BlueAnt Wireless BlueSonic Bluetooth Portable Speakers

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INTRODUCTION

    When asked if I would be
interested in reviewing the BlueAnt Wireless BlueSonic
Bluetooth Portable Speakers, my initial thought was
that I would be in trouble if ever asked to say the
name ten times quickly! Thankfully, that wasn’t
expected. The BlueSonic
Speakers are billed as being able to wirelessly stream
music and allow the user to answer calls from a
Windows PC or Laptop, mobile phone or PDA. I’ve
reviewed headsets that could do this, but never a
speaker box; I’ll admit that I was intrigued. Read on to see how the speakers performed!

WHAT’S HOT

    The BlueAnt Sonic Bluetooth Portable
Speakers offer a way to listen to music from any
Bluetooth enabled device wirelessly – and they have a workaround
for those that aren’t. Here’s a rundown of the specs:


Playing Time: 10
[email protected]   5 [email protected]
Standby Time: 48 hours
Bluetooth Specification: Bluetooth v1.2  Class2
Paired Devices: 8 paired devices can be stored
Connections: Two at a time… switch between voice and
stereo
Bluetooth Profiles: Headset, Handsfree, A2DP, AVRCP
Audio Inputs: Line in, Microphone in
Working Distance: 30 feet (10 meters)
Frequency Band: 2.4GHz~2.4835GHz ISM Band
Battery: 3.7V Li-Polymer rechargeable battery

SETUP

    First and foremost,
the Sonic speakers should be charged for at least three hours before
their initial use; future charges will take approximately two hours. While
charging, the lower indicator light on the speaker’s front panel will
glow orange; once complete, it will glow green.

(all images link to higher resolution)

There are basically two separate types
of setups that can be done depending upon the device with which the
Speakers will be paired.

For a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone or
A2DP streaming PDA, setup is as follows:

  • On the rear of the
    BlueSonic Speakers, turn the switch to ON

Press and hold the
Play / Pau se button on the front for approximately
six seconds, until you hear a melody play

Turn Bluetooth ON
in your phone, then perform a device
discovery to search for the Sonic Speakers
.

When devices are
displayed, select the Sonic Speakers, entering
passkey "1234", then set the Sonic
Speakers as a trusted/authorized device, if it is
an optional setting in your phone

Finally, finish and exit, and if required,
select the Sonic Speakers in the Bluetooth devices
list and hit Connect

To pair a Windows PC or Laptop, setup
is as follows:

  • Run the 
    Setup.exe on the included driver CD, follow the
    prompts and reboot PC
  • Insert the USB
    Bluetooth dongle, name the computer and select the
    type PC being used

On the rear of the
BlueSonic Speakers, turn the switch to ON. Then press and hold the
Play / Pause button on the front for approximately
six seconds, until you hear a melody play. Next, click the orange
sun on the computer screen to activate a "search for
devices"

Then right click on the
BlueSonic icon and select Pair, enter the passkey
"1234"
. Following that, right click on the
BlueSonic icon and select Refresh Service. Lastly, again right click
on the BlueSonic icon and select Default Audio
Device so it is ticked
.

    Up to eight devices may be paired at
the same time, including mobile phones, PDAs, computers or other A2DP
streamers. You can read more about Bluetooth and pairing devices
here.

PRODUCT FEATURES


    Included in the box are the BlueSonic
Speakers, a USB Bluetooth dongle v2 + EDR, an audio lead with 3.5mm
plugs, an AC wall charger, a user guide, a quick start guide and a CD
containing BlueSoleil Bluetooth driver software.

    The BlueAnt BlueSonic Bluetooth Portable
Speakers…okay, I admit it, I am just having fun with
the name now! Let’s try that again…The Sonic
Speakers are housed in a very solid compact speaker
box. Note the microphone in the center of the top?
That’s one clue that this is not just a miniature
boom-box; it’s also a speakerphone.

   
Measuring about 7.75" long x 3" tall x 1.5" deep and
weighing 11.5 ounces, the box is composed of black
plastic with a black metal grill over each side’s
speaker. The speaker box is a sturdy piece of
equipment; it feels quite solid in hand and will not
flex when torquing is attempted.

    A
1.7" tall x 1.2" wide brushed aluminum button panel
rests in the middle of the box and breaks up all of
the black. The matching silver toggle-style
buttons are printed with icons of the functions they
perform, which are from left to right and from top to
bottom: volume down and volume up; phone and play /
pause; music select reverse and music select forward.
In between the three sets of buttons are two LED bars.
As I previously mentioned, the bottom bar is an
indicator of the speaker’s charging status. When the
speakers are turned on, the top LED will glow orange
and quickly flicker blue as it searches for paired
devices. The blue light will also blink at varying
levels when music is playing or during communication.

   
The back of the speaker box has a few plugs and
switches that should be discussed, as well as a secret
talent. From top to bottom are the on/off switch, the
DC jack, microphone-in jack, and line-in jack.

    The two
silver disks in the center of the box are magnets
so that the speakers can be affixed to anything with a
metal surface, such as a refrigerator or a file
cabinet. This is pretty clever!

   
Let’s talk about the actual operation of the speakers.
I’ll admit right here that I hate reading user
manuals; I generally figure that the quick start guide
should be all the instruction that I need. So how did
things go with the BlueAnt?

Well…!

