There are many use cases for a small, portable Bluetooth speaker like the SuperTooth Disco, but its heavyweight stature and user-friendly music controls are ideal for small apartments, offices, or communal rooms like kitchens and dens. Like all Bluetooth-powered audio devices, the Disco unfortunately loses degrees of sound quality while transmitting the wireless signal, but SuperTooth also offers a hardwired solution in the back so you can play music through devices without Bluetooth connectivity. We've reviewed many Bluetooth speakers in the past, but the $150 Disco nudges its way into our favorites list for its sleek design, long battery life, and affordability.
Design and features
The SuperTooth Disco's rectangular shape reminds us of a larger version of the Soundmatters FoxLv2, a smaller Bluetooth speaker designed with the frequent traveler and audiophile in mind.
However, the SuperTooth is obviously much larger at a foot long and 3 inches wide, and although the protective neoprene carrying case seems to encourage users to take it outside, the speaker's hefty size and weight (approximately 2.5 pounds) make it more suitable as a stationary device to replace the cords and satellite speakers that quickly clutter precious desktop space.
The quadrilateral design of the Disco positions the speaker at a slightly upward angle, but the dual 8-watt speakers are hidden from sight by a tough mesh screen that wraps around the device for extra protection. There are also rubber fittings on both sides, as well as three rubber feet on the bottom that effectively prevent the speaker from slipping around on your desktop. The rubber feet especially come in handy when you toggle the bass booster, and it's another reason why the Disco is heavier than average.
Part of the appeal of Bluetooth speakers is how simple it is to connect to any device with an Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), which includes most modern smartphones and computers. We used an iPhone 4 and an iPad 2 for testing and established a connection within 30 seconds by simply holding down the power button to place the Disco in pairing mode.
A small blue light on the front of the Disco illuminates to confirm the connection. After the initial pairing is established, the device stores the partnership in its internal memory so it's easy to quickly transfer audio to the speaker. Once you secure a Bluetooth connection, you can adjust the volume and change tracks directly on your music player or you can use the small control dial around the perimeter of the volume knob.
On the other hand, if you want to play music out of a device that doesn't have Bluetooth, the SuperTooth Disco has a 3.5mm stereo input jack on the back and includes a male-to-male stereo cord for direct connectivity. Playing music through the wired connection also gives you better sound quality since the bandwidth limitation of Bluetooth causes audible degradation over the wireless connection.
The Disco is powered by a rechargeable battery inside that the company claims will play music continuously for 3 to 4 hours at high volumes or 10 hours at medium loudness. SuperTooth also rates the standby time at an impressive 1,500 hours. Our review schedule doesn't allow us two months to confirm that figure, but our test unit lasted several days with regular listening until it finally need a recharge.
One of the trade-offs for cutting the cord with a Bluetooth speaker is the limited connection range; the standard distance is typically 15 to 25 feet away from the speaker, but the Disco held a connection for up to 38 feet before the sound cut out. If you're comparing Bluetooth speakers to use in a large room, the SuperTooth Disco's range sails over the competition.
As stated, Bluetooth audio streams require digital compression to transmit stereo audio, so music playing from the Disco sounds slightly distorted, even if you're playing a 320Kbps MP3 or a lossless track. SuperTooth attempts to compensate for the audio constraints with a bass boost button on the navigation dial that adds low-end amplification to the 12-watt internal subwoofer. For music that's lacking a punchy response, the extra bass adds a tighter kick as opposed to an audible boom without overpowering the melodies.
We prefer the bass boost for hip-hop tracks, but rock and pop songs sound better without the extra kick. The speaker can also handle high volumes as long as you maintain an equable volume balance between the device and the volume knob, and we heard very little distortion, even at the highest volume.
If you don't mind the unfortunate audio degradation innate to all Bluetooth speakers, the SuperTooth Disco is a solid alternative to the classic three-piece computer speaker set. And at $150, it's priced cheaper than most Bluetooth speakers we've tested without sacrificing usability or style, and should make a good addition to your home or office entertainment.