It’s raining Bluetooth speakers! They’re everywhere, aren’t they? Ultra-portable Bluetooth speakers are handy to take anywhere, but they often sacrifice audio quality for size. If you don’t mind porting around a larger Bluetooth speaker, you can then become a little more discerning when it comes to the sound quality. The Bem Wireless Boom Box is one of those larger speakers. How does it perform in its class? I’m not an audiophile, but I really enjoy full, rich sound when listening to music, so when offered the chance to review the Bem Boom Box, I was curious to see if I would enjoy my music using this speaker.
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- Bem Wireless Boom Box
- AC charger
- 3.5mm Aux Cable
- User Guide
- Quick Start Guide
- 90 Day Warranty Card
- Bluetooth Profile Supported: A2DP, AVRCP
- Output CH: 2.1 speaker sound
- RMS power: 4.5W x 2 + 8W x 1
- Freq. Response: 100Hz-16000Hz
- Signal-to-Noise ratio: 60dB
- Battery power: 7.4V 8000mAh
- Working time: 10 hours
- Working range: Bluetooth: up to 25′
- Product Size: 320 x 233 x 126mm
- Weight: 6 lbs
- Controls: Push button :VOL – / POWER / VOL + on the handgrip. Power on/off switch
DESIGN AND BUILD QUALITY
This is not a tiny speaker. It is about 12 5/8 inches long x 5 1/8 inches wide x 9 inches high and weighs about 6 pounds. You aren’t going to be throwing this speaker into a backpack to take with you unless it’s the only thing in your backpack!
The front of the speaker is covered with a durable metal grill.
The back is also covered with the same metal grill…
…and has the On/Off switch, the Aux out, Aux in, DC in port to charge the speaker, and an extremely small indicator light to determine charging status. (The light is so small that I didn’t discover it until I read the user guide to find out if it had a charging status light, and if so, where it was located).
The handle is a prominent feature of this speaker, but it is seamlessly and gracefully integrated into the design and makes it easy to grab when in a hurry. The top of the handle is covered with a chrome colored plastic and contains the Volume Up and Down buttons and the Play/Pause button, but is unfortunately missing the options to skip or repeat tracks. The underside of the handle has a comfortable, grippy, soft rubber touch.
One problem with the chrome plastic on the handle is that it really attracts fingerprints and smudges.
The entire bottom of the speaker is covered with a rubber surface to prevent the speaker from slipping or “walking” while playing bass-heavy music.
The overall feel of the speaker is that it has an attractive, well-made quality and heft about it. I wouldn’t describe it as rugged, like some portable speakers out there, but it does have the look and feel of being a higher-end portable speaker.
USING THE SPEAKER
Before using the speaker for the first time, you will need to charge it. There is a very tiny indicator light on the back of the speaker that shines red when the speaker is charging. Apparently, the light is supposed to flash slowly while charging, but instead, it was constantly illuminated while charging.
When the speaker is fully charged, the indicator light turns green. It is supposed to take 10 hours for the speaker to fully charge, but it was my experience that it went from 0-100% charge in about six hours. It’s always nice when things exceed expectations!
The pairing process is easy. After turning the speaker on, four LED lights located on the front of the speaker near the top begin to flash slowly, and the speaker emits a moderate pitched tone then two lower tones to indicate that it is ready for pairing. My phone, after being placed in discovery mode, found the speaker, which was labeled “Boom box”. I then selected “Boom box” from the list of discovered devices to pair. There are no codes or PINs to input. After pairing, the speaker emits a higher pitched tone and the lights stop flashing to indicate pairing was successful. I also paired it with my husband’s phone, two Nexus 7 (2012) tablets, and our PC. The speaker will only connect to one device at a time, unlike some other higher-end large portable speakers, and when presented with all these devices all at once, it will connect with the device to which it was last connected. So, if you wish to stream music to this speaker during a party from your device and then from a friend’s device, you will first have to disconnect from the speaker, then pair it with your friend’s.
When using the “aux in” connection, this takes precedence over Bluetooth connectivity. It is also possible to use this speaker as a “bridge” to connect your devices to non-Bluetooth speakers by using the “aux out” port on the Bem Boom Box, the aux cable provided, and the “aux in” or “line in” port on the other speaker system. We don’t have the 3.5mm aux-in port on our older amp and instead used a 3.5mm to RCA cable to connect the speaker. Although this workaround was successful, the sound quality was really quite poor (possibly due to old cables?).
