Puma is known for sneakers, not speakers. There’s a reason for that. The Puma Soundchuck Bluetooth speaker ($129.99 list) is eye-catching and has a very clever design that lets it put out true stereo sound with two satellites, but its sound quality just isn’t that good. It distorts deep bass, suffers from heavy Bluetooth artifacts, and its microUSB auxiliary input makes using a 3.5mm connection awkward. If you can separate yourself from the brand, you’ll find a better speaker in the less-expensive and more-rugged Panasonic SC-NT10 or the more-expensive and much-better-sounding Bose SoundLink Mini. Either option beats out the Puma Soundchuck on all counts except unique stereo style.
The Soundchuck is basically a set of sound nunchucks. Seriously, it’s a concept and name I would have come up with if I could. The two speakers are two inches long and 1.5 inches wide, smooth and cylindrical with a colorful rubber coating available in red, orange, pink, blue, or gray. They’re connected by an eight-inch rubber-coated cable with a large flat tab in the center holding the Puma logo and a textured, grippy surface. I defy you to take the Soundchuck out of the box and not want to make like Bruce Lee until you smack yourself, but you should resist that urge. The speakers are shaped like nunchucks and are shock resistant, but the cable connecting them isn’t built for martial arts.
The two satellites connect securely to each other through magnetic caps on the ends, and separate to offer stereo sound. The left satellite holds Power and Volume Up/Down buttons that respectively double for answering calls, pairing with Bluetooth, and rejecting calls. On the other side of the cylinder, there’s a microUSB port behind a rubber door for charging. The microUSB port doubles as an auxiliary port with an included microUSB-to-3.5mm-and-USB cable. This unusual cable type makes it difficult to use your own 3.5mm cable without a connector, and the cable itself is only about a foot and a half long. The other satellite is completely naked.
The Soundchuck doesn’t sound particularly good by any measure. It failed our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” immediately with heavy distortion on both the kick drums and synth. The deep notes sounded extremely crunchy at maximum volume, and only got better when we turned the volume down slightly.
Other music doesn’t fare particularly well, either. I listened to Buckethead’s “Whitewash,” and while the Soundchuck didn’t distort his guitar licks, it delivered a distinct radio-like sound from Bluetooth artifacting. It sounded a bit better when connected to my Nexus 7 through the 3.5mm headphone jack, but it still sounded a little lifeless, and the strange audio cable makes using the speaker this way awkward. Monster Magnet’s “Negasonic Teenage Warhead” suffered from the same problem, and a distinct issue of the already powerful guitars and drums completely overwhelming the under-mixed vocals made the sound further problematic even if those guitars and drums sounded more full than Buckethead’s guitar and bass.
Puma claims a battery life of more than six hours for the Soundchuck, which falls short of the Bose SoundLink Mini’s seven expected hours and is a far cry from the UE Boom’s 15.
The Puma Soundchuck has a unique design, but that can’t make up for its disappointing performance. Even if it can offer stereo sound when other portable speakers can’t, the sound just isn’t that good compared with the Bose SoundLink Mini or the UE Boom, and if you really want to save money you might be better off looking at the much more rugged and portable, solid-sounding Panasonic SC-NT10 Bluetooth speaker instead. It’s one-piece, splashproof, shock-proof, and delivers superior audio quality.
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