Portable travel friendly Bluetooth tunes from a tube – Gadling reviews the IPEVO Tubular

Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of portable travel friendly speakers. One of my first reviews here on Gadling was for the Altec-Lansing Orbit MP3. Since then, several other speakers passed through our gadget labs. Today’s speaker is the first Bluetooth version, and also the first to offer its services in a nifty tube form.

The IPEVO Tubular consists of two speaker halves. One speaker houses an internal battery, Bluetooth receiver and controls, while the other is just a passive speaker with a cord that plugs into the main unit.

When not in use, you can wind the cord on the bottom, and click both speakers together, forming a tube – which obviously explains the product name.
Speaker setup

There is no audio input on the Tubular, so you will need a Bluetooth audio device to get tunes out of the speakers. Thankfully, devices with Bluetooth stereo audio support are quite common, and even the iPhone can be used with them.

Recharging the speakers is simple – on the bottom of the main unit is a USB cable, which means you can plug them into your computer, or any USB power source. Battery life is rated at “6 to 8 hours”, which is not too bad considering the total weight of the two speakers is just 10 ounces.

Setting up the speakers is simple – you twist the two halves to unlock, then you connect the two halves with the audio cable wrapped under the second speaker. Controls on the Tubular are equally simple. With just three buttons, you control the power, pairing mode, volume and audio (play/pause and track control).

Once paired to the speakers, the devices I tested all reconnected within about 5-10 seconds.

Audio and Bluetooth performance

Audio from the IPEVO Tubular speakers is actually quite impressive – and certainly far better than I had expected. Sound does lack a little bass, and unless your device features an equalizer, you’ll certainly notice a lag in “oomph”, but the quality is outstanding. Of course, real audiophiles will think of the setup as double trouble, because you are taking laggy music and streaming it over something not made for high quality music. Truth is, unless you are a hardcore audiophile, the quality is just fine, and certainly perfect for your hotel room or desk.

The Bluetooth range is equally impressive – Outdoors, I was able to get 35 meters (114 feet) away from the Tubular before the sound started breaking up. Inside, I was two rooms away (about 35 feet and two walls) till the music stopped. This is without a doubt the best Bluetooth reliability I’ve ever seen. It also means you can leave your player in your bag or jacket pocket.

Before you purchase the IPEVO Tubular speakers, be sure to check whether your phone supports Bluetooth music. This is not the same as being able to use a Bluetooth headset. The ability to stream music is also referred to as “A2DP”. Controlling your music required the Bluetooth remote control profile (referred to as AVCRP). Not all devices support this, and some (like the iPhone) only have a limited implementation.

The IPEVO Tubular for travelers

Whether or not the Tubular speakers can benefit you depends on how much you enjoy bringing music with you. The Altec-Lansing Orbit MP3 speakers we reviewed last year sound good, but are mono only, and don’t offer Bluetooth. With the Tubular’s, you obviously get a larger speaker, but not to the point where it becomes too large for travel.

The speakers are compact, and you always have the option of using just one of them instead of setting them up for that cool stereo effect.

Final thoughts

The speakers lack some features that could have made them even better – there is no microphone, which means you can’t use them for VOIP calls (unless you use your PC microphone or carry your own) and no way to boost the bass.

The design of the speakers is really cool – and I love how they connect together to form a single unit. What I don’t like is the cord winding system – getting the USB and audio cord wound back up is a pain in the backside, and unless the cord is perfectly wound up, you won’t be able to connect the speakers together. Still, with a little practice, it will eventually stop annoying you.

PROS: Fantastic sound, very reliable Bluetooth connection, great design
CONS: No microphone for hands-free calls, poor cord winding system

Despite the minor issue of the cord winder – the Tubular’s are a great addition to the gadget arsenal of anyone who wants portable music on the road. Sound is good, they are reliable and at $79, they are surprisingly well priced.

The IPEVO Tubular speakers cost $79, and are available directly from the IPEVO site.

Gadling gear review – Jabra HALO Bluetooth stereo headphones

Welcome to my Gadling gear review of the new Jabra HALO Bluetooth stereo headphones. When it comes to Bluetooth headphones here on Gadling, I’m only interested in products that stand out in the busy headphone market. The Jabra HALO headphones fit that quite well.

