In the sub-$100 price range for wireless Bluetooth speakers, it’s perhaps unreasonable to expect too much in the way of audio quality. It’s not too much to expect the speaker not to distort or sound horrible, however, and luckily, the id America TouchTone passes this test. At $79.95 (direct), it also doubles as a speakerphone for your mobile calls, and its size makes it fairly easy to tote around. There are some issues with playback of quieter tracks at high volumes, and any bass lovers seeking serious thump are going to need to spend more money. But if you just want to take your tunes and phone calls on the next hike or picnic you have planned, read on.
The TouchTone, available in black or white, has a rounded rectangular shape, with a speaker grille wrapping around its side panels. Its top panel is a capacitive touch design, with controls for Play/Pause, track navigation, and a Mode button for switching sound sources. Volume is controlled by running a finger in a circular motion, as if jogging a dial, around the central logo. It’s under-lit in blue, and it is independent of the volume controls on your audio source.
The rear connection panel has a Power button, a 3.5mm aux input, and a micro USB port for charging. A cable for both the USB port and the aux input is included, as is a drawstring protective pouch. A rubberized bottom panel helps keep the TouchTone from dancing off table tops when sound vibrations get intense.
You can answer incoming phone calls through the speaker, and clarity is decent—just tap the Play/Pause button, which also has a phone icon next to it, to answer or end calls. Overall, we found the control panel easy to operate, though sometimes it took tapping a button twice for the function to register.
The pairing process is simple—our iPhone 4S found the speaker almost immediately, and every time the TouchTone was powered up afterward, it automatically paired. The recorded voice announcement that tells you what mode you’re in and whether you’re paired sounds a little like George Takei, which in my book is a plus.
The most annoying issue I had with the TouchTone was its playback clipping—it tends to lop off the first second or so of a song when you select a new track; at least this was the case when paired with the iPhone 4S. It may not sound like much, but it’s enough to eliminate an opening chord or two, or the first line of lyrics.
The TouchTone gets quite loud and has decent bass response for its modest size. At top volume from both the sound source and on the speaker itself, it comes close to distorting on The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” a track with a challenging level of sub-bass content, but it never starts crackling. Still, at a slightly lower volume, things sound cleaner. It’s possible that intense mixes like this at maximum volume actually cause vibrations within the speaker’s housing, which can sometimes sound like distortion even if the speaker is delivering clean audio. If you’re expecting a big, beefy bass sound from the diminutive TouchTone, you will likely be disappointed, but it does a good job of conveying bass presence for its size and price.
On Bill Callahan’s “The Drover,” the TouchTone is able to deliver a pleasant, full sound. This is a track that benefits from a strong high-mid presence mixed with a generous low and low-mid delivery. Callahan’s baritone vocals get a nice richness in the lows, but get the treble edge they need to maintain definition, and the guitar strums have a cutting crispness to them, as well.
Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild” fares less well with the TouchTone. The kick drum loop’s attack has a nice edge to it in the high-mids, but there is very little low frequency sustain, and the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are quite thin. The vocals are at least clear and in the forefront of the mix, but basically, the TouchTone sounds far better on tracks with more midrange content and less robust on tracks that rely more on sub-bass and lows for intensity.
Lower volume mixes, like classical and jazz, do not fare terribly well on the TouchTone, either, but for different reasons—the low volume passages are plagued by a sort of underlying static noise, and even on louder moments in classical tracks, it can be heard. It sounds like Bluetooth transmission from a few years ago, not the clean signal we are used to hearing these days, and it is probably the speaker’s biggest shortcoming.
If you’re looking for more bass from a Bluetooth portable system, you’re going to need to spend more money on a bigger speaker—the Ultimate Ears UE Boom and the Bose SoundLink Mini, both at $200, are probably your best bets. In this price range, the visually bland Panasonic SC-NT10 offers a stronger audio performance, and doesn’t suffer from any of the noise issues on quieter passages that the TouchTone struggles with. And if all of these are out of your budget, the $35 808 Audio Canz Wireless Speaker is quite affordable, but for that price, expect a noticeable drop-off in audio performance. Bass lovers, and classical/jazz listeners, should probably avoid this speaker. But the TouchTone is an easy-to-operate, decent speaker, most suitable for pop, rock, and singer songwriter material—it should probably just cost less than $80.
|Wireless Remote Control||No|
|Type||iPod, Computer, Wireless, iPad, iPhone, Android|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc