29
Mar
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Soundfreaq isn't the best-known player in the Bluetooth audio market, but if you haven't checked them out, there's never been a better time to try. The company's new Sound Platform 2 is a heavy-hitting stationary speaker system with a set of pipes that really sing, and a genuinely useful dual-speaker pairing mode (read on for more about that).

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I reviewed Soundfreaq's Sound Kick last year, and came away genuinely impressed. It's still my go-to portable speaker around the house, and occasionally travel. I can't wait for the follow-up. The Sound Platform 2 represents Soundfreaq's more stationary aspirations, in that it's tethered to a wall outlet - this big guy can't go wires-free (yet - a battery pack will be sold later this summer). But it does do Bluetooth, 3.5mm stereo, and is equipped with two 1A USB ports to charge your devices while the music plays.

  The Good
  • Great looks - a very elegant design once again by Soundfreaq. It'd go great in any remotely modern office or bedroom.
  • Affordable given the sound and features, and a great value if you want to buy a set to pair up, since Soundfreaq will sell you two at a $50 discount.
  • Great treble and clarity, and extremely nuanced detail in sound reproduction. These speakers are great for rock, jazz, classical, and anything on the trebly end of the spectrum. They're not bad for other stuff, but that's where they really shine.
  • The ability to link two SP2's as a wireless stereo pair is without a doubt the keynote feature here. The pairing works great, and having true stereo separation is something, as a lover of sound, I can't emphasize the importance of enough.

The Not So Good
  • Bass is lacking, but the bass that is there is quite detailed.
  • You're tethered to the wall for power,* the consequences of which should be self-explanatory. (*A $50 battery pack that sits under the SP2 will be sold later this summer to go fully wireless.)
  • The pop-out device tray / cable routing system feels like an afterthought. Sure, you can use whatever cable you want and don't have to deal with yet another iOS-only dock, but it just seems a bit... wonky.
  • Capactive buttons still just aren't good on speakers, and I despise having to use them.

Specifications And Features
  • Price: $150 for one, $250 for a pair (buy here).
  • In the box: Speaker, power supply (AC), 3.5mm male-to-male stereo cable, radio antenna.
  • Key specs:
    • Weight: 6.5lbs
    • Size: 17" x 6.9" x 9.1"
    • 2x USB out ports (1A)
    • 3.5mm stereo in
    • FM Radio
    • Blueooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Dual stereo pairing mode (wirelessly pairs two Sound Platform 2's into a stereo pair).
  • EQ3 mode: enhances stereo separation of a single speaker.
  • Tone: Choose warm, bright, or flat (no adjustment) sound signatures.

Overview

Why should you consider a Sound Platform 2 over, say, a Jambox Big, or a traditional set of 2.0 speakers (or some other audio dock)? Well, Soundfreaq's bet is that you want the best of both worlds - smart and powerful - but that you're not willing to (or convinced you should) shell out the big bucks to get there. At $150, the Sound Platform 2 is decidedly more affordable than the big names in the large form-factor Bluetooth speaker space. And the first question you'll likely have, then, is 'how'd they undercut everyone by such a wide margin?' and the answer is intelligent compromise.

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The Sound Platform 2 doesn't have a big, heavy lithium-ion battery inside of it, but given that the SP2 is quite large (see photo with Note II) and weighs in at 6.5 pounds, you probably wouldn't want to be toting it around anyway. But if you did want to, a $50 battery pack that sits under the SP2 will be sold later this summer to go fully wireless. The speaker enclosure is made of pretty run-of-the-mill (read: cheap) ABS plastic, and it's clear the money spent making the Sound Platform 2 went into features and sound, not luxury. There is a control app, but it's nothing special.

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Feature Highlight: Wireless Stereo Pairing

The Sound Platform 2 is one of the first Bluetooth speakers to have the ability to pair with an identical speaker and form a stereo pair. This technology was developed by Bluetooth chipmaker CSR, and is called TrueWireless Stereo. Just press and hold the DSS / EQ3 button when both speakers are on in Bluetooth mode, and they'll pair in 10-15 seconds, and repair every time they're powered on.

