add one

  • Phoebe November 8, 2012, 12:06 am

    Thanks for the honest review! We appreciate the experience you shared with everyone. We are the manufacturer. We love to have more items reviewed by you, if possible, because we feel that you are a responsible, knowledgeable and honest reviewer! We can improve our products based on your honest feedback!

    Regarding to the negatives on Pluto Air:

    Battery life – we have already increased the battery capacity and now it can last for 4-5 hours under Bluetooth.

    Charging socket – we used Nokia old pin instead of micro USB because the hole in the body is smaller so it looks neat. We understand that the old Nokia cable is not so popular now. User can buy replacement cable from our website, or try to find an old Nokia 3.5mm cable, which many people might still have at home.

    Phoebe

  • Eric November 8, 2012, 3:18 pm

    @Phoebe,
    CHANGE THE CHARGING SOCKET. I was very interested until I read about that, now I’m not.

    As a road warrior, I’ve been looking for a compact bluetooth speaker. However, I don’t want to carry yet another cable, or have to hunt one down. You guys need to rethink that choice.

  • Smythe Richbourg November 8, 2012, 9:24 pm

    @Phoebe – Thanks for the feedback! We here at the Gadgeteer pride ourselves on giving honest reviews. I think the comment from @Eric speaks volumes, however – fewer cables means fewer hassles. I had to pay €20 for a microUSB cable in Ireland in May, because all I had were Apple 30-pin cables and miniUSB cables. There may be parts of the world where that old Nokia cable is popular, but it’s not with folks who use smartphones. I’ve not had a Nokia phone during this century!

    Looking forward to the next goodies you guys come up with! And thanks again for letting us and our readers know that you’re reading, listening, and making changes based on user feedback! HOpefully, other manufacturers will do the same.

  • Phoebe November 8, 2012, 9:30 pm

    Thanks, Eric and Smythe. We might consider to change the charging socket to Micro USB. Thanks a lot for the helpful feedback!

  • Phoebe November 12, 2012, 9:14 am

    hi, all
    Good news! we are working on modifying the charging socket to micro USB now!! it will be available in a few months time. Smythe, do you need a new sample to review again then?

    Thanks

    Phoebe

  • Smythe Richbourg November 12, 2012, 12:43 pm

    That would be great. Along with the updates battery life, it’ll be a totally different product. I’ll update the review with new photos as well.

  • Phoebe November 12, 2012, 8:01 pm

    Will do, Smythe. It will take a little while. But you will hear from our product manager once ready. Thanks!

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