If the recent glut of Bluetooth speaker reviews on TUAW is any indication, it might be time to change our name to "The Unofficial Bluetooth Speaker Weblog". We've reviewed quite a few low-end Bluetooth speakers, including the surprisingly good $26 Inateck BP2001, but we rarely see speakers at the other end of the spectrum. Today I'm looking at the Cambridge Audio Bluetone 100 (US$299.99), a 100 Watt speaker designed to let you fill any sized room with pure amplified sound.
- Dimensions: 13.9 x 7.2 x 4.6 inches (354 x 182 118 mm)
- Weight: 9 lbs. (4.1 kg)
- Amplifier power output: 100W
- Standby power consumption: <0.5W
- Drive units: 2 x 100mm (4 inch) Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) drivers
- Input voltage: 100V - 240V (50/60Hz), AC cords for all major markets included.
Unlike a lot of the Bluetooth speakers we review here at TUAW, the Bluetone 100 isn't designed for portable use. It doesn't have an interior battery, and at 9 pounds you're not exactly going to want to drop it into your backpack for a trip to the park. This baby is designed for in-home or in-office use, and that's where it excels.
The Bluetone 100 is very attractive, featuring one color - black - and a case that will be at home in any study, office, kitchen or family room. All of the controls are on top of the case; on one side are a power button and volume up/down controls, while on the other are source buttons for Aux, MP3, and Bluetooth.
Cambridge Audio used a different kind of Bluetooth into this speaker. Called aptX Bluetooth, it means that it can receive high resolution music streams from devices that support that standard, or use regular Bluetooth from most other devices.
Most of the owners of the Bluetone 100 will use Bluetooth to stream music to the speaker, but there are RCA and 3.5mm inputs on the back if you'd prefer to connect some other device to it.
The Bluetone 100 uses patented Balanced Mode Radiator speaker drivers (two at 4 inches diameter each) that move both in and out like traditional drivers, and also horizontally. There's a Class D amp pushing power to the drivers, and built-in digital sound processing ensures clean and loud music.
With speakers and headphones, the proof of quality is just how good the sound is to the listener. As usual, I'll throw out my caveat that how my ears discern sound from a particular source is not exactly how your ears are going to hear it. What I may think sounds great, you may think is dull and lifeless.
Setup is quick: you just plug in the Bluetone 100 and a tiny LED in the front speaker grill goes from red to flashing blue indicating that it wants to pair with a device. With a tap on the device name in Bluetooth settings, it's paired. Select the Bluetone 100 from AirPlay, and you're ready to go.
As you'd expect from Cambridge Audio, the Bluetone 100 provides excellent sound reproduction. There's a bass adjustment on the back of the speaker, so if you want a bit more "thump" with your music, a twist can provide it. Not being dependent on a puny battery pack, the Bluetone can really be cranked up, too - enough to upset cats.
While other speakers seem to "stutter" and lose Bluetooth connectivity easily, the Bluetone 100 never dropped a connection at any time during my testing. I wondered if that was attributable to my new iPhone 6 Plus or the Bluetone 100, so I tried from an older device.
To pair with the other device - an iPad 3 - all I needed to do was tap the Bluetooth button on the speaker to make it discoverable. It appears that it is all the Bluetone's electronics that are making it so stutter-free, as the old device worked just fine -- even well beyond the usual advertised 33 foot range of Bluetooth.
Anyone in the market for a high-quality Bluetooth speaker with top-of-the-line sound reproduction should seriously consider the Cambridge Audio Bluetone 100. I found nothing at all to dislike about this speaker, and it's well worth the $300 price tag. After listening to the Bluetone 100, I'm not sure I can ever go back to a portable Bluetooth speaker.
Rating: 4 stars out of 4 stars possible