Review: SuperTooth Disco Twin Bluetooth Speaker | iLounge

Review

Review: SuperTooth Disco Twin Bluetooth Speaker

B+
Recommended

Company: SuperTooth

Website: www.Supertooth.net

Model: Disco Twin

Price: $199

Compatible: All Bluetooth-Capable iPads, iPhones + iPods

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Jeremy Horwitz

After a rough ride with the original Disco, a 2011-vintage $150 Bluetooth speaker that looked nice but didn't sound good, SuperTooth announced Disco 2, a completely redesigned 2012 sequel at a $100 price point. As originally pitched, Disco 2 promised an optional mode that would let two of the monaural, battery-powered speakers wirelessly pair with each other for truly stereo sound, but that feature quietly disappeared right before it arrived in the middle of last year. Now SuperTooth is offering a separate version called Disco Twin ($199), a two-speaker bundle that restores the missing pairing feature while making other under-the-hood tweaks, some more positive than others.

SuperTooth has made several changes to the Disco Twin speaker package. Each of the Disco Twin speakers looks nearly identical to a single Disco 2 unit: a plastic and fabric shape somewhat like an exclamation point—a boxy hourglass with dimples closer to the bottom than the middle. However, while Disco 2 was jet black, Disco Twin’s top and bottom instead use gunmetal metallic plastic, interrupted with the same six black top buttons and two rear ports. The left Disco Twin speaker has rear labeling to indicate that it’s the “Master - Left,” while the right unit’s back has no such text. As before, each speaker comes with a cloth carrying bag, a wall adapter, and a 3.5mm audio cable, but this time, the carrying bags have blue tags rather than black ones.

Should you want to use only the left Disco Twin speaker by itself, it can be paired individually with your iOS device, working and sounding pretty much the same as Disco 2; it’s just a bit better in the treble department, which makes songs sound a little cleaner, but volume, clarity, and bass are all basically the same. [For additional details on the sonic performance, check out our prior SuperTooth Disco 2 review.] In short, each individual speaker delivers very good sound quality by the standards of a $100, rechargeable battery-powered wireless speaker, though with obvious bass distortion at peak volume levels—and the limitation of a monaural sound mix.

Where Disco Twin breaks from its predecessor is the dual speaker pairing mode—a potentially “big deal” feature that Bluetooth chip maker CSR announced two years ago, SuperTooth was first to promise in a product, and rival Soundfreaq was first to actually bring to market with Sound Platform 2. As was demonstrated by the disappearance of the feature from Disco 2, and subsequent comments from Soundfreaq, dual streaming proved surprisingly difficult to implement for a variety of reasons: getting two Bluetooth speakers to communicate with one another at the same time as they’re streaming from an iOS device, synchronizing volume levels, and doing everything without interference were very challenging.

Most of the time, Disco Twin’s dual speaker feature works just as it should. You pair the left speaker with your iOS device, and the right speaker arrives pre-paired with the left speaker. Re-pairing is as simple as turning the second speaker on when the first is already running; you’ll hear a quiet chime and then a pleasant voice saying “left” in the left speaker, then “right” in the right speaker to confirm they’re synced with one another. At that point, volume levels synchronize automatically between the two speakers, though they’re limited to a handful of big steps rather than more numerous and gradual alternatives. Turning off one speaker will automatically turn off the other, though that doesn’t work in the opposite direction; you need to turn each one on individually.

Just like Sound Platform 2, Disco Twin’s flip between one- and two-speaker modes is seamless—the second speaker comes online and you start to hear a reasonably wide, louder stereo field. The shift isn’t quite as dramatic because a single Disco Twin doesn’t have stereo capabilities on its own, and there isn’t as much horsepower in just one of SuperTooth’s units as in one of Soundfreaq’s, but the paired Disco Twin units deliver small room-filling amplitude. You can even move the speakers more than a room away from one another while preserving their synchronization; we were able to achieve 45-foot distances without a problem. This enables people to enjoy music in two rooms at the same time, a nice feature that no other sub-$200 Bluetooth speaker system can reliably match. (Sorry, Bem Wireless Speaker Trio.)

Unfortunately, SuperTooth didn’t quite work out all the pairing bugs before shipping Disco Twin, though like Sound Platform 2, there’s only a narrow situation in which problems will become obvious. Should you attempt to pair your iOS device with another speaker system while it’s paired with a Disco Twin in dual streaming mode, you’ll notice some nasty signal degradation in Disco Twin—a marked dropoff in audio quality and stability that initially sounded more pronounced in the right speaker but affected both. This issue persists even when the speakers are both turned off and on again; in order to bring the quality back, we had to reset iOS’s streaming connection to the speaker by making it forget Disco Twin entirely. It’s an ugly bug, made tolerable only by the somewhat unusual circumstance that triggers it.

A less conspicuous change to Disco Twin is a shift from Disco 2’s cutting-edge Bluetooth 4 support back to the earlier and less widely known Bluetooth 3 standard. Since Bluetooth 4 didn’t offer enhanced sound quality or other huge changes relative to earlier Bluetooth standards, the only change it made in Disco 2 was enabling Bluetooth 4-capable iOS devices to wake the speaker near-instantaneously from a power-conserving sleep mode, rather than needing to physically turn the speaker on to re-initiate pairing. This feature is absent from Disco Twin, and frankly won’t be missed by many people, but it would have been particularly handy for a two-speaker array.

Considered as a total package, Disco Twin is a very good new Bluetooth speaker option. Although the total cost of a two-speaker Sound Platform 2 package is higher than this, and Soundfreaq’s speakers are different enough in features that they can’t be directly compared, that company made some particularly smart choices both in maximizing the performance of its speakers and in offering just one at an appealing entry price of $150. With Disco Twin, you need to commit to buying two speakers up front, and the sound quality isn’t quite as amazing, but you gain battery-powered portability and a lower total price point for multi-speaker audio. The Disco Twin speakers are small, extremely easy to carry around, and all but effortless to recharge thanks to their separate included wall adapters. If their combination of features sounds appealing, they’re certainly worth considering.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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