5 Bluetooth speakers: Make your music mobile
The Sound Kick is more in the ballpark of Jawbone's Big Jambox than of the smaller speakers in this roundup. Made by SoundFreaq, a company that concentrates on audio products, it is an excellent speaker for home or office use.
The Sound Kick is a little different than the others in form factor and approach. Like the Big Jambox, it is rectangular, but it is narrower and lighter. Like the Matrix One, the Sound Kick has a moving part; in this case, you pull out its "Extension Chamber," a rectangular section a little under an inch wide that acts like a pop-out stand and increases the speaker's bass response.
SoundFreaq also includes its own stereo technology, called UQ3, which helps the stereo effect of music by, according to the company, enhancing the perceived stereo separation. While the technology didn't have quite the radical effect that the Big Jambox did, it certainly did improve the sound, making it sound fuller and allowing it to reach impressive volumes.
Most of the controls are on the top of the case: forward and back buttons, pause/play, pair (to pair with a Bluetooth device), a button that turns the UQ3 on and off, two volume buttons and the power button. A light on the front of unit lets you know when it's on, pairing, or changing modes.
I had a bit of trouble with the forward, back and pause/play buttons at first -- I kept pressing them harder and harder without any apparent reaction. It took me a while to realize that the problem wasn't that they weren't sensitive enough -- but that they were very sensitive, and a mere touch was enough to make them work properly. After that, I had no issues with them.
Unlike the other speakers in this roundup, which can be powered via USB or AC, the Sound Kick comes only with an AC power cord. However, it does have an outgoing USB port that lets you charge a wireless device using the Sound Kick's battery, as long as that battery is sufficiently charged (according to the company, you get about 7 hours of use per charge) and/or the volume is below about 60% or so. There is also a 3.5mm line-in jack if you want to listen to a wired device.
SoundFreaq offers apps for iOS and Android devices; I tried the one for Android, and while it has a few advantages -- for example, it allows you to remotely access the volume and mute features of the speaker, and to turn the UQ3 on and off -- it accesses your music files in a rather haphazard manner. You're better off with your favorite music app.
Soundfreaq's Sound Kick is an impressive piece of technology, offering really good sound at a reasonable price. Its emphasis is obviously on being a speaker that you can transport if you need to rather than something to carry around casually. Although, at 1.6 lb., it's certainly light enough to carry in a backpack or messenger bag without much of an issue, it's not as compact as, say, the Jam or the Matrix One, and can't be used as a speakerphone. But for fine portable audio at a reasonable cost, this is a good buy.
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