Mar­ley No Bounds XL speaker re­view

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY JON L. JA­COBI

House of Mar­ley touts the use of cork in the con­struc­tion of its No Bounds XL Blue­tooth speaker. Asked to ex­plain this odd choice of ma­te­rial, the com­pany’s PR per­son replied that cork is “vi­bra­tionally re­sis­tant.” Most speaker en­clo­sures em­ploy ma­te­ri­als that res­onate to some de­gree, so that ex­pla­na­tion didn’t make a lot of sense. Un­less of course, you’re talk­ing about a wa­ter­proof en­clo­sure that you want to float. Aha!

Yup, the No Bounds XL is about as pool-friendly as they come, sport­ing an IP67 rat­ing. That means it can be sub­merged in up to one me­ter of wa­ter. (Dive to the bot­tom of the pool with it and you’re on your own.) This speaker is also dust­proof, if you want to head in­land to drier ar­eas.

The other rea­son House of Mar­ley chose cork is that it’s been re­cy­cled, as have some of the other ma­te­ri­als used in con­struct­ing

the No Bounds XL. Ma­jor props for con­sid­er­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. More com­pa­nies, and more of us, should do the same.

DE­SIGN AND FEA­TURES

The No Bounds XL can lay on its cork back/base with the speak­ers fac­ing up (as it floats in the pool), or on one of its sides with its speak­ers fir­ing for­ward and up at a slight an­gle. The side that faces down is rec­og­niz­able by two slen­der feet. It’s also the side with­out but­tons, though said but­tons aren’t par­tic­u­larly ob­vi­ous at first glance, be­ing the same mar­ble pat­tern (gray or black) as the rest of the unit.

The No Bounds XL mea­sures 10 inches long, 4 inches wide, and 3.5 inches deep. It weighs a hefty 3.75 pounds with­out its AC adapter, which would be a bit of load in a back­pack. As such, you prob­a­bly wouldn’t want to take it on long hikes.

The base (or back, depend­ing on how you ori­ent it) of the unit, which is the part that’s ob­vi­ously made of dense cork, has slots on the side to let out sound gen­er­ated by the down-fac­ing pas­sive ra­di­a­tors. The ac­tive speak­ers con­sist of a pair of

2.5-inch driv­ers pow­ered by a 10-watt amp, and a pair of 0.75-inch tweet­ers pow­ered by a 5-watt amp.

The vol­ume up/next track and vol­ume down/pre­vi­ous track (short press/long press) but­tons, as well as the play/pause but­ton and dual mi­cro­phones (there’s a speak­er­phone mode) are on the top of the unit, while the power and Blue­tooth (4.2) pair but­tons are on one of the short sides.

In­cor­po­rated into the cork base is a

rub­ber plug that cov­ers a stan­dard Type A USB port (for charg­ing phones or other de­vices from the unit’s 2200mah bat­tery), a mi­cro-usb port for charg­ing the No Bounds XL it­self, and a 3.5mm ana­log au­dio in­put.

House of Mar­ley ap­par­ently has a no-waste pol­icy when it comes to doc­u­men­ta­tion as well. The multi-lin­gual user’s guide sheet is barely ad­e­quate. Hence my hint about short press/long press above.

SOUND

Alas, while the No Bounds XL has a lot go­ing for it in terms of rugged de­sign and looks, the sound it pro­duces is just mid­dling, es­pe­cially at low vol­ume. Speak­ers us­ing ma­te­ri­als and de­sign that are wa­ter­proof aren’t gen­er­ally au­dio­phile class, but even given that, the No Bounds XL isn’t the best ef­fort I’ve heard from the genre.

Specif­i­cally, the midrange is a bit muddy, there’s no bril­liance on the top end, and the bass leans farther to­ward punch rather than boom. Good bass is a nice bal­ance be­tween the two. I also no­ticed some bass pump­ing/ puls­ing, which might have been a Blue­tooth ar­ti­fact, but more likely is the em­a­na­tions from the speak­ers step­ping on each other.

Once you crank it, on the other hand, the No Bounds XL starts to come into its own. The vol­ume is de­cently loud, there’s no dis­tor­tion that I could hear, the bass pump­ing largely dis­ap­pears, and in a set­ting where you’re lis­ten­ing around the pic­nic ta­ble or pool, the sound is quite ac­cept­able.

Con­dens­ing all that, the No Bouds XL isn’t the speaker you want for quiet, con­tem­pla­tive lis­ten­ing, but it will do the trick for par­ties. Run time in my tests was around 18 hours, al­most in line with the 16 hours Mar­ley claims. Your mileage will vary.

BOT­TOM LINE

The No Bounds XL is more than com­pet­i­tive with most out­door speak­ers in this price range in terms of fea­tures, na­ture-re­sis­tance, and lack of guilt (rel­a­tively). The sound is slightly be­low av­er­age at low vol­umes, but at least av­er­age when it’s loud. Com­bined with an­other No Bounds (no other ven­dor) speaker in TWS (True Wire­less Stereo), it perks up quite a bit as well.

Qui­etly on a desk, no. In the pool or on the pa­tio, yes. ■

A cap­tive rub­ber plug in the No Bounds XL’S cork base pro­tects its USB port and 3.5mm ana­log au­dio in­put.

The Mar­ley No Bounds XL is roughly the shape of a small­ish loaf of bread.

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