One advantage to pioneering a brand new product category is the lack of broad consumer expectations for how the product should work — when there’s only one of something, you either like or dislike what it does, and alternatives won’t precisely replace it. Consequently, the new StriimLight SL-B10 ($99) has novelty strongly on its side: as part of a new series of wireless lighting-slash-audio solutions from AwoX, it’s an LED lightbulb with a wireless Bluetooth speaker built in, bundled with an Infrared remote control that can access both the light and the speaker. If you’ve been hoping for a way to bring monaural sound to a desktop, wall, or ceiling lamp without wires, StriimLight can do it, but whether you’ll love either the light or the audio will depend on your expectations.
Considered solely as a lightbulb, StriimLight is a reasonable rather than spectacular option. Due to the challenges of combining its audio and visual features, StriimLight’s 6.7-Watt lightbulb uses a ring-shaped LED array to generate 475 Lumens of output with a beam angle of 120 degrees, roughly comparable to a 40W incandescent bulb. While this isn’t a tremendous amount of light output — Philips’ 8.5-Watt Hue bulbs put out 600 Lumens of light at their peak — it’s bright enough to provide spot illumination for a corner of a room, or serve as bedside lighting if placed within a lamp. The U.S. version is compatible with virtually universal E26 lightbulb sockets, so it will work in almost any traditional light fixture or conventional lamp found in homes; an E.U. version uses the E27 socket instead. We found the U.S. version extremely straightforward to install, and although it’s volumetrically around three times larger than a typical lightbulb, it has enough other hardware inside to justify its size.
Perhaps the biggest knock against StriimLight as a lightbulb is how conventional it is. It produces slightly yellow, off-white light that AwoX says is 3000k in color temperature — relatively warm. But at a time when LED lightbulbs have grown the abilities to change brightness, shift color temperatures from cool to warm, and even move between thousands of different shades of colors, StriimLight has only two settings: on or off. You can’t control the light from your iOS device — you’ll need to use a traditional light switch, or the included generic plastic remote control — and apart from sharing the same housing and power source, there’s no functional overlap between the light and speaker.
While it’s line-of-sight-dependent, the remote control can do a surprisingly good job of activating and deactivating the light as needed, assuming that it’s mounted in a place where the Infrared light can reach it. That said, iOS control over the light should have been an obvious feature given the Bluetooth hardware inside StriimLight. As of the date of this review, there’s notably no iOS app to control StriimLight: despite the availability of an AwoX app called Striim Control, this app turns out to be solely for AwoX’s Wi-Fi-based audio products, and doesn’t do anything with StriimLight.
Judged as a Bluetooth speaker, StriimLight is similarly in the fine rather than good or great camp. On a positive note, it’s easy to pair with an iOS device, and quickly re-pairs using Bluetooth 4.0 whenever the light switch is turned back on. The plastic remote control AwoX includes has three speaker-specific buttons — volume up, down, and mute — and your iOS device can separately toggle the volume up and down with its own, non-mirrored controls.
Built with a single 2” driver that’s hidden behind a perforated silver grille, StriimLight puts out monaural sound at a peak volume level that’s short of small room-filling, but adequate for listening at up to seven-foot distances, depending on how and where you mount it. Uninhibited by a lampshade or can-style recessed mount, StriimLight delivers relatively flat, midrange and mid-bass-focused sound that can come across as a bit compressed and warbly at peak volumes, but is fine for casual, non-critical listening just underneath that peak. Because of the variety of places and angles on which lightbulbs can be mounted, however, StriimLight’s sound may echo, sound even flatter, or be muffled depending on where it’s located. Without any sort of software calibration features for the speaker, which an app and/or a high-frequency driver might have helped with, there’s not much you can do to improve the sound besides to point the speaker — and light — directly at you.
It’s worth noting that StriimLight could have usefully included a feature recently introduced in some Bluetooth speakers called dual streaming, which enables two Bluetooth speakers to synchronize and simultaneously perform the same audio without requiring any wires. Although we’ve seen some speakers do better than others with this feature, a strong case could be made for dual streaming between two lights on opposite sides of a bed or an office; regardless, that feature is absent here. Additionally, there’s no way for us to properly assess StriimLight’s long-term reliability. In our testing, the lightbulb did become as warm to the touch as we would have expected during use, but it didn’t feel burning hot. It’s unclear whether the speaker’s performance will be affected in any way over time by the heat of the lightbulb, but AwoX offers a one-year warranty on StriimLight, which is enough time for an average user to assess its performance.
When all of its illumination and sonic features are taken into account, the single best case that can be made for StriimLight SL-B10 is the collective value and convenience it delivers for $99. Light socket-powered speakers are extremely rare and conceptually very appealing, so in form factor alone, StriimLight stands apart from the vast majority of audio options out there. Add to that the reasonable bulb and you have something that could make for a very adequate lighting and listening experience in the corner of a room. However, our editors felt that the current implementation of StriimLight falls just short of mass appeal due to the several things that it’s missing — stronger light output and adjustability, superior sound quality, and multi-light/speaker pairing capabilities — and that improving any of these features could dramatically boost its value to consumers. We hope that AwoX will address these issues in a future version, because this concept has very real potential. In its current form, StriimLight SL-B10 will work best for users with serious space, power outlet, and budget constraints who really need an all-in-one solution rather than a great sub-$100 Bluetooth speaker and inexpensive 40-Watt lightbulb.
Company and Price
Model: StriimLight SL-B10
Compatible: All Bluetooth-Equipped iPads, iPhones, iPods