The HALO’s are very stylish, and look more like a pair of DJ headphones than Bluetooth headphones. For travelers, the HALO’s have a couple of pretty handy features – most importantly, they can fold. When folded they may not be as compact as a pair of in-ear headphones, but it certainly decreases their size. . Their best travel feature is the ability to become wired headphones. Included in the box is a cable that plugs into a normal headphone jack, which means you can listen to music in-flight without worrying about the “No Bluetooth” rule.
Controlling the headphones

Controlling the HALO’s is simple – there is just one button,and a touch sensitive sliding control. Sadly, that touch sensitive controller is a pain to deal with. It is usually too sensitive, and when your hair gets in front of it, it becomes even harder to control. It is a great design feature, but not very practical.

There is no power button – to turn them on, you simply unfold them, turning them off works the same way – just fold them up. This is a really elegant solution to something that usually annoys me. This also means you’ll never forget to turn them off before flying.

The single button is for picking up a call, ending a call and pausing your music. When listening to music, the touch control adjusts volume (by sliding) and changes tracks (by tapping). As you can probably guess, this sometimes goes wrong, and you’ll change tracks when trying adjust the volume, and vice versa.


The Jabra HALO’s are very comfortable – the entire inside of the headband is covered in black velour, all the way down to the earpieces. Those earpieces can slide up and down about an inch and a half, so even those with a larger than average head won’t have a problem getting a good fit.

Because the headband fabric lacks “grip”, the HALO’s don’t sit too tightly on your head. This is obviously fine if you are relaxing in your first class seat, but don’t plan on running through the airport with them.

Sound quality

I put the Jabra HALO’s through a whole bunch of tests. As Bluetooth stereo headphones, they sound good – really good. In fact, I could not really detect any difference between wireless or wired mode. Audio does lack some bass, but without a pair of massive cans, you’ll always suffer from this.

Volume is good, but because the earpieces don’t go around your ears, too much ambient noise will mean you’ll need to turn them up quite a bit.

Call quality is decent, and obviously depends on the environment. In a moderately noisy room, they performed very well. The HALO’s feature dual microphone noise canceling circuitry, which obviously works hard in the background. That is, until the outside noise becomes too much for them to deal with. In a noisy location, like a train station, the HALO’s pick up quite a lot of noise. The call is still quite acceptable, but you’ll need to talk up, and the person on the other end of your call may start complaining.

Design and features

Jabra headsets have always had a strong emphasis on design, and the HALO’s continue that tradition. From the inner fabric lining to the touch sensitive controls, they certainly manage to stand out in the busy Bluetooth world.

The folding mechanism initially scared me – when you fold the HALO’s, there is a loud “click”, and the first couple of times, I was worried that I’d break them. I’ve now opened and closed them 100’s of times, and they are still going very strong, so Jabra clearly put some effort into this mechanism. The black velvety fabric on the inside feels nice, but it also acts as a bit of a dust magnet, so may need some cleaning every now and then.

The HALO’s come with multi-use technology, which essentially means you can pair them with two Bluetooth devices at the same time. This allows you to connect them to your mobile phone and Bluetooth enabled MP3 player simultaneously.

Battery life is rated at 8 hours talk/music time, which means you can use them all day long. You can charge them using the included adapter, or any powered USB port.

In order to use the Bluetooth stereo feature in the HALO’s, your phone will need to support the A2DP audio profile, and for controlling music, they need to support the AVRCP profile. Most Bluetooth enabled phones tend to include support for this nowadays, though some phones have a limited implementation. The iPhone supports Bluetooth audio and remote control, but only for pause/play, not for track forward/backwards.

Final thoughts

Despite the average call quality, I like the HALO’s a lot. Music sounds good, but could have a little more “oomph”.

The one feature that went from quirky to annoying is the touch sensitive control – it really is a good idea, but poorly executed. Sometimes “real” buttons work best.

PROS: Great Bluetooth stereo audio, ability to fold and become wired, fold to power on/off

CONS: Confusing touch sensitive controls, average performance in loud environments

The headphones come complete with a USB charger, AC charger, audio cable and carrying pouch. You’ll find the Jabra HALO’s at your local Best Buy store, or bestbuy.com. They retail for $129.99.

