Hidden Radio Looks Great, Sounds… Fine [Review]


Hidden Radio by Hidden Radio
Category: Bluetooth Speakers
Works With: Anything with Bluetooth
Price: $150

The Hidden Radio was an early Kickstarter success, blowing past its original $125,000 goal to hit almost a million bucks. I was, apparently, the first gadget writer to post about it, and a the end of last summer — shortly after the speakers started shipping, I met John and Vitor here in Barcelona.

So I figured it was about time I reviewed it.

Who wouldn’t love to have this on their sleek Scandinavian table or their chintzy gee-gaw-laden mantelpiece?

The Hidden Radio is a combined Bluetooth speaker and radio. It looks like half of an oversized pill, and runs off a internal rechargeable li-ion battery (one of the additions to the original design made possible by the runaway success on Kickstarter).

The volume is controlled by twisting the whole outer shell like a giant volume knob, which unscrews it and reveals the speaker grille beneath. And that’t it. The twisting action also toggles power, and unless you use the radio you need never use another switch.

The Good It looks and feels fantastic. John and Vitor really did make an object that will disappear into most decor, or stand out as a minimalist piece in an empty room. It has a satisfying heft, and the unscrewing action is so much fun that you want to keep doing it.

It looks and feels fantastic, with a satisfying heft.

The 360˚ design also makes it good for communal listening. I don’t mean that you should sit around the room all tuned to the same radio program. What I mean is that it is designed to sit on a table to provide the soundtrack for dinner. Because it has no front or back, everybody get the same amount of sound. And this means you don’t have to crank it up for everybody to hear it.

The Bad

The charging hole and radio controls might be a little too hidden.

If you have used any other high-end Bluetooth speaker (Braven, Jambox, Supertooth) then you will be disappointed with the sound from the Hidden Radio. It’s competent, and room-filling, it lacks the depth and warmth of these other speakers, sounding a little tinny in comparison. If you have never heard these other speakers, though, then you’ll be happy enough.

If you’ve used any other high-end Bluetooth speaker then you’ll be disappointed with the sound from the Hidden Radio

The other problems are physical. Make sure you keep the USB charging cable that came in the box, because it has a special small head to fit into the tiny nook that houses the USB socket. The 15-hour battery life means that you won’t have to charge it that often, but if you are away on vacation and find that you just can’t jam in the sole microUSB cable you brought along, then you’ll be out of luck, and out of music.

The radio is also a little fiddly. Tuning is automatic: you press a button to scan up or down the frequencies and wait. The idea is that you pick a station and just leave it tuned, I guess. I only used the radio to see if it worked, switching it off as soon as I heard my first ad. In short: it works fine.

Finally, the minimal design means that you don’t get any play/pause switches, or anything but volume control. This is neither good nor bad, I guess — you just have to decide what you want.

The Verdict

I probably wouldn’t buy a Hidden Radio for myself, but I’d be happy to give one as a gift. In fact I have done just that, and the giftee was totally stoked and wants to invite me to a rooftop BBQ so we can use it, which is a win for me.

But them I’m spoiled. I get to test out lots of Bluetooth speakers for review, so I have high standards. And sound-wise, the Hidden Radio doesn’t meet them. But for style, ease-of-use (except the charging part) and all-around cool-gadgetiness, the Hidden wins. You’ll have to decide what’s important for you.

Product Name: : Hidden RadioThe Good: Looks great, well built, nice to use.

The Bad: Finnicky charger cable, tinny, no media playback buttons.

The Verdict Buy if you love style, avoid if you’re an audiophile.

Buy from: Hidden Radio