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Reviews

BlueAnt Wireless BlueSonic Bluetooth Portable Speakers

By Legacy November 1, 2006, 12:00 am

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:

POCKETNOW VIDEO OF THE DAY

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.

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

  1. On the rear of the BlueSonic Speakers, turn the switch to ON
  2. Press and hold the Play / Pau se button on the front for approximately six seconds, until you hear a melody play
  3. Turn Bluetooth ON in your phone, then perform a device discovery to search for the Sonic Speakers.
  4. 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
  5. 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:

  1. Run the Setup.exe on the included driver CD, follow the prompts and reboot PC
  2. Insert the USB Bluetooth dongle, name the computer and select the type PC being used
  3. 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.
  4. Next, click the orange sun on the computer screen to activate a "search for devices"
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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

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

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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