Soundboks Go: A portable boombox with a wireless focus

This Bluetooth speaker is half the size of its predecessor and ditches most wired ports.

Jon Turi / Engadget

I’ve spent plenty of time in the past DJing, throwing small parties and going to events, so that’s put me in the mindset of looking for the biggest sound systems with the least amount of hassle. There are plenty of Bluetooth options these days that would make my younger self excited. The Soundboks Go is the latest of the bunch, packing a respectable boom from this relatively small package (18 x 12 x 10 inches). This 20-pound speaker is half the size of the Soundboks Gen 3 and nearly half the price at $699. It still has a thumping bass output, clear, long-throw mids and highs and wireless TeamUP expansion, but its physical connectivity is limited to a single 3.5mm aux input.

There’s a lot to like here for people who are looking for big sound in a format you can lug around without too much effort using its integrated handle or $59 shoulder strap accessory. With Soundboks’ SKAA wireless connectivity (TeamUP), it’s also easy to expand the setup with other speakers from the brand by setting one speaker to Host and the others to Join. This would let you quickly cobble together an event PA or dancefloor, but that’s no small financial feat considering the price.

The Go and the Gen 3 have a lot in common, both in sound quality and build. Both use the same swappable BatteryBoks, include a top hat (or pole) mount and offer a big, bright output (40Hz - 20kHz) with little to no distortion at the loudest volume. These Bluetooth 5.0 speakers work with the Soundboks app so you can adjust the EQ, custom sound profiles, volume, stereo positioning, set Bluetooth signal locks and download the latest firmware updates.

The onboard controls are fairly basic, providing a volume control that doubles as the power button, alongside the manual Solo, Host and Join button. The Join indicator shows the connection status, which you can read about further in the manual. For deeper controls, you’ll have to head to the app.

The Soundboks Go portable Bluetooth speaker seen on the front steps of a Brooklyn brownstone.
Jon Turi / Engadget

As for its build, the Soundboks brand has made a name for itself making rugged portable Bluetooth speakers and the Go follows suit. It has an IP65 rating so it can handle inclement weather well, just don't dunk it in the water. On the exterior, there's a solid ABS and polycarbonate cabinet and grille with silicone bumpers and a TPE rubber handle similar to the one on the UE Hyperboom. There’s strapping with loops that run around the center, which is used for connecting the shoulder strap. While the Go is easy enough to carry around by the handle, I’d recommend going all in and getting the strap as well if you plan to walk around with it for more than a few blocks. Sometimes even 20 pounds can seem heavier after a while.

The audio design for the Go has just one 10-inch woofer (96dB), a 1-inch horn-mounted tweeter (102dB) and you’ll find the bass ports around the woofer in a front-facing position. This limits the reflectivity of the bass from that of the Gen 3, making it generally better for outdoor settings.

That’s fine, since this is a speaker that works best when unlimbered at higher volumes and provides bass you can feel even at 20 feet away (most effectively in Bass+ mode). While that’s the ideal, you can use it indoors at a lower volume (50% or less on Indoor mode) to good effect, but again the output is very directional and can seem a bit big for smaller rooms. It is marketed as an “outdoor” speaker after all.

Still, you can shuffle through the custom profiles to get the ideal output for your particular environment. Bass+ mode provides the chunkiest and thumping bass output, but will tax the battery life. Power mode is still very loud, with plenty of bass and should give you 10 hours of playtime at full volume or 40 hours at medium. Indoors mode is a much thinner sound, but won’t disturb the neighbors as much and still sounds fine. There’s also a custom setting, so you can adjust the EQ as you see fit. However, if you’re thinking of just keeping the battery plugged in and charging the whole time while you play, keep in mind that you shouldn’t go past 50 percent volume or risk damaging the device.

One big changeup with the Soundboks Go is the focus on wireless connectivity over practical wired inputs and outputs. The single 3.5mm aux input is all you get, so even though it's more portable, musicians and singers looking to amplify their craft on the road will have to try and make do — or upgrade to the Gen 3.

While the Soundboks Go is a high-end device, it can still fall victim to the capricious nature of Bluetooth signals. Using TeamUP to connect multiple speakers also has some range limitations, although raising the speakers up on top hats to maximize line-of-sight and having structures for the radio signals to bounce off of will help optimize connectivity. In my testing with the Bluetooth source being my pocketed phone and connecting a Soundboks Go and Gen 3 together via TeamUP they started to have a little bit of connection drop while about 40 feet away from each other in an area off a busy road with no walls of any sort nearby.

Having more than one speaker placed within 30 feet or less of each other or in clusters would seem to be the way to go here if you have them. If you’re planning an event, you may want to consider getting a SKAA transmitter to bridge your source and connect to the speakers for a more stable connection than Bluetooth. For the most reliable connection, you’ll want to stick with wired input, although the Soundboks Go’s 3.5mm port isn’t a standard for professional use.

The Soundboks Go portable Bluetooth speaker seen on the front steps of a Brooklyn brownstone.
Jon Turi / Engadget

Overall, the $699 Soundboks Go is definitely a more portable alternative to the $999 Gen 3 model, but loses most of the wired connections, aligning it more with the Bluetooth mainstream. If you want to use a pair as a Bluetooth loudspeaker alternative, it’s doable considering the up to 10 hour runtime at full volume in Power mode. But for larger (and louder) event applications, especially in Bass+, the runtime limit becomes an issue. As a personal standalone device, it’s powerful, portable and durable. The JBL PartyBox series (110 or 310) speakers are close competitors, but in portability, perhaps the JBL Boombox 2 is closer. That kicks out some volume, but doesn’t have the long throw like you’ll find with the Soundboks Go.

The price is a bit steep, but the audio quality doesn't disappoint, especially in its size range. It can also be a great complement to another Go or a Gen 3 speaker, but it's a less capable pro-level competitor. If you’re on the fence, there’s a 100-day return policy and a respectable two-year warranty (plus one more if you register the device). The Soundboks Go is now available to purchase for $699 on the company's website.

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