“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?

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£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.

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