Definitive Technology is known for its audiophile-grade loudspeakers. But now it's dipped into the mainstream market with its first wireless Bluetooth speaker, the $199 Sound Cylinder.
As its name implies, the Sound Cylinder is cylindrically shaped, which has been a trend in the portable Bluetooth speaker space with such products as the JBL Flip and JBL Charge, as well the iLuv iSP245.
However, what makes the Sound Cylinder unique is that it can convert from a standalone speaker to a stand for just about any tablet. It's a sleek speaker that features "rugged aluminum/magnesium alloy" construction, and it also sounds decent for a portable Bluetooth speaker, though its price point is a little high.
Design and features
The Sound Cylinder isn't your typical Bluetooth speaker in that some extra pieces are attached to it. First, there's a flip-out kickstand that folds flat against the speaker when not in use. You only use that kickstand when you have a tablet docked in the hard rubber clamps that keep your device in place.
The clamps expand a bit, so there's some leeway as to the thickness of the tablet you can slot in there. The speaker seems to have been designed first and foremost for the iPad 2,3, and 4, but it should work with most other large tablets without a problem. It's also designed to clip onto the top of laptop screens, though the speaker does have little heft to it -- it weighs 0.74 pound, or 336 grams -- so, depending on the type of hinge on your laptop, it could cause your screen to close shut if you're not careful.
Where things get dicier is with tablets that have smaller bezels on their sides because when you stick the device in the clamps horizontally, if you have a thinner bezel, part of the screen ends up being covered by the clamps (phablets like the Galaxy Note 2 aren't compatible). It's also worth noting that the way the speaker and kickstand are designed, the tablet actually needs to have some weight to it for everything to balance correctly. And finally, while your iPad and other larger tablets end up being propped up well, if you were to bump your tablet from behind, it would tip forward pretty easily and fall down. In other words, there's a little bit of a balancing act going on.
Of course, the safest thing to do is turn the speaker over, stand it up on those rubber clamps, and use it as a standalone speaker.
As noted, the speaker's made of quality materials and appears to be well-built -- and it's certainly eye-catching. Definitive Technology says, "The grilles are custom perforated aluminum, while the 'kickstand' and clamp mechanism parts are injection-molded magnesium alloy, a costly high-tech material that is incredibly strong yet lightweight."
The Sound Cylinder has a built-in rechargeable battery that delivers 10 hours of battery life, and there's a Micro-USB charging port and auxiliary input for non-Bluetooth devices.
Definitive includes a 3.5mm cable for connecting those non-Bluetooth devices, as well as a very simple, thin cloth carrying pouch (it will keep the speaker from getting scratched up but little else). Alas, there is no speakerphone option.
In all, I liked the design, but there are some issues to be wary of.
Compared with other compact Bluetooth speakers, the Sound Cylinder sounds relatively good, though it should sound better for $200. The best thing that can be said about it is that it sounds pretty clear. The bass is OK for a speaker this size, but you definitely get some treble push to achieve that clarity and the speaker sounds a little peaky. I'm being more critical because of its price level, but as I said, it's a decent little speaker that plays pretty loud for its size. It'll fill a small room with sound, though not a medium-size room.
I tested it with both music and video, and it's well suited for watching film or TV programming on your iPad or larger tablet. Yes, you can certainly play music through the speaker, but with the speaker's stand capabilities it has a lot of appeal for those who watch video on their iPads and want to augment the sound experience. The Sound Cylinder will provide a big step up from the iPad's internal speakers.
While Definitive touts stereo speakers to go along with a side-firing subwoofer, these little speakers offer little to no stereo separation unless you're 2 or 3 feet away from them.
As with other Bluetooth speakers, you can stream music wirelessly to the speaker from up to around 33 feet away using your device as a remote control. I compared it with a few other compact Bluetooth speakers, including the Jawbone Jambox, JBL Flip, and JBL Charge. The Sound Cylinder held up relatively well against the competition, but the problem was that it didn't beat any of those speakers, and the JBL Flip and JBL Charge played louder. The Sound Cylinder did sound better than the iLuv iSP245, but the iLuv is now down to less than $50, making it the better value.
As noted, battery life is rated at 10 hours. That's decent for this type of speaker, though the Jambox delivers better battery life.
The Definitive Technology Sound Cylinder has some nice things going for it -- namely a sturdy, sleek design and decent sound. That it converts into a stand for your iPad and other tablets is also an appealing trait, particularly for people who watch a lot of video on their tablets and want to augment the sound experience.
That said, apart from a few design concerns, my biggest gripe was that it just didn't sound better than the lower-priced competition. The JBL Flip, which retails for half the price, plays louder and offers smoother sound. So while I liked the Sound Cylinder, it's hard to offer it more than a tepid recommendation despite its strengths.