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.

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.