“We’ve never seen a speaker quite like it, but did this unusual device blow us away in testing?” Cowin Ark
Certainly unique, but can the Ark impress us with its sound quality?
£150 Manufacturer Cowin, cowinmusic.com Features Detachable speaker, subwoofer, hands-free calling Connectivity Bluetooth, 3.5mm auxiliary jack
There are no prizes for guessing how the Ark speaker got its name; its ship-like shape is certainly eye-catching, as is its feature set. Essentially what we have here is a big bottom bit that’s a subwoofer as well as a wireless charger, both for the top bit as well as for phones that support wireless charging (not an iPhone unless you have a compatible battery pack).
Once charged, the top bit also becomes a portable speaker in itself, with an eight-hour battery life. So, you have two products in one, for use at home or away. Handily, you can charge the detachable speaker while away from home using the micro‑USB jack on its side.
The Ark connects using Bluetooth, and there’s a line-in port as well. The unit also has NFC for pairing with compatible devices – but not the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, on which NFC is for use with Apple Pay rather than to pair devices. So, this will be of most use if you have any Android devices that support NFC, but we’ve always found its effectiveness at pairing to be patchy. After all, it’s hardly any effort to pair Bluetooth devices, is it?
Normally no, but we had a bit of a rigmarole pairing our iPhone with the Ark. There’s a voice command that says when the unit is ready to pair over Bluetooth, but neither our phone nor another device could find it. While we managed to pair the device, we found its process less intuitive than others – not helped by the manual omitting the instructions to put the Ark into pairing mode (the LED quickly flashes, meaning it’s ready to connect), telling you only what to do on the other device.
Sound quality with the whole unit is decent (35W rated), although the detachable speaker disappoints as a standalone – at least compared to other portables around £99-£130, like Logitech’s UE Boom.
The Ark is also an effective handsfree device for making and receiving calls thanks to a built-in microphone.
Someone asked us in the office whether we’d recommend the Ark. We would, but as features like NFC and wireless charging are of limited use, you need to want a device that splits in two so you can have sound at home and on the move. Dan Grabham A unique device – but you need a definite reason, such as its portable top part, for buying it.
Decent sound quality
Flexible, detachable speaker
NFC feature feels like a gimmick
Wireless charging not for iPhone
The unit has a brushed aluminium look, but it’s
not a premium finish.