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Philips SoundShooter Wireless SBT30ORG/37 review: Tiny grenade speaker doesn't bomb

This tiny $49 Bluetooth speaker might just blow you away.

David Carnoy
David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
3 min read

Tiny Bluetooth speakers continue to proliferate and now come in all shapes and sizes. Philips' SoundShooter SBT30ORG/37, which is available in a few different color options, has a unique and appealing design: it looks a lot like a hand grenade.

Philips SoundShooter (orange)

Philips SoundShooter Wireless SBT30ORG/37

The Good

The grenade-size <b>Philips SoundShooter Wireless</b> has an eye-catching design, streams music wirelessly over Bluetooth, and delivers much bigger sound than its size would indicate. It features speakerphone capabilities and its built-in rechargeable gives you about 8 hours of sound.

The Bad

No volume control on the speaker. It also distorts at higher volumes and can't handle big bass that well.

The Bottom Line

The Philips SoundShooter Wireless has a sharp design and is one of the better-sounding sub-$50 tiny Bluetooth speakers -- and it has speakerphone capabilities to boot.

The 4.2-ounce speaker is clad in a rubber covering that offers some protection should you drop the speaker. It appears that you can swap that covering out. However, Philips isn't selling separate covers, so the color you buy is the color you get.

The SoundShooter feels good in the hand -- it's like carrying a toy grenade with not much inside -- and its small size obviously makes it easy to move around or slip into a bag. Though no carrying case is included, you get a carabiner for clipping the speaker onto a backpack or perhaps even your belt loop.

From many angles, the SoundShooter Wireless looks like a grenade. Sarah Tew/CNET

To put the speaker in pairing mode, you simply turn it on using the switch near the bottom of the unit. It works with most Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as smartphones and tablets. That switch can also be set to "Aux," which allows you to connect a non-Bluetooth device with an included cable that doubles as a USB charger for the built-in rechargeable battery. If you happen to lose the cable, you can recharge the speaker with a standard Micro-USB cable, but you'll be without the audio-in cable.

The power switch with "Aux" and Bluetooth modes. Sarah Tew/CNET

As far as extra features go, the real bonus here is the built-in speakerphone capabilities. The SoundShooter Wireless isn't as good a speakerphone as the Jawbone Jambox, for instance, but it worked OK in our tests so long as I stayed pretty close to the speaker while talking. (Like all Bluetooth speakers, the SoundShooter can stream music from up to about 30 feet away.)

A dual cable doubles as a USB charger and an audio connector for non-Bluetooth devices. Sarah Tew/CNET

The SoundShooter Wireless sounds as good as or better than other tiny Bluetooth speakers in its price class. That's not to say it sounds great -- your music will come off a little thin and the speaker can't handle big bass well. But at least there is some bass and it definitely plays loud for its size.

Like the $60 JBL Micro Wireless, which I also like, this is a mono speaker (no, you can't hook up two of them to make a stereo pair) and obviously has its limitations. Not surprisingly it's strongest in the midrange (vocals) and does best with lighter fare. No, audiophiles won't be impressed -- Steve Guttenberg, our resident sound guru , said he'd rather "listen to silence" than this speaker, but he's a Bluetooth skeptic. Most folks will be pleasantly surprised by its sound output.

The speaker from the top. Sarah Tew/CNET

I thought the JBL's sound was a touch smoother and cleaner than the Philips', but the Philips' sound had a little more kick to it. I had a number of people listen to it and when I told them the price ($50), many made the same remark: "That's not bad."

And the Philips SoundShooter isn't. Yeah, I'd like to see it at $39.99, but it's got an eye-catching design, delivers decent sound for its grenadelike size (it can fill a small room), and has a built-in rechargeable battery that gives you about 8 hours of sound so long as you don't crank the volume the whole time. And you wouldn't want to, because it doesn't sound as good at higher volumes and can distort with certain tracks.

If you can do without the wireless, Philips also makes the SoundShooter SBA3010BLU/37. It has a similar shape and presumably sounds about the same. But it has no Bluetooth streaming option or speakerphone capabilities. Rather, you plug the integrated 3.5mm plug into the headphone jack of your smartphone or tablet. The upside is it only costs about $17 online.

Philips also makes the SoundShooter Wireless SBT50/00, which features a swanky aluminum exterior. I haven't tried that model -- it hasn't hit the market quite yet -- but I suspect it offers similar performance. All the SoundShooter Wireless models are worth considering, especially if you see them discounted slightly online.

Philips SoundShooter (orange)

Philips SoundShooter Wireless SBT30ORG/37

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 6
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