Review: Hercules Wae Neo Bluetooth Wireless Speaker
Although Hercules isn't a familiar name in the Apple accessory market, the company has a pretty extensive range of speakers and audio products, including DJ equipment. Wae Neo ($200) is its newest Bluetooth wireless speaker, resembling earlier models released by the company. The somewhat large plastic sound system is augmented by two features that help set it apart from the crowd. First, there's a rubber-coated handle sticking up from the middle, which makes travel easier. A light system around the perimeter of the front is the other key; it beat-matches songs, while a free companion app allows for color picking and more. Wae Neo ships with a micro-USB cable and wall adapter for charging.
Approximately 13.4” wide, 5.5” deep, and 4.7” tall, Wae Neo is smaller than Soundfreaq’s Sound Platform 2, but larger than Big Jambox from Jawbone. The body is mostly glossy plastic, although the front and back panels — both bisected by the 1” wide handle — use different materials. On the face, there’s a chessboard pattern of metal exposing the fabric speaker grille below, with a white band of light running around the perimeter, while the back has a similar pattern molded in matte plastic, featuring raised squares instead of holes. Physical volume and power buttons are found on the front of the speaker, while there is a Bluetooth pairing button, audio in port, and micro-USB port on the back. The battery is claimed to last 15 hours with the lighting effects off; eight hours when on.
The build quality and overall structure of the speaker are where they should be. Wae Neo feels well-built, and appropriately weighted for its size. It’s not so heavy that it’s a pain to carry, though — in fact, with the handle, it’s very easy to transport. The lights are a nice feature, enlivening music playback as they pulse. While a light system isn’t altogether necessary, it’s a nice touch, and executed well. Overall, we prefer speakers with a slightly more mature look, but there’s nothing wrong with this one.
Wae Neo uses a Bluetooth 3.0 connection, rather than the newer Bluetooth 4.0, which still isn’t very commonplace in speakers. The wireless connection is used for both streaming music and controlling the lights with an app. In addition to a party mode, which flashes in time with the music and moves through a rainbow of colors, custom mode lets users choose colors manually. There’s also a mood setting that allows for brightness adjustment, and a demo that simply fades colors in and out.
Acoustically, Wae Neo performs very well for its size and price. The bass is clearly the strongest feature; it’s strong and clear, without reaching the point of annoyingly overpowering. It’s a very bass-focused system with a narrower dynamic range than Sound Platform 2, falling a bit short in treble response and mid-range detail. Hercules’ speaker also doesn’t get as loud as Soundfreaq’s, although at top volume it can still fill a small room without any distortion. It also offers proper stereo separation.
Hercules’ Wae Neo earns our strong general recommendation. It offers surprisingly good audio performance, and it has nice features, including the built-in battery and light system. We do wish it could get turned up a little louder, especially for times when it’ll be used outdoors or in large spaces. That, and the somewhat high price, are the only real drawbacks. Otherwise, this is a very good speaker with some neat tricks up its sleeve.