Bluetooth still seems a little bit like magic to me.
It's true that Bluetooth isn't perfect. The range often isn't so great, and I'm still waiting for some company to figure out a truly simple way to manage using multiple Bluetooth accessories with devices. But life without wires is truly the way to go, whether I'm sticking sound directly in my cranium with a headset or throwing it across a room to a Bluetooth speaker.
I've found myself obsessing lately about packing the right Bluetooth sound gear for various summer excursions. Fortunately, I've had the opportunity to try or buy a number of available Bluetooth sound options over the past few months and I've selected three pieces of sound hardware in very different shapes and sizes that, together, should be able to meet all the stylin' sound needs of summer.
Nyne first caught my eye at CES in January with its impressive "aqua" speaker, which is waterproof and floats while delivering decent wireless sound.
I was more interested in its big gun, however. The Nyne Bass is basically a boombox for the 21st century. It's portable and rugged enough to toss in the trunk for a trip to the beach, but big enough to deliver party-worthy sound.
The Bass is easy to carry to base camp and converts 20 watts of power into some legit boom. It's been a worthy addition to my barbecues and campfires already. It also takes some earnest steps to improve on Bluetooth's pairing problem with an NFC-based tap-and-pair feature. NFC is also less than perfect, but it's an option I appreciate. The Bass functions rather well as a mobile command center, not just for music, but also for calls with its hands-free speakerphone and USB port to charge your devices.
While it's a bit heavy and has a goofy shape, the Bass is still a great option for big Bluetooth sound that can also hit the road and costs far less (around $150) than pricey speakers from the likes of Bose.
Soundmatters FoxL Dash 7
This little Bluetooth sound bar is an interesting option when you need a speaker but don't have much space for it or don't want something that looks like it was plucked from an episode of "The Jetsons."
About the size of an old Nokia candy-bar phone, the Dash 7 is simple and subtle and delivers a surprising level of volume for how compact it is. It served me well on a couple of road trips where the vehicle stereo had no means of connecting to a phone or tablet.
The big downside to the Dash 7 is the price. It had a $249 price tag when it came out late last year. But that price is beginning to come down, making it more attractive if you want a sleek speaker that can fit in a pocket or backpack and will outperform most other speakers its size. Get more details in CNET's full review.
Summer sounds aren't always meant to be shared. When it comes to in-ear Bluetooth headsets, I've lost enough of the little buggers -- and drowned enough of the stereo, behind-the-head workout headsets in sweat -- that my motto is to buy cheap or moderately priced models like the ones Plantronics makes that can be easily and inexpensively replaced.
Then I borrowed a demo unit of the BlueAnt Pump HD Sportsbuds. The Pump 'buds are designed to be waterproof and sweatproof and provide one of the tightest in-ear fits I've ever tried. One time, I was using them to listen to a podcast while in a car and didn't realize until I took them out that the car stereo had been blaring the whole time.
The Pump HD Sportsbuds aren't perfect -- the replaceable plastic buds wear quickly and audiophiles might find fault with the sound clarity. They have a $129 price tag. But these earbuds have got me rethinking my stance on laying down a more sizable amount for a headset.
I plan to put the Pump 'buds through their paces in the coming weeks, torturing them with the summer swelter of the southern US, followed by a dip in a local swimming hole. Keep an eye out for the results here at Crave. Meanwhile, check out the full CNET review for the Pump.