Update: After posting this review I received an updated Edge.sound speaker with firmware 1.1 installed. That updated addresses a few minor technical issues and enhances the sound quality fairly significantly. The speaker is now much improved over the one that I initially tested, with bass sounding more pumped up and a better level of quality across the board. With the firmware update installed, it is easier to recommend this portable speaker system than the initial review would imply.
Over the past couple of years, the portable Bluetooth speaker market has gone from just one or two options to a dizzying array of choices. As smartphones and tablets have become increasingly popular, so too has the demand for small, lightweight sound systems that can be carried with us anywhere we go. Travelers especially enjoy having the ability to listen to their favorite music, podcasts and audiobooks without having to settle for using crappy earbuds or uncomfortable headphones.
The latest portable speaker system comes to us from a company called Cubedge who released their Edge.sound product just a few weeks ago following a successful Kickstarter campaign. Like most other portable speaker systems from the competition, it is powered by a rechargeable battery that is charged via an included USB cable and wall adapter. It features a built-in microphone that allows it to be used as a speakerphone and it even resembles other portable speakers, measuring roughly six inches in length and weighing in at just 10 ounces.
Music is pumped to the speaker via Bluetooth 3.0, which, in theory, provides a faster connection with improved audio and battery life. Connecting a smartphone, laptop or tablet is incredibly easy and doesn’t even require the entry of a PIN code. It was so simple, in fact, that I was wirelessly streaming tunes from my iPhone within seconds. The Edge.sound will also remember the last connected device and automatically re-connect when it is powered on.Audio quality, the most important aspect of any speaker like this one, is solid but mostly unremarkable. While using the Cubedge speaker, I was a bit surprised at how muted some of my music sounded. Other speakers I had tested, such as the Jawbone Jambox, offered a fuller and richer experience across a wider audio range, which made the Edge.sound a bit disappointing overall. I’m told that Cubedge has a firmware update available that addresses some of these audio issues, but at press time I couldn’t find that update anywhere on their website.
Similarly, I found the Edge.sound to be just adequate when used as a speaker phone. It got the job done, although audio quality wasn’t especially good. To be fair, this isn’t exactly a strength of most of the competition either, but it is still a nice option to have when you need it. The quality of a speakerphone is also highly influenced by the environment in which it is used and the cellphone’s connection to its network, which can vary greatly depending on location.
The Edge.sound’s internal battery provides about ten hours of life before requiring a recharge, which puts it about on par with the competition. Plugging the device into a wall outlet fully juices it back up in about two hours. Cubedge even offers an optional solar panel to keep the speaker charged while on the go, although I wasn’t able to test how efficient that option actually is. Battery life does vary a bit based on volume, but overall it was very dependable and steady throughout my testing.
As a frequent traveler, one of the things I did appreciate from the Edge.sound is that it is both lightweight and durable, which comes in handy when hitting the road. The boxy speaker is wrapped in rubber, which helps to keep it nicely protected from day-to-day abuse. The device is also lighter than many of its competitors, which makes it a nice option for those looking to shave ounces from their luggage. The Edge.sound’s unique design helps it to stand out from the crowd to a degree as well and I appreciated the integrated light that provided visual cues for when the speaker was getting low on battery or was ready for pairing with a device. Other competing products don’t always provide those kinds of cues, making them a bit more challenging to use.
The Edge.sound is available now for $150, which again puts it on par with the competition. Overall, it has a very good build quality and the designers paid attention to some important details that make it a good option for travel. But the average sound quality makes it difficult to recommend over some of the other Bluetooth speaker systems that are available, particularly at that price. Still, as a first effort from a new company, it is a solid entry into this competitive market space. If the promised firmware upgrade can indeed improve the overall sound, this device will become a much more attractive choice.