Bluetooth speakers are just about everywhere these days — and good thing, too, seeing as headphone jacks and aux cables seem to be fading away with each new generation of flagships — but outside of the traditional almost always-overpriced name brands, it can be hard for good speakers to stand out from the pack. This is especially true for Bluetooth speakers that are portable and affordable, two of the many boxes the Sbode Portable Bluetooth Speaker checks off.
Bottom line: This pudgy speaker packs quite a few tricks up its sleeve, and its button configuration makes it the affordable friend of chronic track-skippers.
- Durable speaker gets impressively loud for its size
- Change tracks quickly and pairs effortlessly
- Sports built-in FM radio tuner, microSD slot for MP3s
- Volume adjustments require long-press
- Speaker shuts off after 10 minutes of silence
- Still uses microUSB to charge
Sbode Portable Bluetooth Speaker What I like
Sbode's speaker is a 360-degree speaker that's about the size of can of Coke or a reasonably-portioned coffee mug, and its packs a lot into its rugged, rubberized frame. The 12W speaker is the heart of the operation, powered by a microUSB-charged 2200mAh battery that will power a 6-8 hour music party. As to music sources, there are quite a few options for piping music to the Sbode:
- Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity with microphone for speakerphone function
- "True Wireless Stereo" for seamless-pairing stereo playback between two Sbode portable speakers
- 3.5mm AUX port for plugging in the old-fashioned way
- FM radio antenna and auto-scan tuner
- microSD slot for playback of MP3/WAV/FLAC songs
Ports and plugs are hidden behind a silicone flap, which is supposed to keep water out of this IPX6 water-resistant speaker as you take it to the beach or hang it up in the shower. It's splash-resistant, so it can survive splashes or raindrops, but don't go dunking it in the pool. The braided carry strap is short but durable, and easy to clip to the back of my backpack with a carabiner.
Rubberized plastic bumpers protect the top and bottom of the speaker, with recessed metal-topped grills at the top and bottom of the speaker. The middle is encased in a snug black mesh, where the four control buttons sit atop the mesh across the speaker from the carry strap and port flap.
Press once to skip songs is great, until the next song starts screaming at you.
The button configuration here seems fairly standard on first glance, but don't be deceived. The Power and Play/Pause buttons are as straightforward as you'd expect, but those plus and minus buttons have the opposite configuration from what most speakers and headphones with combined controls use. To skip the current song, you push the plus button once. To turn the volume up, you press and hold the plus button until the volume rises to the level you wanted.
To some, this non-standard configuration will be a turn-off, but outside of a few overshoots when adjusting the volume, I've found that I much prefer this setup. Being able to quickly skip a track or five in YouTube Music when your mixtape hits a bad stretch of recommendations is wonderful, and if I need to make a major volume shift, I can reach for my phone to adjust the volume at the source.
Sbode Portable Bluetooth Speaker What I don't like
Minor volume adjustments give me flashbacks to playing Storm Stopper in the Gatti's Pizza arcade. Time it right and you feel like you won big. Hold it too long and the speaker will roar at you like thunder. Don't hit it long enough and the music will skip to the next song.
I was never that good at Storm Stopper, but since I can adjust the volume on my phone, it's workable. Habit has led me to restart a song when I just wanted to ease the volume down a tick more than once, but habits can be changed.
Black may go with everything, but black is still boring. Could I get this speaker in a nice blue or a bold red, at least?
Sbode has made the speaker as unassuming and neutral as possible with the black rubberized housing, but I really wish it came in some of the fun colors other Bluetooth speakers like the UE WONDERBOOM or the Sony XB20, but the Sbode is also half the price and does more, thanks to its FM tuner and microSD slot for standalone music listening.
As an affordable Bluetooth speaker, I understand that costs had to be cut somewhere, but I do wish Sbode has sprung for a USB-C charging port so it could use the same cable as my phone. I have enough microUSB cables hanging around my apartment after years and years of microUSB phones, headphones, and speakers, but it'd be nice to get back to one cable for everything.
Sbode Portable Bluetooth Speaker
For $35, Sbode is a multi-function speaker that can go all afternoon and can stand up to a jam-packed gear bag or hanging off the side of your backpack as you wait for all the annoying people to go away and let you jam out in peace. It's not the boldest speaker, but then again, flashy speakers tend to get more unwanted attention, especially at the office or in the classroom.
Whether you want a Bluetooth speaker that can handle how hard you are on your tech or you want a speaker that can keep music flowing even if your phone is dead, Sbode's Portable Bluetooth Speaker gets the job done and they're cheap enough that you can buy two and use them in stereo with your laptop for backyard movie night or at opposite ends of your backyard barbecue.
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