Review: AQ Audio Portable SmartSpeaker AirPlay Wireless Speaker
November 21, 2012 by Bill Palmer
by Bill Palmer
AQ Audio serves up a $179 stereo unit called the Portable SmartSpeaker which takes a different approach than your standard wireless speaker. For starters it uses WiFi instead of the more common Bluetooth, which means it can deliver a higher degree of wireless audio quality. And it has a few tricks up its sleeve that most such speakers don’t.
The design of the SmartSpeaker stands out before you even turn the unit on. With its flat oval base gradually curving up into a linear top, it’s almost reminiscent of the Star Trek logo. But it’s not too futuristic, and should look plenty stylish in any living room, sitting about ten inches tall and talking up about four inches by two inches of table space.
The audio quality is distinct on both the high end and low end. The bass is slightly more prominent than is typical for these products, but well within the mainstream, and just as importantly, it’s great sounding bass. The use of WiFi instead of Bluetooth is particularly evident when you crank the volume way up to the point where you can hear it on the other side of the house, and yet the audio still retains its fidelity. Comparatively speaking, this is the audio of a $129 or $149 wireless speaker, so you’re paying $30 to $50 extra for the extra functionality that comes with the SmartSpeaker.
iPhone and iPad users may be a bit thrown off by the initial setup, simply because there is an initial setup. Rather than simply showing up in your device’s AirPlay menu when first turned on, the SmartSpeaker must be connected to your device via its charging cable, and a couple buttons pressed to initialize it. This feels annoyingly old-school, but the process ends up taking literally about a minute, and only has to be done once. Once you become familiar with the SmartSpeaker’s unique features, however, you come to understand that the setup process is worth it. You can buy two or four of these units and use them in concert or around the house, ensuring that your music stay with you as you move from room to room. There’s even a switch on the back which allows you to set up each unit as a left, right, or full stereo unit. There’s also a free iOS app which allows for more sophisticated control (there’s also an Android app, not tested).
I’m not sure how much sense it makes to simply purchase one of these units on its own, as doing means you’re paying close to $200 here but you won’t be able to take advantage of the multi-unit functionality. For those who can afford $349 for the two unit pack or $675 for the four unit pack, the SmartSpeaker becomes a much more versatile around-the-house product.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 • Price: $179 • aqaudio.com