If you want a speaker that can get quite loud, the $249.95 Kicker Amphitheater Bluetooth 2 (also known as the Amphitheater BT2, or the 40iK5BT2, or simply the K5 BT2) won’t disappoint. Aside from some issues with deep bass reproduction, the BT2 is a solid Bluetooth system with a great sense of balance between lows and highs that can be tweaked with a user-customizable EQ in the free Kicker mobile app. That said, the admittedly more expensive, Editors’ Choice Marshall Stanmore offers still more power and a more consistent sound, while the Editors’ Choice Boston Acoustics MC100 Blue offers excellent (if not as powerful) performance in a less expensive package.
The all-black, plastic-and-metal Amphitheater BT2 is an excellently named product; the curvature of its front panel evokes its architectural namesake and its ability to project sound. The system is both attractive and large at 8.9 by 19 by 9.2 inches (HWD) and 9.8 pounds, and takes up much more space on a tabletop than many of its similarly priced competitors.
The system puts out a total of 50W to drive two 0.75-inch tweeters and two 5-inch woofers behind the front grille and a square, 6-by-6-inch bass reflex subwoofer on the back panel. Controls for pairing a Bluetooth device, muting audio, and adjusting the volume sit on the top. Pairing the BT2 with an iPhone 5s was a simple process, and the same button that you use to pair switches sources to a 3.5mm auxiliary input on the back if you want to use a wired connection. The back panel’s recessed connection dock also includes a USB port for charging mobile devices, a power switch, a port for the included power supply, and a pinhole reset button.
A remote control is included with the Amphitheater BT2, which isn’t necessary for streaming through Bluetooth, but is useful for playing audio from a wired connection. The remote includes volume, source, track navigation, playback, and individual bass and treble controls. The volume controls on the speaker itself and the remote work independently of your device’s volume controls.
You can use the free Kickstart app for iOS and Android to keep the system’s firmware up-to-date, customize your Bluetooth preferences like auto-connect, and adjust the EQ across eight bands, though the app is unnecessary for simply using the BT2. It’s not terribly easy to know what level the bass and treble are set to using just the remote and the system’s controls, since the LED indicator on the front face doesn’t display this value intuitively, so the app is advised if you want to make major adjustments to the bass and treble levels. The app also enables a decent stereo image-widening effect that helps achieve a slightly bigger sound without messing too much with the overall mix, though it does tend to add an audible high frequency hiss to the audio.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Amphitheater BT2 delivers a powerful bass response with the bass and treble levels maxed out. At higher volumes, though, it begins to rattle a bit. It may not be speaker distortion so much as the vibrations caused by the deep bass rattling the enclosure, but it’s audible and irritating, and adjusting the bass levels did little to alleviate this issue. This isn’t something that you’ll hear on every track, but if your music library has a lot of deep, subwoofer-style bass response, you should be aware of this potential problem.
On Bill Callahan’s “Drover” with the BT2′s bass and treble levels set to the halfway points, his baritone vocals are delivered with a lovely richness in the lows and low-mids, while the treble edge of his voice receives enough attention to keep everything well-defined. Both his vocals and the guitar strums stand out through the Amphitheater BT2, while the drumming stays mainly in the background. This is important to note, since many heavily bass-boosted systems can make the drums on this track sound massive and thunderous. On this type of song, the BT2 sounds beautifully balanced across the frequency range.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop is delivered with both solid low frequency presence and enough treble edge on its attack to slice through the mix, especially when the treble is boosted. The vocals remain clear and at the forefront, and the sub-bass synth hits neither sound weak nor overtake the mix. At top volumes on both the sound source and the speaker itself, the Amphitheater BT2 got exceptionally loud with no distortion on this track, so it’s a song-by-song basis for the low-end rattling issue.
Classical tracks, like the opening scene of John Adams’ “The Gospel According to the Other Mary,” are delivered with a notable focus on the high-mids and highs, regardless of whatever tinkering (within reason) you might do with the EQ. The vocals and higher register strings own the spotlight, with the lower register strings occasionally catching some bass boost. It’s a balanced sound, but it definitely favors the mids and highs at reasonable volume levels.
The system tends to do a short fade-in when navigating to a new track, cutting off the very first half-second or so of each song. This is not an uncommon Bluetooth speaker issue, but it is a bit surprising in this price range and is a minor playback annoyance.
If you’re looking for a powerful Bluetooth system that can reproduce sub-bass frequencies without any distortion at top volumes, both the Editors’ Choice Marshall Stanmore and the JBL OnBeat Xtreme are solid, but more expensive, options. If you like the idea of a powerful Bluetooth system, but need a little bit more portability, consider the Editors’ Choice Bose SoundLink Mini. And if all of these are a bit out of your budget, consider the Editors’ Choice Boston Acoustics MC100 Blue, a far more affordable model that still delivers distortion-free audio even at top volumes.
While fans of balanced lows and highs are encouraged to check the Kicker Amphitheater BT2 out, it would also be wise to shop around. At $250, the Amphitheater BT2′s distortion-like rattling is a bit of a surprise, but not a deal-breaker considering how infrequent it seems to be. The system can get quite loud without any distortion or rattling issues at all, so it’s likely that some specific frequencies just happen to make the speaker resonate.
|Wireless Remote Control||Yes|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc