Soundcast Melody review

The Soundcast Melody is a rechargeable, portable Bluetooth speaker that delivers excellent sound in an outdoor-friendly design.

A cursory glance at the Soundcast Melody Bluetooth speaker probably doesn’t elicit shivers and gasps over how cool it looks. The $449.99 (direct) Melody looks like it belongs somewhere in between the food processor and the toaster on your kitchen counter. Fortunately, Its performance and outdoor-friendly design more than make up for its stylistic shortcomings. This speaker can get very loud, and delivers beautifully balanced audio even at maximum volume. Despite its bulky frame, it’s very portable (just not easily pack-able), and is also splash-resistant and ideal for taking outdoors. Throw in the fact that the speaker can operate on a rechargeable battery, and you’ve got a winner. We happily give the strange-looking Melody our Editors’ Choice.

Design
Visually, the Melody looks like…a bucket? Something made by Cuisinart? It’s hard to say, but in the age of sleek black-and-chrome speaker designs with rounded edges and very few buttons, the 9.5-by-9-inch (HW) circular, 9 pound Melody is, well, kind of ridiculous-looking. It’s not an attractive device, but let’s move on to the functionality of its design.

The Melody is easily transportable from one room to another thanks to the handle built into the top panel. This top panel houses the cursive Melody logo, as well as controls for power, Bluetooth pairing, track navigation, and volume. A rubberized cover that is connected to the back panel protects the micro-USB charging port (a charger is included), and 3.5mm Aux input. The rest of this circular beast is basically speaker grille, hiding four 3-inch drivers and four bass radiators that project sound in every direction. The rubberized bottom keeps it from sliding around on surfaces.

The best part about the Melody’s design, the one that makes you forget its early 90s styling, is the fact that it’s splash-proof and its plastics are UV ray-proof. This thing can hang poolside, and of course that means it’s also rechargeable—you needn’t keep the Melody plugged into the wall in order to use it. The lithium ion battery will give you approximately 20 hours of playback, but this will vary based on volume levels, and whether it’s streaming or playing via the 3.5mm input.

The Melody ships with the previously mentioned micro-USB wall charger (you can also use the cable to charge via computer), a 12V auto adapter for charging in your car, and a 3.5mm audio cable for the Aux input.

Performance
Maybe the Melody isn’t the best-looking speaker we’ve seen, but from an audio standpoint it’s a winner. At maximum volumes on both the speaker and the sound source (in this case, an iPhone 4S), the Melody delivered some seriously powerful sound. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, the Melody delivers a thunderous low-end at top volumes with zero distortion. Better yet, it delivers this thunder with balance—the mids and highs are in full, clear force, as well.

On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” the Melody finds the sweet spot, balancing his rich baritone vocals with a crisp, high-mid edge that helps them stay in the forefront of the mix. The drumming in the background gets a decent amount of bass-boost, but it’s the vocals and guitar strumming that capture your attention. There’s no shortage of rich lows, but in both scenarios, the brightness of each comes through most. There’s a nice sheen to the Melody’s output, without ever sounding shrill or overly sibilant.

On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop gets the ideal mix of bass presence and high-mid edge, which accentuates its attack. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with some truly deep lows. There’s definitely subwoofer-esque rumble here, but things never sound over-the-top. It’s true that purists seeking a flat response system may want a less boosted and sculpted sound, but nothing here is so egregiously exaggerated that it sounds unnatural.

Classical tracks, like John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances,” receive a much more subtle bass boosting. The lower register strings and percussion have an added richness to them, but nothing that will offend the sensibilities of classical music lovers, while the higher register strings, brass, and percussion stay in the forefront. 

What the Melody lacks in style, it makes up for in audio performance, portability, and durability. Still, if you want a speaker that looks a bit more glamorous and still delivers powerful audio with strong bass response, the Bowers & Wilkins Z2 and Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200 are both good-looking, solid wireless speakers. The former is AirPlay only, though, while the latter supports both AirPlay and Bluetooth. Neither is rechargeable or portable. And if by “portable”, you were thinking something more along the lines of a speaker you can shove in a small bag, check out the Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II. It can’t get nearly as loud, but delivers excellent audio for its size. And if all of these options are too pricey, the comparatively tiny portable Panasonic SC-NT10 delivers some of the best Bluetooth audio available in the $100 price range. For its high price, the Melody delivers on every front except style, and its audio performance and outdoor-friendliness earn it our Editors’ Choice, despite not looking as cool as the competition.

Specifications
Channels Stereo (2)
Wireless Remote Control No
Separate subwoofer No
AirPlay No
Type iPod, Computer, Wireless, Portable, iPad, iPhone, Android
Physical Dock No
Bluetooth Yes

Verdict
The Soundcast Melody is a rechargeable, portable Bluetooth speaker that delivers excellent sound in an outdoor-friendly design.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc