It’s all very well being able to carry around a few thousand songs in your pocket, but they sound terrible when played through the tiny speakers on a mobile device – and you can completely forget being able hear the output above any normal level of background noise. The Bolse SZ-801 comes to the rescue without breaking the bank. It’s a budget portable speaker with sound quality and output volume that will quite literally blow you away.
The Bolse SZ-801 is available on Amazon for $40 (out of stock at the time of publication). A lot of design comparisons can be made between this and the $150 Jawbone Jambox – but the Bolse SZ-801 weighs in at one third of the price. Other budget Bluetooth speakers at a similar price point simply don’t come close.
Included in the box is a micro-USB charging cable (no AC adaptor though), and a 3.5mm passthrough for plugging directly into devices without Bluetooth.
The Bolse SZ-801 is weighty but very small; at just under 500 grams and 4cm deep, it looks deceptively modest.
With a matte black rubberised texture, the plastic casing feels solid and certainly ticks all the boxes for not looking cheap; but it’s also accompanied by a rather attractive speaker grill that wraps around the front and the sides. The concentric waves emanating from the centre of the grill probably serve no function, but they make it seem like the SZ-801 is so loud it’s actually managed to make ripples in the space time continuum.
Make no mistake, this is a classy piece of modern design, and not something you’d expect to see on a bit of hardware that costs less than $50.
On the technical front, two 40mm drivers provide a total of 12 watt output – but there’s also a cavity in the centre (or some other kind of dark magic I don’t fully understand), which gives it the ability to produce such deep bass.
The modesty implied by its size is shattered when you actually turn it on. From the offset, I was blown away by both the quality and volume. I have absolutely no idea how something this small can sound so good, or so loud.
Holding the unit in my hand, I almost dropped it from the initial shock of the thumping bass as it vibrated into my fingers – I wasn’t expecting that. Seriously: size can be deceptive, and damn – this speaker is good.
Seated atop the device are 6 low profile buttons: 3 buttons for controlling media, 2 volume buttons, and a “call” button. The call button answers an incoming call, or you can long press to summon Siri on iOS.
A hefty 8-hour battery powers the unit, which is more than enough to last even the lengthiest of barbeque sessions, or afternoons at the beach. For general use, you won’t want to run this at full volume anyway, so it’ll actually last a lot longer – 20 hours at low-medium volume would not be unreasonable. Recharging is done through the micro-USB port at the rear.
Manually pairing with my iPhone and iPad presented no problems, and the SZ-801 promptly reconnected after a power-off. Unfortunately, I didn’t have so much luck with the smart NFC functionality. I tried with both a Nexus 7 and an HTC One X – placing the NFC-enabled mobile devices onto the SZ-801 immediately paired them with a discreet beep to let me know it had worked; but none of the system audio was actually piped into the speaker. I checked the Bluetooth speaker settings, and both were sent to transmit call and system audio. Eventually, I fixed the problem by power-cycling the speakers – they correctly reconnected to the last known device, and sound transmission worked. I’m not sure if this is an Android error, or a problem with the speakers because they were already connected to another device at the time – but even with a power cycle required, it’s still potentially easier than having to navigate into Bluetooth settings and manually pair devices.
If I were forced at gunpoint to say something bad about these speakers, it would be that the voice played when connecting, and the beep when you reach maximum volume, is obnoxiously loud. It’s also not waterproof in any way, so don’t throw it in the pool and be a little careful on those beach trips. It’s a minor complaint though – at this price, you’d be insane to not snap them up.
How do I win the Bolse SZ-801?
You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.
After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.
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This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, July 25. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.
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