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Unison B-XT Bluetooth Speakers review: Unison B-XT Bluetooth Speakers

A sharply designed portable speaker system with bass so domineering it spoiled most of the music we played through it.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
3 min read

Don't you hate not being invited to a party? Worse yet, don't you hate when your neighbour has a raucous party, doesn't invite you, then plays loud music all night — the sound of thumping bass pounding through your wall. If this is actually your idea of a good night in then the Unison B-XT speaker system could be for you — its chunky bass reproduces the exact experience of being separated from the party.

4.5

Unison B-XT Bluetooth Speakers

The Good

Sleek design. Streaming Bluetooth attachment.

The Bad

Muddy, bass-heavy playback. No EQ settings on the system. Larger in size than alternatives.

The Bottom Line

A sleek attractively designed speaker system spoiled by playback so bass-heavy that the music we played sounded as if it was playing in a different room.

Design
To say the Unison B-XT looks like a bread box would be to disregard this system's sleek, glossy design. However, a bread box is probably the best size comparison in terms of its shape and dimensions.

Like many portable speaker systems, the B-XT maintains a minimal approach to controls — the volume controls on the front of the box are the only visible buttons. In fact, aside from an enormous Unison badge across the top of the B-XT, this system is remarkably subdued. This means there isn't equaliser setting controls, which would become painfully apparent after plugging the system in and power it up.

In terms of connectivity, the B-XT is very much a consumer music speaker system. On the back, we find a single 3.5mm auxilliary port and the B-XT supports A2DP stereo Bluetooth streaming; however, there's no high-end audio inputs like we might expect on higher end systems. Unison bundles a Bluetooth streaming attachment with a 3.5mm connection to turn music players without A2DP Bluetooth, like Apple's iPhone, into compatible Bluetooth streaming devices.

Performance
This reviewer spent many days and nights as a teenager trying to block out the sound of Metallica blaring through his brother's bedroom wall, his head under a pillow, only the muffled beats and rumbling bass were audible as the walls and distance between the rooms all but killed the treble. While testing the Unison B-XT, we chose Metallica's latest Death Magnetic to push the B-XT when this teenage torment came flooding back.

The Unison B-XT produces a sound almost completely devoid of treble in favour of thumping bass, making all the music we chose sound like it was playing loudly in another room. Music that would favour bass, such as LCD Soundsystem, sounded sludgy and empty, and wistful Scottish band Belle and Sebastian lost all charm smothered behind booming kick drums and the distorted throng of the bass guitar.

Without EQ settings, we had to rely on the settings within the music player's software. Using the Nokia N96 we couldn't achieve a pleasant sound at all, and with the Creative X-Fi MP3 player we had limited success using its "X-Fi: Crystal" EQ preset.

It's hard to imagine a circumstance that the domineering bass would be useful; perhaps during a riot for dispersing an enraged gathering with a low frequency drone. It certainly doesn't have a place in your living room for playing music. The B-XT is attractively designed, and we love the Bluetooth streaming attachment, but it counts for very little when the audio quality is so muddy.