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RockSteadyXS retail package
The majority of the time I enjoy music on my smartphones and tablets so like having an external wireless speaker nearby. Most of these compact Bluetooth speakers have been coming in at the $200 price range, but the folks at Killer Concepts just released a new speaker, the RockSteadyXS, that is available on Amazon for just $89.99 and as you can read below it offers some advanced features and is a serious contender for one of my favorite speakers.
$200 is a lot of money for a Bluetooth portable speaker and if you need to use one for a speakerphone then that looks to be the standard price. If you want a solidly built speaker that you can throw in your bag and take with you for loud, good quality audio output without the need for a speakerphone then the RockSteadyXS is definitely one to consider.
The RockSteadyXS is powered by Bluetooth 3.0, has an output over 100 db, has a sleek black aluminum body and small form factor, has a removable battery, can be used with a MP3 player connected via USB or 3.5mm, can be used as a portable battery to charge up your smartphone, and is very affordable. The only thing missing is speakerphone functionality, but at half the cost of the competition you can't beat that.
One feature I listed above that actually makes it more attractive than all the others I have tested is the ability to replace the battery and continue listening to music on the go with that same standard battery also serving to charge up your smartphone if needed. The Killer Concepts folks state that the battery lasts for over 10 hours of playback. The best thing about this removable battery is that they use a standard Nokia BL-5C battery that is available online for next to nothing ($4). I personally have two extra BL-5C batteries in a drawer that are used to power my Nokia smartphones.
You simply open the clear plastic battery cover on the bottom of the speaker to remove and replace the battery. BTW, there are rubber feet on the bottom of the battery cover so the speaker sits securely on a table. There is an indicator light on the bottom that shines through the plastic cover to the front. It glows blue when you turn it on and flashes when connected via Bluetooth and playing. It glows red when you charge it while off and then goes off when charged. If you charge it and listen to music at the same time, the light turns purple.
Looking at the front of the RockSteadyXS you will find buttons for mode, play/pause/stop, volume down, volume up, back, and forward. The mode changes between Bluetooth and direct input listening modes. I found the back and forward buttons let me fully control the music on my devices so I could leave my smartphone off to the side and control my audio experience all from the speaker. This includes using the integrated music players and 3rd party music services, but your experiences will vary by smartphone OS.
With Bluetooth 3.0 there is no need to enter any pairing passwords and connections are easy. At this time, you can only pair with one device at a time so if you want to switch between your phone and a tablet to play music you need to repair each time. The Killer Concepts folks said they will issue an update to enable multi-device pairing in the future. I personally only pair and use one device at a time so this did not affect me during the trial, but it was great to hear they are thinking about what they can do to make it even better.
On the back you will find a full USB port (for input and charging other devices), microUSB for charging and updating the speaker software, 3.5mm line in port, and power button. You can play music stored on a USB thumb drive by plugging it in and using the controls on the front to manage your music experience.
The speakers are actually back-to-back and face outward towards each side of the speaker. I understand they did this so that they could better compress the moving air inside the speaker case to increase speaker volume. The speaker is indeed very loud and I didn't notice much distortion until I had both the smartphone and the speaker at full, maximum volume. At comfortable volume levels, the speaker really sounded great. It was much louder than the small Jambox and slightly louder than the Braven 650 and Beats Pill. Sound did not seem to have too much bass or too much treble and sounded pretty true to me.
I wasn't sure what to expect with the RockSteadyXS speaker, but was willing to give it a chance. With the excellent sound quality, loud volume, ability to swap out the battery with a standard Nokia battery, and be able to charge up my smartphones on the go I don't see why you wouldn't get this speaker if you want to purchase a portable Bluetooth speaker.
Related ZDNet reviews
- Rock, talk, and charge with the Braven 650 (review)
- Beats Pill speaker and Executive headphones are compelling gift choices (review)
- Hands-on with three RadioShack Auvio audio products (review)
- Portable Bluetooth speakers: Big Jambox, Bose SoundLink, Nokia Play 360 compared
- Big Jambox delivers more portable sound in a slick package
- Jawbone Jambox rocks the tunes and the conference calls (review)
As you can see in the list of related content above, I have evaluated several of these speakers. Each is a bit different and have some unique features as you can see in this summary list:
- Braven 650: $190, excellent sound, rugged aluminum body, speakerphone, serves as battery source for charging your phone
- Jambox: $199.99 (special $129.99), good sound, solid design with rubber top and bottom, speakerphone, multi-colors
- Beats Pill: $199.95, excellent sound, NFC, speakerphone, rock solid, cool design with superb carrying case.
- Auvio Bluetooth Portable Speaker: $79.99, large, light, speakerphone, low cost.
- RockSteadyXS: $89.99, rugged aluminum body, easy front facing controls, easily removable, rechargeable standard Nokia BL-5C battery, USB input, serves as battery source for charging your phone.