The four LED lights on the front of the speaker have a dual function. In addition to flashing slowly to indicate the Boom Box is ready for connecting, they also indicate the amount of battery charge you have left. When you press the Volume up (+) button and the Volume down (-) button simultaneously, the number of lights that illuminate will indicate the amount of charge left. Four lights lighting up indicate 76%-100% charge, three indicate 51%-75%, two indicate 26%-50%, and one indicates 1%-25%. The user guide specifies that when the battery is dead, the AC power adapter may be used to run the speaker. When my Bem Boom Box’s battery finally died, I was able to use the AC power adapter to play the speaker and charge it at the same time.
One of the first things I wanted to find out was how long the speaker would last after being fully charged. The guide states that the speaker will get about 10 hours of play time but also states that the amount of time depends on the volume level. I first tried the volume level on low. After about 16 hours, I threw in the towel, turned it off, and decided I had to sleep! I then tried playing the speaker on a moderate volume level. Yet again, after 16 hours the speaker was still going strong. However, instead of turning the speaker off, I turned the volume down to a very low level in order to sleep. After about another seven hours the speaker finally quit (I was awake when it stopped playing). Twenty-three hours of continuous music! I have not tested it on its highest volume because there is some distortion that occurs when turned up that high.
I also wanted to see just how far the Bluetooth range was; the documentation states that it is 25 feet. When using my phone, the range was approximately 46 feet unimpeded. However, with a Nexus 7 (2012) tablet, it was greater than 50 feet unimpeded. When there was a wall between my phone and the speaker, the music would cut out periodically. This did not happen with the Nexus tablet or our PC, even when there were two walls between them.
I was also curious about the frequency range of the speaker. The technical specifications say the range is from 100Hz-16,000Hz. What makes the larger portable speakers attractive is their ability to play lower frequencies, so I started out by testing for the lowest frequencies that the speaker could play then move on to the highest frequencies. To test the frequency range of the Bem Boom Box, I used some audio files from Audiocheck.net. After performing the low frequency response test, I found that the speaker could play sounds as low as 40 hertz. The high frequency response test found that the speaker played sounds as high as 15,000 hertz. This was the highest frequency that I could detect; but, as we get older, we tend to lose our sensitivity to high frequencies, and thus the limitation might be my own hearing – did I just admit I’m getting old? Just like the charging time and the playing time, the frequency range exceeded the specifications, too.
How did the speaker sound in general? It has a total power of 17W across three drivers, and fills a moderate-sized room with sound. In our very large living room (18 feet x 19 feet, but our house is an open-concept layout, so the living room is actually larger than that), the sound was somewhat dissipated but the audio quality remained great. Also, whether I was using the Bluetooth connection or the “aux in” connection, I was rather impressed by the audio quality produced by the Bem Wireless Boom Box, but only after starting up an equalizer app on my phone (or tablet). Before launching the app, the sound was rather incomplete, lacking depth, and at that point I was rather disappointed. However, after launching the app, the lower frequencies could then be heard, thus filling out the sound which substantially increased my listening enjoyment. I was very surprised at how well the bass sounded.
I played several hours of pop, electronic, dance, rock, soundtrack, and classical music and thoroughly enjoyed each genre using the speaker. The violins in the classical music were beautifully clear, while the thumping bass of electronic music vibrated the furniture in the room with the speaker. I also played some jazz, acoustic blues, and bluegrass, and still found that the music sounded excellent. Some older bluegrass recordings have a somewhat softer or dulled banjo sound, and what I would consider an old-time radio sound, but most acoustic guitars, banjos, basses, trumpets, and vocals were clear and thoroughly enjoyable. My husband was also impressed with the sound quality of the Boom Box. I took it to my daughter’s soccer party on a soccer field and received a couple comments about how nicely the speaker sounded, even outdoors.
One thing I noticed while streaming my music from Pandora (on my phone) was that every now and then the the speaker would emit a quiet static pop sound, then the music would cut out for a fraction of a second. Also, while navigating away from the Pandora app, the music would sometimes stop altogether and after about 15 seconds the speaker would lose connection with my phone. I could not replicate any of these issues using a Nexus 7 (2012) tablet or our PC, which leads me to believe these problems are due to my HTC One X phone.
Being $250, this price tag may hinder people from trying the Bem Wireless Boom Box. There are others speakers out there within this price range that offer many of the following features that are lacking in the Boom Box, like speakerphone functionality, Airplay compatibility, multiple simultaneous Bluetooth connections, NFC pairing, the option to skip/repeat tracks, a USB port to charge devices, an app, and a remote control. This speaker has wonderful audio quality, and if the aforementioned features and the $250 price tag don’t really matter all that much to you, then this will make a great portable speaker for you.
Bem Wireless Boom Box (black or white) sells for $249.99 from Bem Wireless and from other retailers for about the same price.