Review: Soundfreaq Pocket Kick SFQ-10 Wireless Speaker
Two years ago, we reviewed Soundfreaq's great Sound Kick, a truly impressive portable Bluetooth speaker at an aggressive $100 price point, after having awarded it the title of Best Overall Product at the 2012 CES. In the time since, the company has continued to put out quality products, none of which has earned lower than our strong general recommendation. Now, Soundfreaq is back with what may just be its most impressive speaker to date: Pocket Kick ($99) has a familiar ultra-portable size and shape, but the design, build quality, and most importantly, sound output are all top-notch. What Jawbone started with its original Jambox, Soundfreaq has just about perfected in this pocket-sized speaker.
From a visual standpoint, Pocket Kick clearly fits the Soundfreaq brand. While there are many color variants available, most of the company’s speakers have a black-on-black scheme as a default. This one is no different, with strong steel grilles on the front and back, sandwiching a rubberized plastic frame in the center. One difference between Pocket Kick and the rest of the line is the use of curved corners, rather than squared-off edges. The design makes sense for something that’s made to fit in a pocket; no sharp corners means no getting poked in the leg.
Compared to Jambox, this speaker is just as wide, but a little taller and certainly less deep. It measures 5.9” by 2.56” by 1.2”, which means it’s slightly thicker and taller than Mini Jambox, but not as wide. We found it easy to slip into the front pocket of a pair of shorts, although depending on how tight your pants are, results may vary. It’s certainly going to fit without taking up much room in many bags and purses. The controls and inputs are what we’d expect from a speaker like this: on one side, there are volume buttons, plus a play/pause button. Flip around to the other edge, and you’ll find an aux-in port, Micro-USB input, a Bluetooth pairing button, and a power switch that glows around the perimeter when it’s on. You’re getting a lot of class and quality materials for a very reasonable price.
Thankfully, Pocket Kick’s impressive exterior is matched by its acoustic qualities. When the original Jambox came out at its $200 price point, we called it “good enough,” and it earned our limited recommendation. After just a few minutes of listening, it’s clear Soundfreaq was going for much more than passable sound; the company’s engineers wanted, and achieved, greatness. Not only do Pocket Kick’s three speakers sound better than the audio hardware inside Jambox, it’s actually comparable to the much larger Sound Kick in many ways.
The dynamic range is surprisingly good for such a small speaker. While it’s hard to generate terribly strong bass performance in the form factor, the passive bass radiator delivers solid lows. Bass, top volume, and the width of the stereo separation are the areas in which Sound Kick is the clear winner, as it should be, given that it’s much larger. That said, we actually preferred Pocket Kick in every other regard. The high-end performance is crisp and powerful, allowing details that might otherwise be muddled to be come through clearly. There’s a richness to the overall output that’s very enjoyable, and even at its highest volume—enough to small a fill room—the audio doesn’t distort audibly.
Soundfreaq added a microphone to this unit, the first time doing so with its speakers. Speakerphone performance leaves a bit to be desired, especially when you consider the quality of the audio output. Our caller reported the quality of our voice to be natural, but quieter than on either the Jambox or the iPhone itself in speakerphone mode. So while we appreciate that the feature is there, it has some room to go before it lives up to the speaker performance. Pocket Kick’s battery is on par with Mini Jambox’s, playing for 10 hours between charges, a totally respectable number. It comes packed with a wriststrap, as well as an aux cable and Micro-USB charging cable.
In case it isn’t totally clear, Pocket Kick is a great speaker, especially for the price, and easily earns our high recommendation. It’s hard to expect miracles from such a small package, but Soundfreaq has pushed the boundaries of how impressive a compact pocket speaker can sound. The sonic performance thankfully is paired with a solid design. This isn’t Sound Kick, but a different set of tradeoffs to achieve a different sort of great sound in a much smaller form factor. From our perspective, the speakerphone functionality is the one feature that could stand to be improved, but if a quiet microphone is the worst problem a pocket speaker has, we can live with it. Soundfreaq was wise to get Pocket Kick out this summer, as it will be a great accessory for activities indoors or outdoors.