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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Gear Pro: Portable Tunes

6 wireless speakers that will fit in your pack.

by: Kristin Hostetter

PAGE 1 2

Seems like every time I check my inbox lately there’s a press release for a new wireless speaker. I use them all the time: at campfire parties, on road trips, in the backyard, on the boat, at the beach, and when I visit my parents (think: circa 1980 10-disc CD changer stocked with Air Supply and Dionne Warwick).

So…I ordered them all up and have been rocking for the past several weeks, everywhere I go. They’re all pretty rugged, with some manner of rubberized edges, smoothed out corners, silicone sleeves and tough plastic casings. Sound quality seems to increase pretty much across the board in direct proportion to the size and price of the unit. (No surprise, since my husband has been telling me for years that his refrigerator-size Klipsh speakers from college are unsurpassable.)

I evaluated these speakers on several key features: size, weight and sound quality. I’m partial to models with a built-in microphone that can be used as a speaker-phone (great for the office).

[cheap tunes]
Dvoom Bluetune-Bean
About the size of dinner roll, this is ideal if weight, portability and budget are your main concerns. It’s covered in a silicone sleeve to dampen hard knocks, and a carabiner clips it to your backpack for convenient access. The price is right: I bought these for my nieces and nephews for Christmas.


[cyclist pick]
Outdoor Tech Buckshot The mere size of a salt shaker, the Buckshot is a step up in sound quality from its next tiniest competitor (the Bean). The little cylinder is well fortified with a hard rubber casing, and it comes with a neat handlebar mount so you can crank tunes on your commute to work. But I found the tiny buttons a big pain to operate: I bent a few fingernails during my testing.


[good-looking]
Bem Wireless Mobile Speaker
The clean, sexy cube silhouette looks great on a desktop or coffee table and the sound is pretty good and nuanced, making this a good pick in the middle price range. Only caveat: The range on this one is pretty weak. Walk into the next room with your phone in your pocket and the sound starts to break up.


PAGE 1 2

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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star
RBryanP
Jan 01, 2014

To her credit, Gear Editor Kristin did say, "... I use them all the time: at campfire parties, on road trips, in the backyard, on the boat, at the beach, and when I visit my parents. ...". I could not agree more with using portable speakers in those situations, although there are times where other people are around, at the beach for example where I would not assume they want to hear what I am playing.

But I agree with all before me about leaving the speakers at home while hiking, backpacking or otherwise escaping to enjoy the NATURAL sounds of nature. But if you MUST have music, bring earphones. I don't want to listen to your music.

I would have selected less than 1 star if I could.

Star
Jeffrey K.
Jan 01, 2014

So you really think its OK to inflict your musical taste on anyone within earshot of you wherever you go? Please have some consideration and use your ear-buds! Most people I know go to the wilderness to escape civilization and commune with nature. Music blaring from cheap speakers has no place in that experience.

Star
Chris
Jan 01, 2014

Music blasting on the trails is almost as bad as parents who lets their kids scream and holler for all to hear...nobody goes to the woods camping to hear that, keep it at home lol

Star
Chris
Jan 01, 2014

If you must have music in the wilderness have some respect for the people who go to enjoy the peace and quiet...use headphones and keep the noise to yourself :)

Star
jeff
Jan 01, 2014

When I get on the trail I leave my electronic addictions behind! I don't need external speakers to ghetto-ize my wilderness. If I heard someone playing heavy metal near me in the wilderness, I'd likely piss on their tent. Or worse.

I don't care if you're Kristen Hostetter--keep your stinkin' tunes to yourself by using ear buds. I hope your editor rots beginning now, and not after his/her demise.

Star
jeff
Jan 01, 2014

When I get on the trail I leave my electronic addictions behind! I don't need external speakers to ghetto-ize my wilderness. If I heard someone playing heavy metal near me in the wilderness, I'd likely piss on their tent. Or worse.

I don't care if you're Kristen Hostetter--keep your stinkin' tunes to yourself by using ear buds. I hope your editor rots beginning now, and not after his/her demise.

Star
sierracanon
Dec 31, 2013

Sorry, but if I encountered our gear editor with her trail speakers blasting in the backcountry, I'd be mighty irritated.

Star
TheWalkman
Dec 31, 2013

Speakers for the trail? Really?

The last thing I want to experience is Kristen listening to her gangsta rap tracks on the trail.

If you can't leave the iPod at the trailhead, please be considerate of others and use your headphones. Leave the heavy metal at home and don't impose your tastes on the rest of us. Plus, you can save some pack weight, to boot carrying headphones.

I can't wait to see next month's Backpacker gear review, "Hyperlight Headphones for Gram Weenies!"

(BackpackerI never ceases to be amaze me.)

Star Star Star Star Star
Matt
Dec 31, 2013

I second Jeff. The Rockout is a great product.

Star
Mike
Dec 31, 2013

Please please please don't make us start hearing music on the trail!! Nooooo!!!!
I know that the article doesn't talk about music on the trail but that's where this will lead. Think it over.

Star Star Star Star Star
Jeff
Dec 31, 2013

With all the work Goal Zero is doing to promote the environmental friendliness of solar power, I'm surprised that you didn't include the Goal Zero Rock Out Portable Speakers. These little and inexpensive speakers put out a lot of sound and are rechargeable via USB or the Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Charger.
http://www.goalzero.com/rockout.html

Star Star Star Star Star
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