V-Moda's first stab at a Bluetooth speaker has an unusual twist

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The Bluetooth speaker market is pretty saturated, so it's hard to create a product that stands out from the crowd. However, V-Moda, which until has been known for its headphones, is giving it a shot with its new Remix Bluetooth speaker, which it bills as the "first 3D-Printed fully faceted custom product with hi-fi sound quality." But what really sets the Remix apart is its built-in headphone amp.

The Remix comes in two base finishes -- aluminum and "vegan" leather -- and costs $300 or 300 euros. No word yet on UK or Australian pricing, but the US price translates to about £250 or AU$400.

"After developing our critically acclaimed headphones, we felt it was time to evolve, to 'remix' the V-Moda sound into a new form," said Val Kolton, V-Moda's CEO. "We already had our innovative headphones with their world-renowned sound, materials and personalization: why can't a speaker achieve the same goals and excel at the same vision?"

Optional 3D-printed parts can be purchased and swapped in.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Kolton brought the Remix to CNET's office in advance of the launch and showed me how it can be customized and tricked out with new grilles and "feet" that are attached to the side of the speaker.

He says the Remix is a landmark product because it is the "first consumer product available right now where all surfaces are customizable via futuristic additive-manufacturing technology."

A perfectionist, design aficionado and American expat who lives in Milan, Kolton has been working on the speaker for a while. The Remix, he says, is the culmination of three years of R&D involving dozens of engineers and over 50 prototypes.

You'd expect then the Remix would be an exceptionally good Bluetooth speaker. It is good, but I wouldn't say it outperforms other Bluetooth speakers in its price class. Part of the problem is that it's small. In fact, it's about the size and weight of the UE Boom 2, but it's got a rectangular shape instead of cylindrical.

The UE Boom 2 is waterproof and is designed to go outdoors. The Remix is portable and has around 10 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels, but it's designed more for indoor than outdoor use.

The speaker charges via USB-C and can also be used as a headphone amp in analog wired mode.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The speaker does some things quite well. It plays loud for its size, is strong in the midrange, and has good detail for this type of compact speaker. The bass has some nice oomph to it and is designed to be punchy at moderate to lower volumes levels. But it can't go that deep, and certain bass lines, like the one found on the Shaun Frank remix of The Chainsmokers' popular "Closer" track, end up sounding heavily distorted. In other words, like other speakers this size, the Remix has its limitations.

As far as performance goes, the problem is you can find plenty of lower-priced speakers that sound as good -- or almost as good -- and have sleeker, more eye-catching designs. I found the vegan leather finish a little mundane looking and preferred the CNC aluminum version.

Of course, one of the selling points of the speaker is that you can customize it to your liking since all of its exterior elements are replaceable. That said, the 3D parts you'll be able to purchase separately start at $40 and range in price all the way up to $370,000 (yes, really). Further, I wasn't all that impressed with the plastic grilles V-Moda sent over. They seemed to be worth about $5.

Instructions for how to use the headphone amplifier.

David Carnoy/CNET

Personally, I don't need to accessorize my mini Bluetooth speaker. I might want a carrying case. However, none is included with the speaker.

The big value added here is the headphone amp, which will help drive and improve the sound of a higher-end headphone that would not operate to its full ability without an amp. V-Moda has a history of making portable headphone amps with its Vamp headphone amplifier, and V-Moda says that a headphone amp similar to the one integrated into the Remix would cost you $200.

To use the headphone amp you attach your music player (it could be your phone) to the speaker with an included cable, then connect your headphone to the speaker via the auxiliary output port. You hit a couple of buttons on the speaker and the built-in amp is engaged. You control the headphone's volume using the speaker's volume controls.

The speaker in vegan leather.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The idea is that sometimes you'd use your headphones at your desk and when you wanted to step away, you could play music through the speaker. You could also connect your computer to the speaker either via Bluetooth or a wired connection.

It's also worth mentioning that the Remix has a built-in microphone for making speakerphone calls, and multiple Remixes can be daisy-chained together using cable (they do not connect wirelessly to each other).

Additionally, the Remix charges via USB-C. V-Moda says that it's the first Bluetooth speaker to do that. In fact, that's not the case; B&O Play's BeoPlay A1 also charges via USB-C.

Before making a final verdict on the Remix, I'm going spend a little more time with it and compare it to a few more speakers. We also want to test the headphone amp more thoroughly with additional headphones.

Remix product specifications:

  • Dimensions (L x W x H) - 205x65x68 (mm)
  • Weight - 850g (silver); 710g (black)
  • Frequency response - 20-20,000Hz
  • Wireless range - 10m (33 feet)
  • Battery capacity - 3,400mAh (up to 10+ hours music playback)
  • Speaker sensitivity - 79 dB ± 3dB at 1kHz
  • Microphone sensitivity (omni-directional) - -42 ± 3dB at 1kHz
  • Speaker wattage - 10W x 2
  • Driver impedance - 4 ohms
  • Built-in amplifier wattage - 83mW x 2
  • Built-in amplifier impedance - 12.8 ohms

What's included with Remix?

  • Remix Speaker
  • USB-A to USB-C charging cable (2m)
  • Daisy-chain audio cable with 45-degree 24k gold-plated plugs (1.4m)
  • 4x RemixRings (1 pair installed on the speaker)
  • Six Star service
  • 1-Year Premier Warranty
  • 50 percent Immortal Life Program Replacement
  • Available in black or silver for $300 (USD), 300 euros (EUR) at V-Moda.com/Remix and authorized resellers worldwide.
  • 3D printing customization is also available exclusively at V-Moda.com/Remix with prices of 3D parts ranging down from $370,000 to $40.

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