Cambridge SoundWorks Oontz Bluetooth speaker review: A Bluetooth mini speaker priced to sell
Cambridge SoundWorks' oddly named wireless speaker may not look incredibly swanky, but it delivers good sound, features, and battery life for $50.
I'm not sure how product managers come up with names for their products, but Oontz certainly stands as one of the odder-sounding names for a product I've come across in recent times. Perhaps that's not such a bad thing when you consider how hard it is to stand out in the hypercompetitive portable mini Bluetooth speaker market, where a lot of the products look and sound the same and offer similar features.
Like a lot of these little speakers, the Oontz and its little brother, the Oontz Angle, play bigger than their small size would indicate. But what helps set the Oontz speakers apart is that they're attractively designed, have built-in speakerphone capabilities and good battery life (more than 10 hours), and deliver sound that's comparable to what you get from more expensive products of the same ilk. That makes them great values at their current price points of $49.99 and $39.99 respectively.
Design and features
The Oontz comes in many color options and is 5.2 inches wide, 2.8 inches high, and 2.6 inches deep. It weighs 10.1 ounces, which makes it a pretty lightweight unit. The Oontz Angle's design has a bit more panache (I liked it better), but the Oontz's slightly larger design allows it to deliver more bass, which is important.
Both products have a custom generic look and feel to them. Yes, that's an oxymoron, but what I mean by that is they have some inexpensive underpinnings (inexpensive is a polite way of saying "cheap") and yet they manage to rise above those underpinnings with a nice, soft-to-touch finish, sturdy speaker grilles, and clean lines.
But I did have a few gripes. For starters, I didn't like that both products have a Mini-USB port for charging the unit instead of the now more standard Micro-USB port that's found on most non-Apple smartphones and tablets (a cable is included but not a power adapter). And overall, the product just doesn't have the swankier look and feel of such products as the JBL Flip and Jawbone Jambox, both of which cost more. Another downside for some people will be the blue light on the front of the speaker. Alas, it can't be dimmed or turned off completely, and some people may find it a little bright (I didn't think it was such a big deal, but another CNET editor really didn't like it).
While most people will control their music through their mobile devices, the Oontz does have some control buttons on the side (with the Oontz Angle, they're on the back near the top of the unit). The $50 Oontz reviewed here has a few more controls than the Angle. For example, you can skip tracks forward and back as well as pause and play your music. But both have call answer/end buttons for the speakerphone as well as volume controls and an on/off switch.
There's also an auxiliary input for non-Bluetooth devices, though it can be a little tricky to switch to the port for playback. It requires holding down the "source button," which also happens to be the power button.
As noted, the Oontz (like the Oontz Angle) has speakerphone capabilities. The feature works well enough, but it helps to be sitting or standing close to the speaker while you're talking; callers will be able to hear you more clearly.
Along with the USB cord, you get a carrying pouch and 3.5mm audio cable for connecting non-Bluetooth devices.
With these types of Bluetooth mini speakers, good sound is a relative term. Overall, they just don't sound great, they offer virtually no stereo separation, and they have their limitations as far as clarity and bass performance go. All that said, relatively speaking, the Oontz sounds good for its modest price point and size. It plays fairly loud, has a reasonable amount of detail, and gives enough bass so that it doesn't sound totally thin. Like most of these speakers, it's strongest in the midrange, so it will sound best with lighter fare (less bass-heavy music) and acoustic tracks.
It sounds similar to such speakers as the $99.99 UE Mobile Boombox, but costs half as much (though the pricier UE Mobile Boombox is a sturdier unit with a slicker look). In terms of sound, I also think the Oontz is a notch up from the $49.99
Comparing it with the lower-priced Oontz Angle, the Oontz does offer bigger bass and overall fuller sound. It's not a huge difference, but it is noticeable. In some ways that's a shame because I like the design of the Oontz Angle a bit better.
It is worth noting that you will get some distortion with this speaker (and the Oontz Angle) at higher volumes and while the speaker does have rubber feet, it may move around a bit on smooth surfaces if you play tunes with heavier bass lines at high volumes.
As noted, battery life is good. I exceeded the 10 hours of rated battery life in my tests, though I played my music at more moderate levels.
While I expect to see more quality mini speakers in this price range in the future, for now the Oontz is one of the better-sounding mini speakers at the $50 price point and it also offers strong battery life and speakerphone capabilities.
I did have a few gripes (Mini-USB port, bright blue light on front, no dedicated source switch), but overall I think it's a good value. It may not quite be a steal, but it does offer a good amount of bang for the buck, and if you value sound quality over design, I think it's worth paying the extra $10 to get this model instead of the Oontz Angle.