It’s never a surprise when a budget wireless speaker distorts, and if the price is far below $100, it should more or less be expected. So, we’ll get this out of the way first: At absolute top volume, the Bem (pronounced “beam”) Wireless Mobile Speaker does indeed distort, mainly on songs with deep bass content. However, this $69.99 (direct) speaker is tiny and can get, for its size, quite loud. Just a bit below maximum volume, the Mobile Speaker has a very full sound signature—more powerful than plenty of speakers that are twice as large and cost $100. Few speakers this size sound this rich and project sound as successfully. Add in the very portable, simple, and eye-catching design, and it’s easy to forgive the Bem’s only real flaw.
Measuring just 2.5 by 2.4 by 2.4 inches, the Mobile Speaker is unassuming to say the least—it doesn’t look like the kind of speaker that can get very loud or project any sense of bass response. It’s offered in black, purple, red, green, orange, or white rubberized plastic finishes. The speaker itself is below a grill on the top panel, but perforations on the sides help project some audio outwards. The bottom panel is made from an especially soft rubber material that helps the speaker stay put and minimize vibrations.
On the bottom panel is a physical Power button, while capacitive Volume and Playback controls can be found on the front of the speaker. A 3.5mm aux input, a 3.5mm Aux output, a micro-USB connection, and two status LEDs (one for Bluetooth status and one for battery) are all located along the bottom edge of the rear panel.
If there’s any complaint, it’s that the rubbery side panels seem to collect finger oils quite easily, but not to the extent that the speaker starts to look gross. This is a well-designed, simple, good-looking speaker that’s easy to operate and pair with mobile devices.
Included with the speaker: a USB charging cable, AC adapter (something many speaker companies don’t include), and a 3.5mm audio cable for the Aux input and output. Bem Wireless estimates the battery life to be approximately 6 hours on a full charge, but your results will vary depending on usage.
At maximum volume on both the speaker and the sound source (in this case an iPhone 4S), the Mobile Speaker tends to distort—mildly on songs that lack intense deep bass content, and more significantly on tracks that pack lots of sub-bass, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout.” However, merely lowering the volume on the phone to roughly 85 percent eliminates the distortion, and what remains is still a very healthy volume level with surprisingly rich, robust bass presence. Obviously, it doesn’t sound like the Mobile Speaker is packing a subwoofer, but you probably wouldn’t guess that this little cube can get as loud and deliver as much rich low-end as it does.
On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” his baritone vocals are cleanly delivered, with a smooth richness in the low-mids and enough high-mid presence to keep things crisp. The guitar strumming and the vocals take center stage here, while the drumming doesn’t receive much in the bass department and remains a more subtle presence in the track.
Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild” would typically sound weak through a speaker this size, but the Mobile Speaker puts the focus on the mids and low-mids—you get a basic sense of the sub-bass synth hits even if you don’t actually hear the sub-bass range itself, and the drum loop is delivered with enough midrange thump to convey power. The high-mids allow for a nice attack on the kick drum loop, which helps it slice through to the forefront of this dense mix.
On classical tracks, like John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances,” there’s not much in the way of boosted low-end to help the lower register strings and percussion have more body, but the crisp high-mids and highs don’t overwhelm the mix too much. Of all the genres, classical and instrumental mixes probably sound the weakest through the Mobile Speaker—at least during quieter passages, but even those sound far better than you’d expect from such a tiny, affordable speaker.
In the sub-$100 realm, there are few sonic champions, but our current favorite is the rugged Panasonic SC-NT10, it doesn’t distort even at maximum volume, and gets quite loud for its compact size—but at $100, it’s a bit pricier than the Mobile Speaker. If you can afford to spend even more, the $200 Bose SoundLink Mini is much more expensive, but delivers impressively clean, full audio at high volumes. And if you’re looking to spend even less than the $70 price of the Mobile Speaker, the $35 808 Audio Canz Wireless Speaker is about as cheap as it gets without sounding dismal. For its price, however, the Bem Wireless Mobile Speaker delivers sound that out-duels more expensive speakers with larger frames, like the Carbon Audio Zooka. Its impressive audio output and extremely portable size make it a top choice, even with the distortion at top volumes.
|Wireless Remote Control||No|
|Type||iPod, Computer, Wireless, Portable, iPad, iPhone, Android|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc