Everyone knows the iPad’s speaker is, well, weedy. To compensate, Big Blue Audio has just released two new Bluetooth speakers to give a lift to music, movies and game-playing on your iPad.
Available from Brookstone, the Big Blue and Big Blue Live resemble kitschy white kitchen appliances. The $149.99 Big Blue packs 30-watts of aural pleasure for music lovers, while the speaker’s little sis, the $99.99 battery-powered Big Blue Live, is designed more as a portable companion for amplifying phone calls and apps. These new speakers are introduced to compete favorably both bang wise and buck wise versus other popular wireless speakers of similar specs / dimensions, for example the Logitech Boombox and the Jawbone Jambox, respectively.
With their sci-fi looks and packaging, they are certainly noticeable — but do they sound good too? Read on….
Kitted out in Kubrick-esque white plastic, the Big Blue is a nice complement to the white iPad. It’s about the size of four paperbacks stacked on top of each other (9.5” x 5.6” x 5”) but weighs considerably more. Despite its size, it’s not very portable. There’s a bulky power brick that trails out the back and limits the unit’s placement within a few feet of an AC outlet.
The smaller Big Blue Live doesn’t suffer from such constraints. With its built-in battery, the 5” x 2.5” x 2.5” box can be taken anywhere.
Both have the same shape: a rounded glossy plastic oblong, fronted with silver-gray grille and a single, circular, cyclopean eye in the center. Although it might look like one, this eye is not, of course, a lens; it is the power button on the Big Blue Studio and, well, just decoration on the Big Blue Live. I’m not sure whether I like these speakers watching me in the room, though. The smaller speaker resembles a CCTV camera while the larger reminds me of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s murderous computer, HAL 9000. The mirror-like “lens”’s lucent blue iris doesn’t help this effect, either. On the other hand, these speakers’ odd appearance lends my bookshelf a certain futuristic beauty that I have not seen in a speaker before.
From taking the speakers out the box to listening to them takes less than five minutes.
Turn on the speakers’ power button and search your Bluetooth-enabled device’s menu for Big Blue / Big Blue Live. Some devices may prompt for a PIN code (provided in speaker instructions). The speakers look for your device and are thereby paired, and should remember your device thereafter. Both the Big Blue and Big Blue Live also have a 3.5mm AUX IN port to enable other non-Bluetooth devices to play music through wired connection. Speakers are recharged by power cables included in the box.
Trying out the diminutive Big Blue Live first, I don’t think that this speaker really aspires to be much more than a quiet music player or, I suspect, mostly for your cellphone calls, movies or computer games. It has a nice audio range, although bass somewhat lacking, and plays music at a comfortably loud volume for ambient background or while you are getting ready to do something else. It won’t disturb your neighbors. Also, when you receive an incoming cellphone call the music automatically switches down, then reasserts itself after the call is over.
But, I would not use this little speaker for serious listening to music. As for stereo output, forget it, despite the twin speakers encased in the housing. Back to this quibble in a minute, when it becomes more of an issue with the BBL’s big brother, the Big Blue.
The Big Blue is much more of a proper speaker set for home music listeners. It deals with loud volume with no detectable distortion of sound, and puts out quite a lot of vibe. Like its little sibling the BBL, it does however lack bass. More interesting, though, is its stereophonic effect. With my head right in front of the gray grille, I can discern left and right channels, although the twin 2.5-inch drivers are placed so close together spatially within the BB’s housing as to be virtually mono. And standing back a yard or two, the sound output is mono.
The manufacturer, Big Blue Audio, suggests placing more than one of its speaker units around the room for spatial surround-sound. Although I cannot try this, that would still not produce stereo sound, of course–only mono coming from different directions. For a lot of music this won’t make any difference, if it is recorded in mono. On the other hand, these speakers will kill the effect of extremely panned stereo recordings (widely used in a lot of rock music), and stereo is an intricate part of cinema, especially for widescreen spectacular action movies and monster movies where characters are stalked by unseen predators. Watching movies with sound poured through the Big Blue or Big Blue Live will lose all the stereo in the soundtrack.
Not to mention that at over $100 each, it would be quite an expensive prospect to place multiple sets of Big Blue speakers around the room.
Two new speakers from Big Blue Audio, the Big Blue Studio and Big Blue Live, provide capable but unextraordinary sound. Stereo reduced to mono. Extremely easy and convenient to install on your bookshelf or desktop, wireless, and small enough not to get in the way. Look like CCTV camera or medical imaging device–or if you prefer, speakers from the future.
Pros: Easy to set up and use, small and lightweight, wireless for Bluetooth-capable devices.
Cons: Sound lacks bottom end, unit becomes monophonic when heard from any distance.