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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Grace Digital Ecoxgear Ecoxbt Bluetooth speaker review:

Portable, waterproof, and pool-friendly

All the buttons are on the top of the unit. Sarah Tew.CNET

Of course, speakers like the Ecoxgear Ecoxbt aren't exactly meant for critical listening, and it offers comparatively decent sound for the price. Really, its biggest drawback is that it sounds a little thin, particularly with bass-heavy tracks. So while the bass holds up well enough so long as you don't really crank the volume, it just seems a little restrained or clipped. I should also mention that while this is technically a stereo speaker, because the two drivers are so close together you get little to no stereo separation unless you're sitting 2 or 3 feet away from it.

Those knocks aside, as I said, the majority of people will think it sounds impressive for its size. As with all Bluetooth speakers, you will get some dropouts (the range for Bluetooth streaming is about 33 feet, but you'll do better or worse depending on your environment), but I only had a few during my listening tests using an iPhone 4S, iPad Mini, and Samsung Galaxy S3.

Speakerphone performance was fine, though you'll want to stay within a few feet of the speaker when talking or callers may say that you sound a bit muffled and ask you to repeat yourself.

The speaker's 10 hours of rated battery life is good for a compact Bluetooth speaker, and unless you're really blasting your music, you should be able to get through most of the day and perhaps even part of the night. The speaker sounds best at midlevel volumes, and since it's strongest in the midrange, it's going to do its best work with acoustical material and so-called "light" music.

I ran some Swedish House Mafia through it; it'll certainly belt the tunes out, it's just not going have much oomph to it, especially if you're sitting or standing a good distance (20 feet or more) away from the speaker.

But, hey, for background music at the barbecue, it's going to sound just fine. And I wouldn't be surprised if some of your friends are interested in picking one up after seeing and hearing it in action.

Grace Digital's Ecoxgear Ecoxbt is one of those products that's well-designed and well-priced for its target market -- namely, folks who want a fairly rugged, waterproof speaker that they can move around the house or take outside without worrying if it gets splashed on or even dropped in the pool. While critical listeners will find faults in its sound quality, it does put out a good amount of volume for its small size and is decent enough for casual listening.

All in all, while it's not exactly sleek, it is a likable wireless speaker that's easy to recommend at this price, particularly if you're looking for an outdoor-oriented unit with a waterproof design.

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