There was a time when the word ‘speakers’ used to evoke images of large, bulky devices that often occupied pride of place in the living room, connected to music systems though a complicated network of cables. Those who wanted to enjoy their music while on the move were largely restricted to headphones. Well, not any more. Over the past few years, a number of companies have recognised the fact that many people prefer to listen to their music out loud even while travelling, or simply do not want to be insulated from external noise by headphones. And this in turn has led to the evolution of the portable speaker — a device that connects to your music source (generally a phone or a media player) wirelessly and delivers decent quality sound. While they started out as relatively modest devices with not much in terms of output, portable speakers have of late improved to the extent that some even consider them worthy of audiophiles — many people prefer portable speakers to their more static counterparts as they are easy to use, can connect wirelessly to devices, are versatile (most can double up as speakerphones) and of course, can be carried around (they are portable, remember?). So if you are looking for a good portable speaker to quench your thirst for music, we suggest you consider these five, depending on your needs and budget:
The sound master: Bose Soundlink Mini
The original SoundLink from Bose had turned heads with its retro transistor-like design, and stunned people with its sound quality. Well, the retro looks have been pruned down in the SoundLink Mini, which is a smaller, and even more portable avatar of the SoundLink, although the aluminum casing has been retained. There even are colours in the form of soft covers which add accents to the device. But what has not changed is the quality of sound delivered from the speaker. Yes, it comes at a hefty price, but the SoundLink Mini scores when it comes to sound, both in terms of volume and quality.
Price: Rs 16,200
Fistful of audio dynamite: Amkette Trubeats Metal
Do not get fooled by its paperweight-like size.The barrel-like Trubeats Metal delivers some very good sound for its compact size. Small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, its metal alloy drum delivers some pretty thorough thumps for those who love their music out loud from the grille on top of the speaker. An eight-hour battery life does its cause no harm at all. Just be careful to ensure that it does not slide off the table — at full volume, this device not only rocks, but vibrates a bit too.
Price: Rs 2,999
Soul in a small form factor: Jabra Solemate Mini
Remember the Solemate — the portable speaker with shades of a sneaker in design terms? Well, honey, Jabra just shrunk it further. The result is a speaker that can literally fit into your hand and still deliver some very good music. That grille in front houses two front-facing speakers, and yes, the base still has that ridge-y feel that lets it stay stable on surfaces even when going at full blast. Connectivity options include NFC and Bluetooth, and battery life is in the vicinity of seven hours. Round that off with some funky colours and this is perhaps the most flauntable portable speaker around!
Price: Rs 4,999
Not just headphones: Sony NWZ-WH303
On the surface, the NWZ-WH303 look like a pair of routine wireless headphones. Well, they are that. But they are also perhaps the most versatile audio product to have come from the year that was 2013. For they can not only be used as headphones, but also have the capacity to store unto 4GB of music, and well, also contain speakers. No, they won't fill a room with sound, but are perfect for those times when you just want to hear music without putting on the entire headset — just dangle the headphones around your neck and you will hear your tunes coming out with reasonable clarity, from just under your chin. No, it won’t win awards for sound clarity, but its form factor make it a handy option, especially for those who do not want to tinker with multiple devices.
Price: Rs 8,990
Compact, but brilliant: Soen Transit
Soen might be relatively unknown in India, but if the Transit is any evidence of its prowess, that is likely to change. The Transit is incredibly compact, slightly over half a foot long and about half a kilogram in weight. Unlike other portable speakers that try to exude an aura of funkiness, it is more a blend of good, old-fashioned solidity. A kickstand is cleverly integrated at the back, allowing you to settle it anywhere. But what really makes the Transit stand out is the quality of the sound it delivers. No, it is not the loudest portable speaker around but in terms of sheer clarity and richness of sound, this is a very classy proposition indeed. Pretty much for those who love their music’s content rather than its volume.
Price: Rs 12,990