Your Guide to the Best Sound, De­sign, and Price

iPhone Life Magazine - - Contents - by Donna Cleve­land

UE Phan­tom Won­der­boom ($99.99) With the Won­der­boom, Ul­ti­mate Ears has suc­cess­fully en­gi­neered sur­pris­ingly strong bass and vol­ume—not the tinny sound you'd ex­pect from other mini Blue­tooth speak­ers. Add to that its IPX7 wa­ter­proof rat­ing, 10hour bat­tery life, and 5-foot drop pro­tec­tion, and you've got your­self a solid hol­i­day gift for your au­dio­phile friends and fam­ily mem­bers. While you'll sac­ri­fice some fea­tures of the $300 UE Me­ga­boom, like the big sound and abil­ity to con­nect up to 50 speak­ers (the Won­der­boom lets you con­nect 2), you'll gain ex­tra porta­bil­ity, a fresh set of colors, and a loop so you can tote it on your back­pack or bike. Braven 1100 ($199.99–$249.99) The small­est of Braven's Pre­mium Home se­ries, the 1100 is a re­fined-look­ing wire­less speaker that com­ple­ments any home (I rec­om­mend buy­ing the white and gray ver­sion). The 1100 is small enough to eas­ily move from your book­shelf to your kitchen counter, but is large enough to de­liver clear, room-fill­ing sound that isn't too over­pow­er­ing. It also packs a 28-hour bat­tery life, thanks to its built-in 8,800 mAh bat­tery, and it even has an ex­tra USB port so you can use it to charge your iPhone or iPad (which comes in handy when you're trav­el­ing). The sound gets a lit­tle fuzzy at loud volumes com­pared to speak­ers at a sim­i­lar price point, but if you can get it on sale and want some­thing that looks so­phis­ti­cated for your home or apart­ment, the Braven 1100 is a good choice. Ama­zon Echo ($179.99) I set up Ama­zon's smart speaker in my kitchen this sum­mer, and so far I've been im­pressed with its sound qual­ity and wide range of third-party voice apps called skills which al­low me to do things like call an Uber, ex­er­cise with 7-Minute Work­out, get my daily news brief­ing, or call other Echo own­ers. I love that, un­like Siri on my iPhone, Alexa can hear my com­mands even when it's play­ing loud mu­sic. It's also en­cour­aged me to take ad­van­tage of Ama­zon's mu­sic li­brary, which comes along with my Prime mem­ber­ship, since I can say things like “play Bob Mar­ley,” and im­me­di­ately hear top hits from the le­gend. How­ever, if you have a Chrome­cast or are tied in to other Google ser­vices like Cal­en­dar or Maps, you might want to check out Google Home ($85–$129) in­stead. Ap­ple HomePod ($349) We've got our eye on the HomePod, Ap­ple's new spa­tially aware smart speaker that be­comes avail­able in De­cem­ber. While this Siri-en­abled smart speaker will com­pete with the Alexa-powered Ama­zon Echo, Ap­ple has been tout­ing the HomePod's mer­its as a high-end speaker over its AI smarts. The HomePod is said to han­dle high vol­ume lev­els with zero dis­tor­tion and tai­lor its sound ex­pe­ri­ence to fit the size and shape of the room it's in. While the HomePod may be able to de­liver a full sur­round sound ex­pe­ri­ence from one small speaker, it will likely be a while be­fore it can com­pete with the over 10,000 skills the Ama­zon Echo has in its arse­nal.

