Over the years TUAW has published a number of reviews of iOS-compatible speaker systems, but they're usually made for indoor use and wouldn't hold up to being splashed with water or knocked off of a deck. Now Grace Digital, as part of their ECOXGEAR line, has introduced the ECOXBT Bluetooth speaker system (US$129.99) that takes ruggedness to a new level. Read on for a review, and be sure to enter our giveaway.
As befits a ruggedized speaker system, the ECOXBT has a good solid feeling to it. While it feels like it could put up with some misuse, it's not heavy -- the device actually weighs just 24.2 ounces. It's easy to carry, either with the curved "handles" that are built into both ends, or with an included lanyard. Those handles are made of a black plastic material with a good grippy feel to them, and the actual body of the device comes in black, red, or orange.
Charging the device is done through a generic USB power brick connected through a mini-USB plug, and a charge should last about 10 hours. The charge door is covered by a gasketed seal; there's a small nylon strap attached that is used to pull off the door, and it takes a good pull to open this door. The seal is part of what keeps the ECOXBT waterproof.
What exactly does Grace Digital mean by waterproof? Well, it means that the ECOXBT can float and can be placed into water, but they do not recommend submerging it. I'm taking that as meaning that if you have the ECOXBT on the side of a hot tub and it falls in, it will probably survive the mishap.
The ECOXBT can be used with just about any Bluetooth device including your favorite iOS toy or Mac. When using it with an iPhone, you can use the built-in mic (which features advanced noise cancellation) to turn the ECOXBT into a speaker phone.
All of the controls for the ECOXBT are on the top of the unit. Upon powering up the device, pressing the pairing button quickly displays the ECOXGEAR device name in the list of Bluetooth devices. I have to admit that the pairing process was faster than I've seen on most Bluetooth speaker systems.
Speaker volume is surprisingly loud for such a small speaker device. The sound quality is acceptably good for outdoor use, which is pretty much where you'd expect to use a rugged and waterproof speaker. While the ECOXBT sound tends to be a bit too "hard" and "cold" for my personal tastes, I have to admit that some music ("Gangnam Style", for example) sounded perfect on the device.
As good as the ECOXBT is as a speaker, it's not that great as a speakerphone. Yes, it does answer with a single tap on a phone button when your iPhone is paired with the speaker, but it just sounds muffled. This has been the case with other speakers as well, so it's something that comes with the territory. The recipient of a phone call I made told me that my voice sounded muffled and that the higher ranges were clipped; on my end, the other caller just sounded like she was talking into a pillow.
For a waterproof and shockproof speaker system in a compact design, the ECOXBT does a very good job and provides remarkably nice sound quality. It will also work for those phone calls coming in while you're sitting beside the pool working on your tan, but don't expect to get the quality that you expect from your Polycom phone in the office.
- Fun, easy-to-carry design with two grip handles molded into the sides
- Waterproof and shockproof
- Fast Bluetooth pairing
- Great volume and sound quality from a compact speaker system
- Fast charging and good (10 hour estimated) battery life
- Speakerphone sounds a bit muffled
- Battery pack is not user-replaceable
Who is it for?
Anyone who enjoys listening to music outdoors or in locations where a Bluetooth speaker might get wet.
Our review is done, so now it's your chance to win an ECOXBT from TUAW and ECOXGEAR. Here are the rules for the giveaway:
- Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, as well as residents of Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
- To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
- The entry must be made before November 9, 2012 11:59PM Eastern Standard Time.
- You may enter only once.
- One winner will be selected and will receive a ECOXGEAR ECOXBT Bluetooth Speaker System valued at $129.99.
- Click Here for complete Official Rules.