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Clever features, fun design, but sound quality fall shorts
on February 8, 2014
I purchased the AXX200 at the CES show when it was supposed to be on a "show special" sale for $150. Turns out the "sale" wasn't so special (same price here at Amazon). I also have a hard time believing they'll ever get "list" price ($299) for this speaker. Today on the Creative Web site, I see they're now trying to say the speaker is worth $375, but you can get it with the "dock worth $75" for $229 for a "launch special" (the dock is $60 here on Amazon, making your total $210).
Unpacking my speaker was fun. And it's a bit of a strange design. But, that leaves the footprint small, and that's a good thing! First I had to charge my speaker (there was some charge upon arrival but I wanted to get a full charge.) Thankfully, it uses the now-standard micro USB cords that I already have many of for my phone, and other electronics (and comes with it's own charger, of course.)
Bluetooth pairing with my devices was relatively straight-forward. A handy sticker near the back reviews how to do that. It's a good thing the sticker is in place, because, honestly, this thing is kind of a bit more difficult to use than I would hope. Press the same button once to turn on the speaker, press it for 2 seconds to get into pairing mode, press for 5 seconds to turn off. I mean, there's already a lot of buttons and stuff on this speaker, but they might've added a couple more. or a slider to make it easy to turn off an on, and put in pairing mode. With my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone, I was able to get it to pair via the NFC feature okay.
There are 6 "buttons" on top of the unit, along with a "slider" for volume control. All of these buttons are just touch enabled, as is the slider. A BRIGHT blue light on the front top shows what mode the Bluetooth stuff is in, with 3 tiny lights on the bottom showing available power left in the rechargeable battery.
If you turn the unit on, even with nothing paired, it does seem to put out an awful lot of noise when held up to the ear. Sounds almost like a fan running in there!
This thing is pretty small. Think the size of a large sunglasses case! And a sturdy case, at that. The front grill and back are made of a nice feeling metal. It feels of quality. But the size appears to also be a downfall. As a person who listens to dance music alot, bass is important. And this speaker produces VERY little. Every streaming station or dance tune I played sounded distorted and harsh at louder levels. The audio quality of a Bose SoundLink speaker, while a bit larger, FAR exceeds the sound quality of the AXX 200, and manages to give decent bass, even at high levels, and in a small package.
The call recording feature seems to work fine, but it's confusing to tell whether the speaker is actually recording or not, so don't get a criminal to confess without having a backup plan. In fact, telling what the speaker is doing is kind of the hard part all of the way around. I've made a recording. Now do I push "play", or the "record play" button? What is now playing? What mode is the speaker in? Without the manual for regular reference, or unless using the features regularly, they're not at all intuitive. An addition or two to the top display could've solved this.
Also, "it's an MP3" player. Yes, indeed. NOT AVI, NOT M4A, NOT WAV. Pretty much anything of this price range should play all of the major popular formats. So, dragging tunes from iTunes to an microSD card will not work, unless they're MP3 (or WMA, but iTunes doesn't play those anyway.) Don't assume they just left out the other formats in the description. They simply don't work.
The "teleconferencing" feature, otherwise known as a "speakerphone" does seem to work okay, but I have not used it in a large group to get sounds from around a room.
The megaphone feature is a bit silly, but does seem to work, and some effects can make your voice sound strange.
The software apps for iOS and Android seem to largely mimic the controls on the speaker itself, and while they do allow changing of the sound profile, and few other tweaks, they seem mostly unneeded. On iOS, there is actually 3 apps, that all seem to have a crossover of features, or could have been easily rolled into one. And really? Do I need a "remote control" app function for a speaker with I wouldn't ever get more than 50 feet away from for it to be of use?
The Creative Web site also alludes to Sound BlasterAxx Bonus Pack for PCs software, but it's not in the box (or on a simple microSD card they should have included to get you started), nor available for Mac, and further, is only a 30-day trial. You have to download this from the Web site, where you can also get a free control panel software for your PC or Mac. The installation of the software on a Mac actually requires a reboot. Really?
One of the features I LIKE is the ability to connect 2 BlueTooth devices at once... So, keep your phone, and your computer connected, or iPad, or whatever. As long as audio isn't actively playing from one, it can play from the other. (You can't mix audio from two devices together.)
At the end of the day, it's a decent speaker, and would certainly catch my eye at around $100. At $150, I start questioning my purchase, and at $299 or $375, I think they must have gone mad. The sound quality is sub-par to me, just because it has some highs, and a lot of mid-range, but no bass. The noise when nothing is playing seems high, too. The controls are not so much difficult to use, as to know WHAT you're doing. I feel like I'll need to laminate the instruction manual to make full use of the speaker over time. I've considered sending it back, but, alas, I've thrown the packing out, and I'm sure I'll use it for something.