I've never really been into the whole vinyl toy collectibles thing these crazy kids are into these days. Although some figurines are indeed cute, ever since I got stuck with this one Tokidoki Unicorno I didn't want, I've been turned off by the whole thing. (Seriously, what is that? A Rastafarian unicorn?) In addition to being a little expensive, they're also, well, useless.
Fortunately, BoomBotix took the concept of these vinyl toys and added some functionality. Its series of wireless Bluetooth speakers called Boombot2 (BB2) can be customized and you can play music on them through your iPhone or Android device. Bluetooth-enabled laptops and MP3 players also work. And though you can always "collect" all five versions, at $70 a pop, I wouldn't suggest it.
The Boombot2 stands 3.6 inches tall by 3.8 inches wide, and is 1.8 inches thick. It's made of soft-coated vinyl plastic and includes a belt clip on the back so you can attach it to your pants. Keep in mind that it weighs 5.12 ounces (about a third of a pound), and the build isn't sleek, so if you do use the belt clip, you run the risk of looking like a dweeb. Don't get me wrong -- the clip comes in handy while hiking, skateboarding, or gallivanting around town, but other than that, the BB2 looks best when stationary.
Though it is too big to not look awkward clipped to your belt loop, it is small enough to throw in a backpack or shoulder bag. And because it doesn't require any wires, save for when it needs to be charged, it is convenient to carry along to the beach or on the road.
My best description of the BB2 is that it looks like a cracked-out squid skull. The two circular speaker grilles in the front represent eyes, which you can remove and customize by purchasing different designs (those go for $5.99). On the top left hand corner is a star-shaped LED light that can indicate several things, including when Bluetooth mode is on, when the battery is low, or when it's done charging.
Up top are the power button and two buttons on either side of it for the volume. On the back are the aforementioned belt clip and two ports: an auxiliary jack and a Micro-USB port for charging.
Setup is easy enough. Simply press the button once to turn it on and then quickly press it twice. When the star flashes blue, Bluetooth mode is on. After you pair it with your device (BoomBotix's instructions read that the device will show up as "BT-A2DP," but it showed up on my handset as simply "Bombot2"), you can begin playing music.
The sound quality on the BB2 is perfectly adequate. At max volume, the device can easily fill a large room with music. At midvolume, sound is rich and full of depth. There was no extraneous buzzing or tinniness. The bass isn't robust, and if you have an iPhone or iPod, it helps to choose "bass reducer" in the sound equalizer settings.
Boombotix reports that the speaker's range is about 30 feet with no walls in between. When I tested it out, signal got noticeably weak about 35 feet out. Audio clipped in and out and if I turned my back to the BB2, the music would stop altogether. Within the 30 feet range, however, music played consistently and reliably, even with my back to the device.
On Bluetooth, the BB2 has a reported continual play time of 6 to 8 hours, depending on volume. With a headphone connection, its battery time bumps up to 8 to 12 hours, and it takes about 1.5 hours to regain a full charge.
Though it's sure to catch a lot of attention at any small get-together, if you're an audiophile who prioritizes sound quality, the Boombot2 is not for you. However, if you're looking for a neat gift for a teenage relative, the BB2 isn't a bad choice. Its fun design is geared toward a younger audience of people with active lifestyles, and if your gift target appreciates quirky aesthetics, this should be right up his or her alley.