Cambridge SoundWorks Oontz Curve Bluetooth speaker review: A wireless speaker that's a relative bargain at $30

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7

The Good The very affordable Cambridge SoundWorks Oontz Curve is a compact wireless Bluetooth speaker that has a built-in rechargeable battery, offers relatively decent sound for its tiny size, has speakerphone capabilities, and has transport controls on the unit itself.

The Bad Can distort at higher volumes; battery life is only OK at 5 hours; glossy finish is eye-catching but attracts fingerprints.

The Bottom Line Cambridge SoundWorks' Oontz Curve has some shortcomings and isn't head and shoulders above the rest of the tiny budget wireless Bluetooth speaker world, but you're not going to do too much better for $30.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Sound 6
  • Value 8

I'm not sure why Cambridge SoundWorks named its smallest Oontz Bluetooth speaker the Curve, but like the company's other Oontz speakers it sports a direct-to-consumer budget price tag that's made it a popular item on Amazon. While the list price for the Curve is $59.99, the online price is currently $29.99, which is about as affordable as it gets for a Bluetooth speaker.

What I liked about the Curve is that it's got some heft to it -- it doesn't feel like a cheap speaker -- and seems well built (it weighs in at 9 ounces). I'm not sure how much I dig the design; it's a bit shiny and for some reason made me think of Darth Vader's helmet. But if nothing else, it's eye-catching and the speaker comes in a couple of different metallic color options with additional colors coming soon.

If you read the reviews on Amazon, people seem to love this little guy, and it does sound as good -- and play as loud -- as competitors that cost twice as much. However, it's not without some shortcomings.

With some tracks I played it sounded good, relatively speaking anyway. But with other tracks the Curve got bent out of shape and distorted badly at medium to high volumes. It just doesn't handle certain bass frequencies well (it had a hard time with the bass line of Wayne Wonder's "No Letting Go," for example). It can also give more complicated music a harsh edge that will make critical listeners cringe.

The Curve comes in a few different shiny metallic finishes. Sarah Tew/CNET

These speakers can output some bass, but unsurprisingly, they sound thin compared with larger speakers. They're strongest in the midrange, so vocals and acoustical material come across best. It's also worth mentioning that it has a built-in speakerphone, which works well, and a set of transport controls on the unit itself. Most people will use a smartphone or tablet to control music playback, but some like having a Pause/Play button on the speaker itself. That's here.

The speaker does have built-in transport controls. Sarah Tew/CNET

Best Speakers for 2020

All best speakers
  • VIZIO SB3621N-E8

    The Vizio SB3621n-E8 is the best budget soundbar we've ever heard, period.

  • Q Acoustics 3020i

    The Q Acoustics 3020i bookshelf speakers combine cutting-edge design with excellent sonics.

  • Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2

    Starting at: $299.98

    The Elac Debut B6.2 changes things up with a greater emphasis on build quality and sonic...

  • Sonos One

    Starting at: $197.96

    With great sound, a compact size and the option of either Google Assistant or Alexa, the...

  • ELAC Uni-Fi UB5

    Starting at: $636.10

    The ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 shattered our expectations for the sound quality we could expect from...