Cambridge SoundWorks Oontz Curve Bluetooth speaker review: A wireless speaker that's a relative bargain at $30
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.
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.
Other speakers in this category include the Divoom Bluetune-Solo, which has both an audio input and an audio output, so it can double as a Bluetooth transceiver for your home stereo (the Oontz Curve has an audio input and comes with a cable for connecting non-Bluetooth devices). There's also the JBL Micro Wireless and HMDX Jam Plus, which is a little bigger than the Curve but similar in shape. They all sound very similar. Of the three, I like the design of the JBL Micro Wireless, but it does cost $60. The Divoom and HMDX units cost less, but they'll still run you $10 or $20 more than the Curve.
Battery life is rated at 5 hours, which is only OK, though you can do better if you play your music at lower volumes. The speaker charges via Micro-USB (a cable is supplied).
A carrying pouch is not included. That would have been a nice addition considering that if you want to preserve the shiny finish -- yes, it does show fingerprints -- you'll probably need to protect it when you stick the speaker in a bag with other items that might scratch it.
Don't me wrong, while I sound a little critical of the Curve, I think it's a decent deal. It isn't considerably better than the rest of the tiny budget speakers out there, but you're not going to do too much better for $30. Just don't come in expecting to get incredible sound for that money and you should be happy with the Curve.