Make no mistake: the dual-speaker pairing is absolutely something to stop and take notice of. Soundfreaq actually makes an even more compelling case to opt for a second of SP2's by selling them in pairs at a discount: $250 gets you two speakers. Now, just think about that - you're getting two relatively large, loud Bluetooth speakers for a sum $50 less than a Jambox Big, albeit minus the portability.

Closer Look: Sound

Audio from the SP2 has a characteristic some people may not enjoy, in that treble is so crisp and nuanced that it can approach levels of sibilance (unpleasant 'screeching' is the best way to describe it) at certain volumes. The thing is, many speakers that produce extremely detailed highs have this characteristic out of the box, and it decreases over time as the driver components break in.

The occasional harshness of the highs, though, is made up for in spades by their startlingly detailed and clean reproduction. The SP2 is a speaker for people who love to appreciate music in its entirety, and hear everything. Listening to Sigur Ros, the medley of string and keyboard instruments with Jonsi's falsetto voice felt so much more vibrant and present than on any rinky-dink portable speaker I've tested. Mids are also great, and the SP2 has a room-filling quality that few other Bluetooth speakers in its bracket will match. I put the lion's share of this down to the large resonance chamber given to each driver - internal acoustics are much more important than they are given credit for.

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I can also say with near certainty that the electronica / hip-hop crowd will find the SP2's lack of bass presence disappointing, and the sharp highs potentially unnerving. There is bass, but it's not going to bring the house down - it's there enough such as to be represented fairly at most volumes, and is actually very tight and detailed. Just not loud.

Speaking of volume, each SP2 puts out 40W of total peak power, meaning 20W in each of the two 3" drivers. By comparison, Jambox's Big model has a peak output of 36W, and far smaller resonance chambers for each driver. One SP2 can easily fill a medium-sized room or office without straining. If you really crank it, some distortion does pop up, but that's kind of expected.

When you put two of them together, all of this awesomeness is just doubled: more volume, greatly enhanced stereo separation (meaning an even better ability to pick out details), and better room coverage.

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Conclusion

If you're looking for a stationary audio source for your office and are up in the air about going with a set of analog speakers and a more traditional means of getting your mobile device audio to them (DLNA, dock, or straight 3.5mm cable), the SP2's offer a significantly more elegant and convenient solution. If you're thinking about getting a portable Bluetooth speaker, ask yourself: do you really need portability? Because you can get a lot more audio bang for your buck in sacrificing it. And if you're thinking about getting a speaker dock, this one can charge two devices at once (albeit at 1 amp), and sounds / looks great. On all fronts, the Sound Platform 2 is good value for money, and the ability to link two of them as a stereo pair really is just gravy - this is already a very strong product.

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David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://twitter.com/SilverRubicon SilverRubicon

    Does the speak control the volume when using the line-in jack? I have a Creative bluetooth speaker and would prefer to use the line-out from my N7 dock to the line-in on the speaker, but I have no volume controls when doing so. :-(

    • http://twitter.com/SilverRubicon SilverRubicon

      Hmmm, the manual seems to indicate that it does "Tip: For playback in Bluetooth or Aux mode, the output volume is set by both the volume control on Sound Platform 2 and the source device. Both may be adjusted to set your preferred listening volume. Typically, sound quality is best when the volume of the source device is between 70-90%."

      • Jim Crossley

        probably getting conventions mixed up with 'headphone out' here: the line out from your dock is a 'true' line out, in that it is a fixed volume output (also with a higher impedance than headphone out) designed as a pure audio link to a device with an expected input power. a headphone out has a low impedance to drive cheap headphones, and will sound worse than a line level output when running into a 'line in'. but it does have the ability to adjust volume, so if you need that, maybe run that cable directly from the n7 headphone jack.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      That sounds like a very strange speaker if it behaves that way, because I've never seen that before. Every speaker I've used can have volume adjust on both the device and the speaker itself. Volume on the speaker should always scale to the device volume, unless the speaker is actively normalizing the levels when it detects changes.

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  • Guest

    I don't see why anyone would want to buy a speaker that looks like an air conditions. Hideous.

  • James Fredericks

    I don't see who would want to buy a speaker that looks like an air conditioner. Hideous.

  • http://www.facebook.com/iambeejeisanchez Bee Jei

    could this be a great alternative to the beatbox by dr. dre?

  • Isaac Momperousse

    too much money