Not many $100-or-below Bluetooth speakers deliver powerful or even distortion-free audio, and the Carbon Audio Pocket Speaker ($99.95 list) is no exception to this rule. That said, at moderate levels, it offers a bright, well-defined audio experience, especially with genres that pack less low frequency punch. On mixes that have more deep bass, the speaker can sound thin, but you’d never expect gobs of bass when looking at its modest frame. In this price range, the Carbon Audio Pocket Speaker is a good-looking, easily-portable Bluetooth speaker with decent audio abilities—or, very much like most of the similarly-priced competition.
Measuring 2.6 by 0.9 by 5.1 inches (HWD) and weighing in at 5.8 ounces, the Pocket Speaker will definitely fit some pockets, but those are more likely to be found on cargo pants, loose fitting jeans, or the outsides of coats. Regardless, the rectangular speaker, which ships in six color combinations (ours was all black, but there are green-and-black and white-and-yellow options, for instance), is easily portable. Both the front and back panels of the small speaker have outward-projecting speakers, with bass radiators to help increase the sense of bass response. A row of buttons along the top panel controls Power, Volume, and Bluetooth pairing. (The pairing process with an iPhone 5s was easy, but included some moderately annoying sound effects every step of the way.)
One very cool design element: If you have two Pocket Speakers, you can pair your phone in left/right mode, so one channel goes to one speaker and the other to other—and then get as much stereo separation (within reason) as you wish.
The Pocket Speaker ships with a USB charging cable that connects to the micro USB port on the right-hand side panel. Carbon Audio estimates the internal lithium ion battery will get up to 8 hours on a single charge, but your usage will determine actual battery life—obviously, lower volume levels will help extend playback time.
The Pocket Speaker sounds about as you might expect it to—it’s small, and the sound it delivers is also small. Speakers like this can try to muster power with features like bass radiators, but a 5-watt driver is pretty much going to sound weak no matter what. On tracks with serious sub-bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” at maximum volume for the speaker and the sound source (again, in this instance, an iPhone 5s), you can expect some distortion, though nothing so major that it’s offensive—more or less par for the course in this price range. If you lower the level slightly on either the speaker or the sound source, though, the distortion disappears.
The Pocket Speaker fares far better on tracks with less challenging low-end content. Bill Callahan’s “Drover” is delivered with a nice amount of high-mid focus on his vocals, complimenting their baritone presence nicely with a crisp treble edge. There’s not much in the way of bass response adding richness to the drums here, as this is more or less purely a mids-to-highs experience, but that suits a track like this just fine. It doesn’t suit busier, more intense mixes, like Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild” very well—at low volumes, there’s not much low-end presence, and at higher volumes, it never really shows up, either. There’s no real distortion at high volumes on this track, but it sounds a bit thin. Basically, this is a speaker that handles genres with less dense mixes, like jazz, singer-songwriter, or some rock, pretty well, and electronic, hip hop, or heavy rock less well.
If you’re looking for a portable Bluetooth speaker in this price range and you don’t want to deal with distortion on any level, the Panasonic SC-NT10 is a solid option—it doesn’t have a big bass sound because nothing in this range does, but it delivers some modest low-end and it does so cleanly—but the Pocket Speaker looks much cooler. If you have a higher budget and are really looking for a portable Bluetooth option that can get loud, convey real bass response, and do so without distorting, the Bose SoundLink Mini will not disappoint, though even it is not going to sound like it has a subwoofer—you need to spend more for that, and get a bigger speaker. Finally, if you’re just looking to save some money and only need a tiny, decent Bluetooth audio option, both the 808 Audio Canz Wireless Speaker and the Boom Movement Swimmer deliver listenable audio in useful, portable designs. The same can more or less be said of the Carbon Audio Pocket Speaker: It’s a cool-looking little guy that can easily be shoved into a small bag or a big pocket—just don’t expect audio fireworks.
|Type||iPod, Computer, Wireless, Portable, iPad, iPhone, Android|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc