Choosing a great Bluetooth wireless speaker isn’t difficult — few deliver truly outstanding performance at a given price point — but the number of options is increasing every week, and in the wake of Jawbone’s Jambox, many companies are rushing to compete in the sub-$200 small speaker market. Love it or hate it, the Jambox established that a nicely designed compact speaker could appeal broadly to iPad and iPhone users, despite carrying a price tag equivalent to something much larger and better-sounding. Today, we’re looking at two more Jambox alternatives: iLuv’s Mo’Beats iSP245 ($100), which sells for half Jambox’s price, and Philips’ Shoqbox SB7300, which offers a brawnier design for the same $200 price.
Released by iLuv as Mo’Beats as a device-agnostic wireless speaker, the silver and black Mo’Beats iSP245 nonetheless looks and feels as if it was tailor-made for Apple’s iPad, thanks to a modestly padded 9.5” groove in the front that enables it to fully accommodate a tablet in either landscape or portrait orientation. The groove has space for encased or bare iPads, and can also fit iPhones and iPod touches, provided they’re not wrapped in anything thicker than the average case. Each iOS device reclines against a 1.75”-diameter/tall tube, and the unit occupies a depth of 2.6”. Apart from its height, Mo’Beats is larger in each dimension than the Jambox, but still in the same general size category, and the included stand functionality is a welcome addition.
iLuv’s industrial design for Mo’Beats is pretty clean and very solid-feeling, though a little unusual. The stand has rough, unfinished edges that evoke the look of metal, though the unit’s metallic finish feels plasticy, and nicely detailed matte black end caps cover the two included speakers inside the tube. A glossy black core houses a Bluetooth on-off switch, a mini-USB port for charging with an included cable, and an aux-in port if you need to connect non-Bluetooth devices, as well as a pop-out metal foot that helps to add stability where necessary. Unlike many rivals, iLuv includes a soft carrying case with Mo’Beats so that you can take it on the road with less fear of damage.
While Mo’Beats looks nice and has an attractive price point on its side, it suffers from an issue we’ve seen all too often with iLuv’s speakers: so-so sound quality. Between the decision to have the two drivers fire outwards from the system’s sides rather than forward, and the omission of any dedicated bass hardware, Mo’Beats puts out relatively flat audio that sounds like an atypically loud FM radio. There’s little low end and no depth of detail in the highs or midrange, but the speakers are properly stereo separated, pushing left and right channel sound out of the respective sides. For $100, it’s hard to call the sound bad, but it’s definitely not good—just respectably loud and okay from a distance. Even the somewhat sonically underwhelming Jambox has noticeably richer and more balanced sound, with an only modestly lower peak volume. Notably, Soundfreaq’s Sound Kick sells for the same $100 price as Mo’Beats, and sounds worlds better in every regard, though it will occupy nearly twice the space in a bag.
One thing Mo’Beats has on its side, however, is wireless performance. It’s capable of continuing to stream tunes from an iPad at distances exceeding 60 feet, including obstructions, which is well beyond the basic specifications of the Bluetooth standard. So while it’s not the most impressive little audio system you’ll hear close up—something that might be expected given its integrated stand—it’s more than adequate if you’re going to be using it from a considerable distance away.
Overall, Mo’Beats iSP245 is a respectable though decidedly budget portable audio option for iOS users. If you’re looking for raw sonic quality, this isn’t the right system to select; it’s hard to imagine anyone being wowed by the audio here, and since that’s the key thing we consider in rating speakers, iSP245 merits only our limited recommendation. That said, if you’re looking for a nice stand-speaker combination, aren’t particularly concerned about near-distance sound quality, and mostly want something louder than your iPad’s internal speaker that could be used for podcasts or the audio portions of videos, you might want to consider this unit. iLuv has taken a nice step forward in the look and feel department with Mo’Beats; we’ll keep our fingers crossed that its next efforts will make a similarly big stride forward in audio quality.
Company and Price
Company: iLuv (a unit of jWIN)
Model: Mo’Beats iSP245
Compatible: All iPads