Middle-aged consumer testing: Bluetooth speakers


1st Jan 2015 Technology

Middle-aged consumer testing: Bluetooth speakers

We've tested six of the highstreet's best Bluetooth speakers to try and find the ultimate offering in sound quality, looks and value for money. Whether you're on a budget or looking for a blowout, read on to find your perfect Bluetooth pairing.

We asked one middle-aged road tester (of an undisclosed age) to try out some of the highstreet's best Bluetooth offerings. Our volunteer Farhana Gani, already has a Bose speaker connecting her smartphone to her home, so there was some tough testing ahead.

Here's what she thought of our six test models.

Budget Models: 

Boombero Tria Wireless


Boombero tria wireless speaker

The sales pitch:

The ultra-portable Boombero Tria is a trendy and lightweight wireless speaker that gives out a loud, high-quality sound.

Our tester says:

This speaker looks unobtrusive. It's okay visually, but not stunning. It might not be a work of design, but it's not ugly either.

How do you rate the sound quality?

It's really quite bad sound quality, I think it would irritate me.

Where would you use this?

I would tuck this speaker alongside my books on my desk, and probably end up using it as a book rest.

Sound quality: 5/10

Ease of use: 9/10

How much would you pay? £19.99

It does indeed retail at £19.99. Is it good value for money? "Yes, I think it offers good value for the price."


House of Marley Chant Mini

chant mini speaker

The sales pitch:

A conscientiously crafted, mini portable Bluetooth speaker with exceptional sound quality. Made from earth-friendly fabric, blended eco-plastic and aluminum housings with natural bamboo detailing.

Our tester says:

Ooh I quite like that [The start-up *bleep* of the Chant Mini puts it off to a strong start]. The noises are helpful to know that you're doing the right thing. 

How do you rate the sound quality?

It's very tinny, the sound quality on this is probably worse than the Boombero.

Where would you use this?

This feels more portable. It would probably live on my desk and I might move it into the kitchen.

Sound quality: 3/10

Ease of use: 7/10 (We did have a slight issue connecting at first)

How much would you pay? £10

It actually retails at £39.99. Is it good value for money? [Gasps] "No that's ridiculous! I don't think it's at all worth the money."

Would it change your opinion if you knew it was made from 100% recycled materials? “I would probably give it a try, but I am disappointed with the sound.”

Budget winner: Boombero Tria Wireless



Mid-range speakers:

Jabra Solemate

The sales pitch:

Designed to go anywhere, the pocket-sized Solemate is the ultimate travel companion, with surprisingly big sound.

Our tester says: 

The first time you use it it’s a bit weird but the second time will be easy because I know what to expect. And it talks to you, and tells you how to connect. That's nice but it might get annoying if it does it every time.

How do you rate the sound quality?

The sound is much better with the Jabra than the cheaper models. This was my favourite to look at and I still really like it. In fact, I want to take it home with me!

Where would you use this?

Probably on my desk.

It also comes with a protective bag in case you want to take it on the beach or into the garden

[Bemused look] I'd probably use this to put my sandwiches in.

Sound quality: 7/10

Ease of use: After a little help from the verbal instructions it was a doddle 8/10

How much would you pay? £25, but because I like it, I would probably pay double that.

It retails at £69. Is it good value for money? I would pay the actual price, but I would do it begrudgingly.



Lindy BTS-360

Lindy speaker

The sales pitch:

Living up to its name, the BTS-360 gives a full 360° sound experience. Place it anywhere in a room for a full, room-filling soundscape.

Our tester says:

It feels really cheap and nasty. It’s very 1960s in that weird retro way that I don’t really like. I wouldn't pick it up in a shop to consider it.

[After a slightly difficult, and loud, start] I don’t like the fact that you can't quickly press a button to turn the volume down.

How do you rate the sound quality?

Oh, it actually sounds really good. [Sound of astonished silence from Farhana, while Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" fills the room]. I liked the look of the Jabra, but the Lindy has the better sound.

Where would you use this?

Again at my desk, or somewhere out of sight.

Sound quality: 8/10

Ease of use: 5/10

How much would you pay? £60 

It actually only costs £49.99. Is it good value for money? 

Because it's so ugly, it's not good value. But that might just be me, maybe someone else would love it. 

I am happy to compromise on sound for a better-looking model.

Mid-range winner: Jabra Solemate


Expensive speakers

Ultimate Ears Megaboom

The sales pitch: 

UE Megaboom is a portable wireless speaker 'on steroids'. Blast freakishly amazing 360° sound with deep, heart-pounding bass everywhere you go.

Our tester says:

It looks like something straight out of science fiction, I'm expecting to find a chemical in there. Just the size of it, it feels really odd. It’s not what I expect a speaker to look like. It’s odd, but it is nice to touch.

How do you rate the sound quality?

The sound is brilliant and it’s amazing how when the sound is this good, you do start to get excited.

I’d be really happy with this at home. I still don’t like the look of it as much as the Jabra, but it’s not bad. I’ll forgive it it’s bizarre look.

Where would you use this?

I would use it when I have friends over after dinner and we are just hanging out listening to music and being silly.

What if we told you that this has withstood being dunked in a pint of Guinness and thrown at a wall?

[Laughs] It feels more durable and safe than the other models, like I could throw it around. It doesn’t feel like it would matter if you got grass on it. In summer, I would have it out in the garden all the time.

Overall I think it's more for younger people. I would give it to the child of a friend who is going to university.

Sound quality: 9/10

Ease of use: 7/10 at first, but once you've done it once it would be a 9/10.

How much would you pay? Up to £100.

Well it retails at £249. Is it good value for money? 

I'm not surprised by the price. I know people who would use it and they're out and about types. They would show it off on their bike. It's not good value for me because I wouldn’t make the best use of it.


Steljes Audio NS3

The sales pitch:

Steljes Audio NS3 powered speakers have been designed to complement any room in the home or workplace. They can be seamlessly integrated into your lifestyle as they provide an array of connectivity; if you’ve got it, then they’ll work with it.

Our tester says:

[After unboxing it we discovered these speakers are not entirely wireless] This is where I would say to my partner: Mark you’ve got to do this. I hate wires because they look ugly in the room.

[We find ourselves fiddling with the wires on the Steljes NS3 for around 10 minutes before we can play any music] It’s not difficult, but it’s a nuisance. I would have to use the instructions and I hate that.

How do you rate the sound quality?

The sound is really good though, and I like that I can control the eq levels on the remote. They’re nice to look at too, it's a very cute design and I like the colour. I can imagine them living in my kitchen. But, I’d always choose wireless over this option. I know people who would love to have this because it’s a bit retro and the quality is fabulous.

Would you say there's a correlation between the idea of quality and the size and weight of the speakers?

Perhaps. The portable, wireless speakers did feel more disposable, whereas wiring to me says investment and a product that will last for years.

Sound quality: 9/10, they definitely have a great sound.

Ease of use: 4/10 

How much would you pay: I would buy these second hand for about £50, but I reckon brand new they cost around £200.

That's a little off, they retail at £199. Is it good value for money? 

If I was 20-something with a big wage and a big apartment then yes, but they're not right for my lifestyle.

Blow-out winner: The Ultimate Ears Megaboom

And our overall winner is…

Speaker winner

The user favourite was was the Jabra Solemate speaker. It offered reasonable sound quality and value for money, but overall it was its looks that really blew our product tester away. 

One last question, if you could swap your current Bose speaker for any of these, would you?

[After a moment of contemplation around the UE Megaboom] No. I think I'll keep it.

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