Cambridge SoundWorks Oontz Curve Bluetooth speaker review: A wireless speaker that's a relative bargain at $30

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.2
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Sound quality: 6.0
  • Value: 8.0

Average User Rating

5 stars 2 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The very affordable Cambridge SoundWorks Oontz Curve is a compact wireless Bluetooth speaker that has a built-in rechargeable battery, offers relatively decent sound for its tiny size, has speakerphone capabilities, and has transport controls on the unit itself.

The Bad Can distort at higher volumes; battery life is only OK at 5 hours; glossy finish is eye-catching but attracts fingerprints.

The Bottom Line Cambridge SoundWorks' Oontz Curve has some shortcomings and isn't head and shoulders above the rest of the tiny budget wireless Bluetooth speaker world, but you're not going to do too much better for $30.

Editors' Top Picks

I'm not sure why Cambridge SoundWorks named its smallest Oontz Bluetooth speaker the Curve, but like the company's other Oontz speakers it sports a direct-to-consumer budget price tag that's made it a popular item on Amazon. While the list price for the Curve is $59.99, the online price is currently $29.99, which is about as affordable as it gets for a Bluetooth speaker.

What I liked about the Curve is that it's got some heft to it -- it doesn't feel like a cheap speaker -- and seems well built (it weighs in at 9 ounces). I'm not sure how much I dig the design; it's a bit shiny and for some reason made me think of Darth Vader's helmet. But if nothing else, it's eye-catching and the speaker comes in a couple of different metallic color options with additional colors coming soon.

If you read the reviews on Amazon, people seem to love this little guy, and it does sound as good -- and play as loud -- as competitors that cost twice as much. However, it's not without some shortcomings.

With some tracks I played it sounded good, relatively speaking anyway. But with other tracks the Curve got bent out of shape and distorted badly at medium to high volumes. It just doesn't handle certain bass frequencies well (it had a hard time with the bass line of Wayne Wonder's "No Letting Go," for example). It can also give more complicated music a harsh edge that will make critical listeners cringe.

The Curve comes in a few different shiny metallic finishes. Sarah Tew/CNET

These speakers can output some bass, but unsurprisingly, they sound thin compared with larger speakers. They're strongest in the midrange, so vocals and acoustical material come across best. It's also worth mentioning that it has a built-in speakerphone, which works well, and a set of transport controls on the unit itself. Most people will use a smartphone or tablet to control music playback, but some like having a Pause/Play button on the speaker itself. That's here.

Editors' Top Picks

 

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Where to Buy See All

Oontz Curve by Cambridge SoundWorks (Titanium Black)

Part Number: CurveTitanium Released: Nov. 30, 2013
Low Price: $29.99 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Nov. 30, 2013
  • Color titanium black
  • Speaker Type Bluetooth
  • Amplification Type active
  • Connectivity Technology Bluetooth
  • Type Wireless portable
About The Author

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable e-reader and e-publishing expert. He's also the author of the novels Knife Music and The Big Exit. Both titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, and Nook e-books.