    I had no problem
completing the initial pairing between my laptop and
the Sonic Speakers because I followed the quick start
guide to the letter: I ran the software, plugged the
Bluetooth dongle into a USB port on my laptop…

…enabled the
pairing between the speakers and my laptop, started
Windows Media Player, and I was listening to streaming
music over the speaker box within moments. Next I paired
a MoGo Mouse with the BlueSoleil software, and the
last thing I did was pair my
mobile phone with the speakers; now I was not only
listening to music, I had a desktop speaker-phone…and
the MoGo was working with my previously non-Bluetooth
equipped laptop.

    Switching back and forth between phone and music
was quick and easy. Clicking the play/pause button would start the music; 
a short click of the phone button would activate my
paired mobile phone, effectively turning the BlueSonic
Speaker into a desktop speakerphone. If I had been
using a VoIP program such as Skype, I could have also
make calls over the speaker box while using it as a
phone.  Since I was using a mobile phone,
initiating calls through the speaker box was done by pressing
the phone button on the front panel. This would activate my
phone’s voice command, which would then respond with a
peppy, "Say a command!" Replying with the name of a
contact as it is stored in the phone results in the
confirmation question, "Did you say ‘Call ___?"
requiring a yes or no response. Answering "Yes" would
get the reply "Connecting", and then the number would
be dialed. Terminating a call was done by once again
pressing the phone button. I was stylin’!

    Music played thorough
the BlueAnt BlueSonic Speakers sounds pretty good
for a small speaker box. The sound produced was
definitely better than the built-in speakers on my
Toshiba laptop, and certainly much louder. While the
bass wasn’t exactly thumping, it wasn’t
bottomed out and distorted either. Voice calls
were surprisingly clear on my end, however people I
spoke with said that I sounded like I was speaking through
a tunnel until I raised my voice AND SPOKE A BIT MORE
CLEARLY…while talking directly towards the
microphone on top of the speaker box.

    One last thing I
would like to comment upon is the inclusion of a
Bluetooth Dongle. It wasn’t long ago that I had to buy
one of these to use with my MoGo Mouse, and that
dongle cost at least $20 by itself. I can’t find
anything
that the $20 dongle did that this one
won’t, and I like the included software better with
this BlueAnt one, too.


HELP SUPPORT

    After a while it was time
to put up my toys, so I turned off
the speaker box, closed out the Bluetooth connections,
and unplugged the BT dongle. When I came back I
thought I would be able to plug in the dongle, turn on
the speaker box and be up and running, but alas! It
was not to be. Everything was showing as fully
recognized on my computer; and while I could pause the
playing music on my laptop by pressing the Play / Pause
button on the speaker box, when the music played it was over my laptop’s
speakers – not through the BlueSonic Speakers.

   I had to
crack out the manual. <<hangs head in shame>>

   It turns
out that on page 21 of the manual it is written you
"must open the program you want to stream from your PC
after you have made the A2DP/Stereo connection
with the Sonic Speakers." D’oh! My one suggestion to
BlueAnt is that this sentence be added to the
quick start guide. I am sure I am not the only idiot
that ever made this mistake.

   I also
found one other potential problem for those that are
using the dongle to drive more than one device:
evidently there is some sort of interference created
when using the MoGo mouse in conjunction with the
speaker box. Playback was completely smooth with both
devices paired…until I tried to use them together.
Any movement of the mouse would cause a playback
interruption. Ah well, it’s one or the other then,
evidently.

   There is
actually a pretty impressive bit of online support at
BlueAnt’s site: a full FAQ is available for download

here
, the user manual is available

here
, the quick-start guide is available

here
, and up to date BlueSoleil Bluetooth drivers
are available

here
.

OPTIONS

    Owning a music player or
a PDA that is not Bluetooth, much less A2DP, enabled is
no problem: simply use the included double 3.5mm cable
to connect to the headphone jack on the player and the
Line-In jack on the back of the speaker box. When
connected in this manner volume and selection must be
controlled from the plugged-in music player, these
settings can’t be controlled by the speaker box.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

   
A
mobile phone with Bluetooth is needed to use the voice functions, and
phones with A2DP will stream stereo audio. Windows PCs or laptops with
or without built-in Bluetooth can use the included Bluetooth dongle for
music streaming as well as VoIP calls. 

BUGS AND WISHES

   
I’d be the first to admit that even though I have done
quite a few Bluetooth product reviews, I am still not
fluent in its language. I like things to
pair quickly and easily – which the BlueAnt speaker
definitely does. After figuring out the "must open
program after connecting" bit, things got very simple
very quickly.
   

PURCHASING

   
The BlueAnt Sonic Bluetooth Portable Speakers are
available directly from the

BlueAnt website
for $149.99, but I found them for as
low as $100.21 on

Froogle
.

PROS

  • Good sound
    from a compact set of speakers
  • Included Bluetooth dongle
    works with other (non-BlueAnt related) devices
  • Desktop speakerphone
    capabilities for VoIP & mobile phone use
  • Rechargeable battery with a
    fairly long life

CONS

  • The manual
    really should be read
  • Can’t use
    a second device (such as a BT mouse) concurrently with the speakers
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    You know, I didn’t really see a need for
an external set of speakers which would add to the
clutter that is always trying to invade my desktop.
But I have really been surprised by how convenient
having a mobile phone serving as my desktop
speakerphone has proven to be, never mind the better
sounding music now streaming from my laptop. I’m quite
happy with the entire package.




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