We're hard-pressed to find anything not to like about the BlueSonic speakers' design. It's just lovely--everything from the small footprint (7.5 by 3.2 by 1.5 inches) to the tiny blue ant graphic above the control panel is appealing yet unassuming. The speakers come in a simple matte black finish with two grilles flanking the silver control panel where you'll find volume controls, call and play/pause buttons, and track shuttle keys. A minor gripe here is that the button to lower volume is a bit stiff. The backside of the BlueSonic houses the line-in and mic-in ports, a DC jack, and a power switch. This is also where you'll find our favorite design extra: a pair of surprisingly strong magnets that allow you to stick the speakers to your fridge, filing cabinet, or other suitable metal object (cool!). We are a little bummed that no travel case was included, though.
The BlueSonic speakers use the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) for Bluetooth transmissions, meaning they're capable of receiving dual-channel audio: sound in stereo. Of course, this is necessary if you're going to be listening to music--who wants to rock out in mono? If you have one of a handful of cell phones that is A2DP compliant, you can simply pair your handset with the BlueSonic speakers by following the normal steps under the Bluetooth settings on your phone. (Be aware that some devices have separate selections for mono and stereo Bluetooth; you'll want to turn on the stereo mode for these speakers.) Better yet, BlueAnt does not overlook the fact that cell phones are made for talking; the BlueSonic has a built-in mic, so it can function as a speakerphone as well.
If you haven't yet upgraded to a cell or smart phone with A2DP, don't fret. The BlueSonic speakers can also be used with a variety of other devices, thanks to a selection of Bluetooth adapters. This particular unit includes a USB adapter that allows you to stream music wirelessly from your computer. Got VoIP? Yep, the BlueSonic can work as a speakerphone here, too. The unit also works with MP3 players and other portable audio devices. BlueAnt includes a short 3.5mm-to-3.5mm cable to this end, but you have the option of purchasing a separate 3.5mm A2DP audio streamer (like the USB one). We're hoping that in the future BlueAnt will have two packaged versions of the BlueSonic: one with the USB adapter and one with the 3.5mm adapter.
When we charged up the BlueSonic, which is rated for 10 hours of talk time at half volume (5 at full and 48 standby), and started pairing it with devices, we were pleased to note the clarity of the instructions. Pairing our PC and phone was a painless procedure (you can pair up to eight devices). And, heck, if it's not painless for you, BlueAnt is more than happy to help out. The company strongly encourages contacting customer support and offers a two-year warranty on its products (the standard is usually a year). In fact, one of BlueAnt's strategies in capturing the U.S. market is offering excellent customer service, and a toll-free call to one of its pleasant representatives indicated that the company is serious about that statement.
To test the BlueSonic's performance, we paired it with a Sony Ericsson K790a phone and a PC running Windows XP and Windows Media Player (WMP) 11. The speaker's buttons flawlessly controlled music playback on both the phone and the PC (WMP only). Just make sure you have the Bluetooth connection turned on before you boot up WMP; otherwise, music won't come out of the speakers (though, oddly, the controls will still work.)
Music coming through the BlueSonic sounded OK--about the same as your average clock radio. Definitely do not expect any noticeable bass. Calls came through the speakers loud and clear, but we got a, "What? You're breaking up...it sounds muffled and distant," from the caller on the other end, which leads us to believe the built-in mic is not up to the task. Likely, hooking up an external mic would ease this problem. While we're excited about the stereo Bluetooth spec, we're not sure how clear of an advantage it is to use wireless rather than traditional speakers, particularly in a portable device that doesn't stand out in terms of sound quality. However, if you abhor cord clutter, solutions such as the BlueSonic could be just what you're looking for.