Nyne’s big, bulky speaker is a boombox for the Bluetooth age [Review]

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Nyne's new boombox is the biggest Bluetooth speaker we've ever seen. It's called -- what else? -- the Rock!
Nyne's new boombox is the biggest Bluetooth speaker we've ever seen. It's called -- what else? -- the Rock!
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

As a teenager in the 80s, I love a good boombox. The bigger, the better, like Radio Raheem’s.

That’s why I was keen to check out Nyne’s new Bluetooth Boombox, called — what else — the Rock. It’s the biggest Bluetooth speaker I’ve ever seen, promising to put out 65 watts of raw music power.

But does it rock — or not?

Nyne_Rock_Bluetooth_Boombox_2
Nyne’s Rock Bluetooth Boombox is a handsome beast. If only it sounded as good as it looks.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Bonkers for boomboxes

I really, really wanted to love the Rock. As a youth, I had several boomboxes. The best were the big burly ones. At one point my brothers and I had a big cylindrical ghettoblaster, by JVC, I think, and we loved it.

Nyne’s Rock (about $250) has been launched at a weird time for modern boomboxes. A couple of years ago, there were several on the market, including TDK’s good-looking but pricey Life on Record 3-Speaker Boombox and Beats by Dre Beatbox Portable, which got rotten reviews. Widespread consumer disinterest seems to have killed them off, except a couple of hardy survivors like House of Marley’s Bag of Riddim (~$230 on Amazon), and a modern version of the JVC cylinder, the JVC Kaboom!

With a built-in rechargeable battery, the Rock is billed as “portable.” It’s a big fella, measuring almost two feet across and about 10-inches wide and 6-inches tall (The actual dimensions are 21” x 9.75” x 6.5”). Weighing about 10 pounds, the Rock is surprisingly light for its size. You could conceivably cart it around on your shoulder, like you did back in the day. There’s even a carrying handle at the back. But it’s probably best to stick it in the car and drive it to the BBQ or beach.

How does the Rock sound?

Nyne calls the Rock “The Booming Beast.” It’s rated 65W total power, featuring two midrange drivers, two tweeters and a subwoofer.

On paper, The Rock is loud enough to drown out all conversation at a picnic. It could rage an all-night beach party.

At the middle of the dial, the Rock sounds pretty good. It’s clear and pleasantly muscular. It delivers a respectable range of highs, lows and midrange tones. All in all, it sounds pretty good.

But turn it up, and the sound goes harsh. There’s no other word for it. It doesn’t drown itself out with booming bass, like a lot of smaller speakers. But music becomes jarring and shrill. It doesn’t sound good. It’s a big disappointment, seeing that the Rock’s whole raison d’être is to rock. It was made to be turned up.

I tried what I could — fiddling with the EQ, trying different styles of music. But at volume it sounds shrill. To make sure I wasn’t hearing things, I tried it head-to-head with a Moshi Spatia, a similar-sized wired speaker. The Spatia sounded much better.

Still good for the beach

The Rock won’t sweep your hair back in a hurricane of orgasmic sound, Peter Murphy style (remember the iconic TDK ad?), but it’s not a bad speaker for a day outdoors.

Pairing is easy and reliable, and it offers pretty good protection from the elements. It’s coated with a pleasant matte black rubber finish. The Rock is rated IPX3, which is good for sprinkles or a wayward can of beer, but not a dip in the pool.

The Rock is rated for eight-to-10 hours of playback time. I got a full day easily. It also includes a USB port for charging your phone, which is probably going to run out of juice first. Included in the box is an AC adapter and an audio cable for plugging in a non-Bluetooth music device, like an old iPod. There’s a row of easy-to-use, light-up buttons across the top.

All in all, the Rock is a flawed speaker. At lower volumes, in a smaller space, it sounds pretty good. But no better than several smaller, more portable Bluetooth speakers, such as the fantastic $200 UE Megaboom, which we love. But the Rock is made to go higher, and when it does, you just want to turn it down. It’s too bad.

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Nyne provided Cult of Mac with a unit for this review.