Roker®Sound Cube Portable Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Speaker review
The problem to be solved
- I like to listen to podcasts while doing chores, relaxing in the poul, etc.
- iPhone 5 has a fairly loud speaker, but it’s not quite loud enough to cut through the noise when doing certain chores (washing dishes, laundry, yard work, etc.)
- Needed an external wireless speaker, because I tend to need to remain mobile while doing chores, so can’t be tied down by a wire.
- In the case of the pool, I have a waterproof case for it, but you can’t hear the speaker through the case, meaning you have to wear earbuds. I know they have waterproof earbuds but I’d just rather use a speaker.
- There are a plethora of Bluetooth speakers on the market. Prices have come down a lot, and decent ones can be had for around $100. Unfortunately that’s a bit over my price range at the moment.
- While browsing Amazon I found these Roker speakers at $22.99, and since they were Amazon (i.e. no-hassles return policy) I figured I’d roll the dice.
Describing the unit
- This is clearly a ripoff of the Jawbone Jambox Mini
- Almost identical styling, even down to the box it comes in
- Same general size and shape as the Jambox Mini
- Square, about 6″ x 2″ x 1.5″, weighs 8 oz.
- Top and bottom are made of a rubber-like material
- Speaker grille is metallic
- On the top are controls for previous, play/pause, next, and phone
- On the right are the power switch, mini USB connector (used for charging only,) an Aux In jack, and what looks to be a Micro SD card slot
- Red and blue LEDs to indicate the status (power, pairing mode, etc.)
- Bluetooth 3.0 + EDR, up to 33 feet range
- Built-in 800 mAh LiIon battery
- two 40mm speakers, total 6W
- Has an Aux in port, which means you can use it as speakers for other devices (including your laptop, etc.)
- Supposedly it can play MP3 files on a Micro SD card that you insert into the slot, but I didn’t have a chance to test that feature
- Build quality is surprisingly pretty good
- Feels solid, doesn’t creak when you squeeze it, etc.
- Pairing couldn’t be easier. Turn it on, a voice announces pairing mode, open Bluetooth on your device, and you’re done.
- Amazingly good sound quality
- Clear, not mushy
- Can get really loud without noticeable distortion
- Decent battery life. Got about 4 hrs. Takes about 3 hrs to charge using an iPhone AC adapter.
- Comes with all the cables you need (mini USB to regular USB, and 1/8″ aux audio cable)
- Price! (You get a lot for only $22.99)
- Although the sound quality is good, there are limitations
- Lack of stereo separation. Two speakers, but they are close together, so you don’t get effective stereo separation.
- Weak bass – If you’re getting these just for music, or if you like bass-heavy music, this is probably not for you
- For my use case (mostly podcasts/audiobooks with some music) the sound quality is quite acceptable.
- Poor speakerphone sound quality
- Listening to the other caller sounds okay
- However my voice comes out somewhat muffled and hard to understand
- Not a deal breaker for me, since it’s not really what I intend to use this item for.
- Advertised range is “up to 33 feet”
- In my testing I have found only about 10-15 ft, and that’s outdoors, no obstacles, etc., before Bluetooth started cutting out
- But my iPhone was in my pocket, and since we humans are “ugly giant bags of mostly water” (Star Trek reference!) I was probably blocking some of the signal
- 10-15 ft is more than enough for my use case, so I’m okay with that
- Amazon description lists two battery lives, 4 hours and 8 hours
- The actual battery life was about 4 hours, so maybe a typo?
- Seems to discharge very quickly, i.e. if you leave it off its charger, but not use it, it will still discharge at a fairly quick rate, requiring you to plug it in and recharge it.
- Given my needs and the low cost of the unit, these are acceptable to me, but may not be for you.
- Less than stellar On-device battery indicator
- There is no on-device battery indicator, only a voice that comes on when the battery is low
- Bluetooth battery indicator: It sends battery life information over Bluetooth, which appears as a very tiny battery bar next to the Bluetooth icon on iOS devices.This is very unreliable; sometimes it appears, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it shows bogus values (i.e. almost empty when I in fact just charged up the unit)
- Some reviewers found it annoying; I didn’t
- One reviewer said that it is annoying when being used in a car at night; I don’t drive so I wouldn’t know about that.
- Another said it makes it impossible to use in a bedroom. I don’t really see that as being a problem, since I would very rarely, if ever, use it in this kind of situation.
Lady’s voice announcing “In pairing mode”, “pairing successful,” etc.
- Some reviewers found it annoying; I didn’t.
- It is awfully loud though!
- This is something that only happens once when you first pair it, and once every time you turn on the speaker, so no big deal.
- Phone button can only answer, reject, redial
- Use your Mac (slower), or your iPhone/iPad charger (faster)
- Takes about 3 hours to charge from empty using a AC adapter
- Very good performance.
- A few cons but not deal breakers, especially considering the price of the unit.
- A definite Buy!