You know the problem with buying products based on name recognition or hype? Sometimes the products aren’t worth the attention. On more than one occasion I’ve talked to someone who’s dead-set on buying Product X because “Dude, it’s Product X. They make the best stuff out there” and the only thing I can think of is their marketing team must be well compensated. Overpriced, underdeveloped, well marketed … we’re plagued by these products. It makes it hard for a newer company to launch anything in an already crowded space being dominated by various other companies’ hype machines. So when Bayan Audio asked me if I wanted to take a look at their Bluetooth speaker, I said absolutely, because I’ve actually HEARD of this company despite their lack of hype and mass advertising in the US. Have you heard of them? No? Well, you’re about to. And you’re going to want to remember the name.
Bayan Audio is a UK company founded in 2011, so they aren’t the oldest name in the business. But what they lack in history they make up for with the love and care they put in their products. Seriously, this isn’t just marketing fluff. They do things like use wood because they feel it produces the best sound performance. When they can, the plastics they use are recycled plastics. They design their own speaker drivers. All of these things means simply that Bayan Audio loves sound, and they take the reproduction of it very seriously. And that fact is reflected in the reviews of their products from both the average user and technology reviewers.
I had the opportunity to try out one of their Soundbooks, the X3. It’s a beautiful piece of gear; very simple, very clean lines, no bright pointless LED’s … it fits into any décor. It comes in two colors, silver and black. And as far as what you’re getting, it’s definitely not short on features:
- Quad 1.5-inch drivers plus a 3-inch passive bass radiator combine to give you 20W of stereo power
- It has a rechargeable battery that will last up to 10 hours streaming wireless music so you can use it in the house or outside
- High grade aluminum enclosure for less energy loss and better sound quality
- Advanced audio compression technology for more detailed sound via aptX
- It uses Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology, so it has phenomenal range
- FM radio with integrated antenna
- Built in microphone for hands-free conference calling
- TDMA noise rejection helps eliminate interference from other electrical equipment that’s around you
- It works with everything: iOS, Android or Windows based devices
- Auto connect/pairing with smartphones or tablets with NFC
- The casing is solid aluminum and it has a flip-back cover and stand
On the back you have a place to plug in the charger, an AUX input in case you want to plug your device in directly via the headphone jack instead of using it wirelessly, a headphone jack and a USB port. You can attach your device to the USB port without the X3 needing to be connected to a wall, and it will charge it from it’s own battery which is perfect in those situations when you’re outside or traveling.
So, what is it like to use the Soundbook X3? Let me preface my answer with this statement; I don’t own a Bluetooth speaker. I haven’t been impressed with any that I’ve tried, and I’ve had the opportunity to sample quite a few at various price points. Even the more expensive ones didn’t move me enough to purchase one, and especially at the price they were asking. So how do I listen to music? Well, aside from my iPod (or cellphone or tablet) and some earbuds, if I’m at my desk and I want to hear music I just use my Logitech 2.1 setup to play the music that’s on my computer. Audiophile quality? No, not at all. But it works. When we have company or want to hear music that actually sounds, you know, like music, then we use our home theater setup. Convenient? No, not really. But it sounds fantastic. So what we are missing is that “middle”; something that we can use that sounds better than our PC/laptop speakers, but more convenient than changing inputs and hooking iPods and cellphones to the surround sound receiver. But it has to actually sound good.
How do I define “good”? Simple. For my ears, music has to be balanced. It’s not about giving you a headache with loads of bass, or making you cringe with exaggerated highs. If you have a thing for either of those scenarios, then this speaker isn’t for you. I played a variety of music with the X3, both via Bluetooth and connected to the AUX input, and I was pleasantly surprised at how balanced the music sounded. Even at higher volumes, there was no distortion. Vocals were perfectly clear, mid-range and highs were pronounced, and the bass was clearly there. Now, the bass coming from this speaker isn’t going to rattle your windows, but this is a Bluetooth speaker, not a kicker box. The X3 filled my first floor with sound, and the only complaint I had with it initially was that there wasn’t a remote … and then it occurred to me that I didn’t need one. It is a Bluetooth speaker, after all. I just picked up the device it was streaming from and did everything from there. Controlled the volume, skipped to the next track … everything from whichever device I was using. And you can pair four devices to the X3 (you can only stream from one of them at a time, though).
The Soundbook comes in two sizes: The X3 is the larger of the two, and retails for $299. The smaller Soundbook retails for $199. There are a few other Bluetooth speakers out there at these price points, some with names you’re probably very familiar with. Here’s what I’m asking; before you commit to one of those, find a Soundbook and try it out. Seriously. It definitely goes toe-to-toe with the others in its price range, and my ears gives it the edge as far as producing a balanced, engaging sound. And when you buy one (because I’m sure you will) and you have company, and they ask you who the heck is Bayan Audio, feel free to point them my way. I have no problem telling them their story …