While it’s not terribly difficult to price a Bluetooth speaker “correctly,” the sheer number of alternatives currently in the marketplace has left developers hunting for ways to differentiate new offerings from one another. Today, we’re looking at three recently-released speakers that take somewhat different approaches to that challenge: G-Project’s G-Boom ($100) chose the value route, packing a familiar shape with far better speakers and features than most users would expect for the price. By comparison, a fancy tube-shaped speaker called Sound Cylinder ($199) from Definitive Technologies opts for clean design and the ability to double as an iPad stand, and Geneva Lab’s Geneva WorldRadio ($300) leverages modern design and nostalgia to offset a limited feature set. From our standpoint, G-Boom is clearly a better raw value than the others, but if you’re looking for something unique, Sound Cylinder and WorldRadio each have some appeal.
It’s no secret that the small speaker maker G-Project is unusually talented at maximizing speaker value for the dollar—skills acquired from creative director Matthew Paprocki, whose best designs for companies such as Memorex and Soundfreaq have redefined what was possible from budget-priced speakers. The new G-Boom speaker is equally jaw-dropping. Despite arriving at the same price point as last year’s small but powerful Soundfreaq Sound Kick, it delivers even more impressive sound without compromising on overall build quality or features. G-Boom accomplishes this feat by tackling a different conceptual challenge: while Sound Kick was the ultimate $100 briefcase speaker, G-Boom is the ultimate $100 wireless boombox.
With an 11.5” wide by 10” tall by 4.2” deep chassis, laden with zig-zagging lines on each side and a combination of dark metals and plastics, G-Boom is designed to be imposing—and succeeds. It looks like a designer took the edgiest masculine retro boombox he could find, cut out the tape deck, CD player, or iPod dock from the center, then pushed the speakers closer together to achieve the shape of a hard plastic bowling ball bag. The result feels like something you could grab in an emergency and use to knock an intruder senseless with a single blow. A large, rubber-coated handle on top connects to the rest of the M-shaped frame with two metal pipes on each side. Metal bars on the side look ready to attach to a carrying strap if you want to supply one yourself. Every inch of the plastic feels solid. There’s certainly nothing that screams “$100” about G-Boom.
That extends to the unit’s electronics. In addition to a Bluetooth wireless chip that worked flawlessly for iOS music streaming during our testing, G-Boom includes a 5-6-hour rechargeable battery, a 3.5mm audio cable, and a wall adapter. The latter plugs into a port on the back, which sits next to 3.5mm audio and USB ports. While you’ll have to self-supply an extra cable to use it, G-Boom’s USB port offers 1-Amp output, enough to fuel any iPod or iPhone at full speed, and slowly recharge an iPad. G-Project protects the ports with a rubberized cover when they’re not in use, versus a perforated metal front speaker grille, and open rear bass ports.
If any elements of the design could be criticized as downmarket, they’d be the controls and lights. Almost all of G-Boom is black or gunmetal gray, save for a black rubber pad beneath the top handle that ends in a line of white-marked buttons near the unit’s front. They’re tactile and easy to read, but the rubber surface they’re on feels squishy and attracts dust, unlike the rest of the unit. Three bright LED lights near G-Boom’s front bottom indicate power, recharging, and Bluetooth pairing status. The white, red, and blue tones may inspire patriotic feelings in certain countries, but their size and colors take away a little from the otherwise gritty look of the speaker.
Assuming that such trivial things bother you, all will be forgiven once you hear how G-Boom sounds. If it isn’t the best speaker we’ve ever heard at a $150 or lower price tag—a title it’s definitely in contention for—it is certainly the best $100 wireless speaker we’ve tested. Most $100 speakers these days include only two audio drivers, but G-Boom uses four: two roughly 1” tweeters and two 3” full-range drivers. The numbers aren’t as important as what they can do together: replicate more of the audio spectrum, at relatively high volumes.
At its peak volume, G-Boom can more than fill a small room with music. And unlike most boomboxes, it performs really well at regular volumes, too. Even if you don’t play with the top EQ button, which lets you switch between three settings that change the bass level from strong to even stronger, the unit’s sonic signature really lets you hear distinct highs, mids, and lows, plus enough stereo separation to go at least several inches beyond the unit’s edges. At low or high volumes, music sounds clear, without significant distortion as the amplitude increases. Part of this is due to the size of the enclosure, which is much bigger than the typical $100 audio system, but the other part is due to the quality and design of the materials. G-Project did everything right here.
Our initial preview of G-Boom described it as a beast of a system, and we’d stick with that description—it’s way more impressive than anyone would expect for the price. G-Project has managed to deliver a boombox that sounds great at any volume, cuts an imposing figure, and offers an excellent combination of features for $100. G-Boom is fully worthy of our rare flat A rating and high recommendation: it is now the budget boombox to beat, and one we’d be surprised to see improved much upon any time soon.
Company and Price
Compatible: All Bluetooth-capable iPads, iPhones + iPods