Daily gear deal – Plantronics Voyager 855 stereo Bluetooth headset for $38

Today’s daily deal is for one of the highest rated Bluetooth headsets on the market.

The Plantronics Voyager 855 is a nifty 2-in-1 headset which can easily convert from a mono headset, into a stereo headset.

The headset features a sliding boom microphone, noise isolating earbuds and the Plantronics AudioIQ noise canceling system.

When “paired” with a compatible device, you can control your music directly from the headset. The iPhone and iPod touch will gain Bluetooth stereo support in their upcoming upgrade this summer.

The headset comes complete with a USB and AC MicroUSB charger, replacement earbuds, a mono ear clip and a stereo earpiece.

The Plantronics Voyager 855 is currently on sale at Buy.com
for just $37.99, with free shipping.

Gadling Gear Review – Callpod Drone Bluetooth adapter

In this product review I’m going to introduce you to another product from the clever people at Callpod. Previously, I reviewed their excellent Chargepod charger and the Dragon V2 Bluetooth headset.

The Drone is a USB Bluetooth adapter. At $49.95 it is quite a bit pricier than most other Bluetooth adapters on the market, but the Drone is an adapter with a twist.

In fact, the Drone has several twists that make it well worth the price in my opinion. For starters – the Callpod Drone actually works as an audio adapter when first installed. This may not mean much to you, but if you just need a Bluetooth adapter to use for a (stereo) headset, then why bother installing a large package of software when you only need a tiny portion of it?
Another advantage of not having to deal with software is quite simple – not all computers allow it. Many work laptops are locked down against installations, and most public Internet terminals may have open USB ports, but also have software installs blocked. In many cases, the Drone can simply bypass this.

When you plug the Drone into your computer, it installs in seconds, and shows up in your device manager as a standard USB audio device. USB audio support has been built into all Windows versions since XP, so no drivers or other settings are required.

To use a Bluetooth headset with the Drone, you simply place it in “pairing mode” by pressing its only button, and you instantly have a Bluetooth audio connection with your PC. This is of course ideal for Skype or any other voice application, but it also works very well if you pair it with a stereo headset.

The Drone also offers a much larger range than most other Bluetooth adapters. In my not-so-scientific trials, I was able to reach twice as far in my house using the Drone than I normally can with the built in Bluetooth on my computer. The manufacturer rated range for the Drone is 100 meters, which I can confirm is accurate.

When you pair the Drone with the Callpod Dragon Bluetooth headset, you get to take advantage of the extended range in both devices. This combination let me walk out to the end of my back yard without a single crackle or drop in the Bluetooth connection.

Users who still want to use the adapter as a regular Bluetooth device, can switch it to “software mode” by holding down the button on the device. Of course, this also means you’ll need to install the 60MB software package, offered for free by Callpod on their site. Vista and Windows 7 users won’t need the software – Bluetooth support is built into their operating system.

All in all a very nice little device that finally makes Bluetooth hassle free. At $49.95 it may seem overpriced when compared to other Bluetooth adapters, but its additional features make it well worth the price if you often find yourself in need of no-fuss Bluetooth audio or an extended range Bluetooth signal.
The Callpod Drone is available directly from Callpod ($49.95) or from Amazon ($33.07).

Daily gear deal – Kensington LiquidAUX Bluetooth carkit with remote control for $31

My daily deal for today is a fantastic 3-in-1 product.

The Kensington LiquidAUX Bluetooth carkit works as a Bluetooth handsfree carkit for your phone, plus it can stream Bluetooth music to your car stereo, and it also includes a USB charging port.

With a compatible phone (the iPhone will be Bluetooth Stereo compatible with its summer update), this device will be able to control your music, charge your phone and let you make hands free calls, all from the same device.

The unit even comes with a steering wheel mountable wireless remote control, which allows you to control the music as well as pick up/hang up a phone call.

One thing I do need to point out is that this device will require your car stereo to have a LINE IN jack.

This product normally retails for about $80, but buy.com currently has it on sale for just $30.99, which even includes free shipping!