JBL Charge 3 ($117–$149.95) Thanks to the large fea­ture set and low price, the JBL Charge 3 is my latest home fa­vorite. While the tre­ble and mid-tones aren't quite as clean as the more ex­pen­sive ones from Fender or V-MODA, that's where my com­plaints end. The Charge 3's sound is just as pow­er­ful and doesn't dis­tort at max­i­mum volumes, boasts a 20-hour bat­tery, is iPX7-rated wa­ter­proof, can con­nect to mul­ti­ple units for sur­round sound, and comes with a built-in speak­er­phone so you can take calls with­out dis­con­nect­ing. If you want an all-pur­pose Blue­tooth speaker at a de­cent price, look no fur­ther than the JBL Charge 3. Fender Mon­terey ($349.99) Fender prides it­self on its clear sound, and after play­ing with the Mon­terey for a week, I'm a be­liever. The hefty Mon­terey plays off Fender's long his­tory in the in­dus­try with its old-school am­pli­fier de­sign and wood cas­ing that lends a nat­u­ral qual­ity to the sound. I tried lis­ten­ing to Bey­oncé at max­i­mum vol­ume and bass and play­ing Bob Mar­ley with a more bal­anced au­dio mix and was amazed at how in­cred­i­bly clear the sound re­mained at all volumes and set­tings. My fa­vorite thing about the Fender is that you can ad­just the tre­ble and bass man­u­ally to cre­ate a floor-thump­ing, dance-party vibe or a re­laxed din­ner-party feel with a quick turn of the knob. ECOXGEAR EcoSlate ($95–$149.99) If you're look­ing for a rugged speaker that holds up against dirt, drops, and wa­ter, this speaker by ECOXGEAR is your safest bet. With an IP67 dust-proof and wa­ter­proof rat­ing, you can con­fi­dently take the EcoSlate with you whether you're back­pack­ing in the wilder­ness or river tub­ing with a group of rowdy friends. ECOXGEAR de­signed the EcoSlate with the out­door en­thu­si­ast in mind. It makes a great camp­ing com­pan­ion, with a builtin lan­tern that can light up your tent and a 12-hour bat­tery that dou­bles as a charger for your iDe­vices. Fu­goo Style-S ($139.99) If you're look­ing for a durable yet classy wire­less speaker to pro­vide a sound­track for your ac­tive life, the Style-S is hard to beat. Not only is the Style-S IP67-cer­ti­fied wa­ter­proof and shock­proof, but it also in­cludes an in­set mount­ing socket so you can use a Fu­goo mount to at­tach the speaker to your bike, tent, stroller, tree, or what­ever else is in your vicin­ity. It comes with a big bat­tery for such a light­weight speaker, so you can go up to 15 hours off grid with­out run­ning out of power. My big­gest crit­i­cism of the Style-S is that while it sounds great at mod­er­ate volumes, it dis­torts when you get re­ally loud. You can al­ways pair two to­gether for stereo sound, but I still wouldn't rec­om­mend the Style-S if you're look­ing for big sound. BoomBotix Pro ($22–$60) If you're on a tight bud­get, a lit­tle money will go a long way with the BoomBotix Pro. Not only does it pack a punch for its size, but it also in­cludes a sur­pris­ing num­ber of fea­tures, in­clud­ing an IPX7 wa­ter­proof rat­ing, a built-in mic, a re­spectable six-hour bat­tery, and a clip so you can at­tach it to your back­pack. Our man­ag­ing ed­i­tor Rheanne Tay­lor has been us­ing the Pro for years, and says it's filled her apart­ment with sound (and only min­i­mal dis­tor­tion) and has sur­vived camp­ing trips and even be­ing dropped on rocky ter­rain. V-MODA Remix ($300) Au­dio­philes of all stripes have loved V-MODA's pre­mium head­phones for a long time, but it was only ear­lier this year that the com­pany ven­tured into the Blue­tooth speaker mar­ket. The Remix de­liv­ers vi­brant au­dio qual­ity, a 10-hour bat­tery, and a built-in mic for speak­er­phone calls. Its sound is one-di­rec­tional though, and can't quite fill a large room. As is the tra­di­tion of V-MODA, the Remix also comes with in­ter­est­ing cus­tomiza­tion op­tions. While I like the base alu­minum and ve­gan leather op­tions, I per­son­ally find the 3D cus­tom grills and shells a lit­tle gaudy and not worth pay­ing ex­tra for.

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