I am sort of becoming the Bluetooth speaker guy here at Android Police, and the more such products I review, the more I find I'm not impressed with a lot of the current market leaders. Most of all, I'm unimpressed with their price-to-performance ratio. So often, Bluetooth speakers overpromise with buzzwords like "amazing clarity," "deep bass," and "rich sound" (how the hell is sound rich?). I get tired of it, especially since most of these promises are meaningless, recycled advertising drivel that belongs on a late-night infomercial. You have to separate reality from marketing-speak. Luckily, today, I haven't had to.
The Sound Kick provides an audio experience that I would, without a shadow of a doubt, be willing to pay $100 for. They could probably get away with $150 before I would start to even pretend to be suspicious. There is easily $100 of audio in the Sound Kick, particularly when you place it up against comparable products on the market. But the Sound Kick goes a step further than sound. It's well-designed, properly built, and good-looking, too.
Soundfreaq Sound Kick
- What is it? A portable Bluetooth speaker.
- How much? $100 (for some reason it's $160 on Amazon and I have no idea why)
- What's so special about it? It has a collapsible kickstand / speaker enclosure expansion thing. It's neat. Trust me. Also, it sounds awesome.
- What's in the box? The speaker and the proprietary, one-piece AC charger.
- Do I want it? Do you want a fairly portable Bluetooth speaker? Then yes. Do you also want one that sounds really good and costs $100 or less? Then hell yes.
- Key Specs:
- Weight: 1.6lbs
- Size (appx): 11" x 4" x 1.5" (collapsed)
- 2200mAh battery
- USB out for charging phones and tablets
- 3.5mm stereo in
- Proprietary AC charging port (ugh)
- Bluetooth 2.1 A2DP + EDR (no apt-X)
- Sound: This is the best-sounding portable Bluetooth speaker I've heard that costs less than $200. The audio is clear, bass is actually present (thanks to that pop-out resonance chamber), and it gets significantly louder than smaller devices. The added space in the chamber also delivers a more full sound - you can really feel mids and lows coming across at a distance, not just within a couple feet. At maximum volume, distortion was minimal, though the low end suffered. While the mids and highs keep getting louder, the bass reaches its full potential a bit before the Sound Kick reaches peak output, and does get drowned out a bit. Still, the bass is much more pervasive and room-filling than the Jambox, and the sound is noticeably better. And while the Jambox absolutely wrecks music when you push it to the limit, the Sound Kick keeps everything sounding sweet all the way through. That, to me, is the Jambox's biggest failing - it sounds good at a moderate volume, but crank it up, and its failings are obvious. No such problems here.
- Controls: The Sound Kick has little circular "divots" along the top of the speaker. The power button, though, is the only one of these divots that is actually a physical button. The rest are just little capacitive touch sensors. They are extremely sensitive, but that means you never have to worry about whether or not you hit them. Also: oh my god it has a pair button, THANK YOU. I am tired of having to open a user manual to figure out how to put something in "pairing mode. And there aren't any annoying god damn sounds whenever you touch a control - the Sound Kick is utterly silent unless your phone actually sends audio to it.
- The pop-out kickstand thing: Soundfreaq calls it the XKICK(TM), but I refuse to use that many capital letters in a row in a made-up marketing word context. We'll call it the pop-out kickstand thing. Most portable Bluetooth speakers sit flat, but not the Sound Kick. It sits at about a 30 degree angle upward. You know why? Because your ears are rarely level with a table. Not only does it propel the music to your ears instead of your pants, but it acts to expand the speaker chamber of the whole device, increasing bass response, and providing a more full, natural sound (read: not empty and tinny). The chamber has to be open in order for the speaker to turn on, so you do need enough surface space for it to be deployed.
- Battery life: Soundfreaq promises 7 hours, and with a 2200mAh cell, I'm going to go ahead and believe them. Also, you can charge your phone or tablet using the included USB port, which is awesome.
- Design: The Sound Kick is more tasteful than a pair of well-polished oxford wingtips when you've got it sitting on a classy end table or bookshelf. The long, slender white LED along the bottom indicating the power is on is just plain cool.
- Build Quality: This thing feels solid. The grille is painted metal, and the rest is a mix of contrasting soft-touch and glossy plastics. It feels well put together. I wouldn't drop it or anything, though. The action of the pop-out chamber takes a bit of force and doesn't feel super great, but it definitely doesn't feel cheap, either. For $100, I'm very impressed.
The Not So Good
- Portability: It's nowhere near as portable as a Jambox, Braven, or any one of a constantly-growing number of tiny Bluetooth speakers out there. But hey, it's not meant to be. It easily fits in my messenger bag, and I could probably just keep it in there most of the time if I wanted. It only weighs a little over a pound and a half, so it's not like it's burdensomely heavy or something.
- No apt-X: Kind of a bummer, considering how good the Sound Kick's performance. I wonder if it would be even better playing over apt-X.
- Build Quality: The one negative point I have on build quality are the rubber feet on this thing. They're cheap strips of the stuff glued into little crevices, and the rubber itself doesn't seem particularly durable. Everyone seems to skimp on this, and it kind of really annoys me.
- The Controls: The Jambox still has the best controls I've seen on a Bluetooth speaker from a holistic standpoint. These just aren't as good, even if they are absolutely light-years ahead of the controls on literally every other Bluetooth speaker I've used that isn't a Jambox.
- The UQ3 DSP Enhancement button thing: This is Soundfreaq's take on the Jambox's Live Audio mode. The UQ3 button does increase channel separation (and "surround" you more) noticeably, but it also decreases volume and gives music a slightly more empty quality. I wasn't particularly wowed by it.
- Charger: Proprietary AC charging port. Annoying, but not a deal-breaker or anything, I guess.
In conclusion, the Sound Kick is a good buy, and probably the most sound for money I've heard from a portable Bluetooth speaker to date. It may not be something you can walk around with in your hand, but that extra heft certainly doesn't go to waste. Also, it has that whole nifty kickstand party trick. A bar has definitely been set here, and if anything, the Sound Kick proves that you don't need to spend over $200 to get a Bluetooth speaker that has respectable audio chops.