Review : Beacon Audio Blazar Bluetooth speaker

Sound and style collide for loud, damaging results with the Blazar by Beacon Audio

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Product Manufacturer: Beacon Audio

Price: $110

The Good

  • Battery life
  • Portability of the unit
  • Sound quality

The Bad

  • Easy to scratch/damage aluminum
  • Included travel case
  • Bass breakup at the upper end of volume
Generally, when someone thinks of high-quality sound, their mind doesn't immediately go toward portable speakers. An even less likely candidate would be any Bluetooth audio device. However, Beacon Audio undertook the noble goal of challenging consumers' skepticism. It set out to clear the name of Bluetooth speakers everywhere by creating a high-quality speaker. The company took the Blazar to Kickstarter because it believed in the product - and backers showed their craving for a better portable speaker by raising $300,000 far beyond the original goal. Clearly, the public had spoken: but is the crowd's decision to back yet another stylized, compact speaker a good one, or would consumers be better going with a mainstream choice?

The Blazar comes packaged in an attractive leather take-along case that prevents it from rattling around on the floor of a car or in a backpack, where it could be damaged. It's heavy for a portable speaker of its size, at 0.26 pounds, giving it a substantial feeling. The brushed aluminum body comes in either silver or deep graphite, lending modern flare to its look. Simply put, the Blazar doesn't feel or look cheaply made.

The Blazar can pair up with any Bluetooth 2.1-enabled device with audio-out protocols. To pair with a device, simply set the device to search for the Blazar, and hold the Beacon button on the top of the Blazar down for about six seconds. The Blazar paired with a fifth-generation iPod, and an HP Pavilion laptop running Windows 8.1 with no effort. While we were unable to test this, the speaker can also serve as a hands-free unit, compatible with Bluetooth-enabled phones.

The buttons on the top of the Blazar can be used to turn the volume up or down, as well as skip back and forth through a track list when paired with a device. The Beacon button in the center is multifunctional, and works to pair the speaker with a device, pause/play, or even answer a phone call. The buttons have a wonderfully tactile, rubbery feel, and produce a satisfying click when pressed. These buttons will pick up lint easily, but it wipes free with minimal effort.

During the course of using the Blazar, the Bluetooth range at full battery capacity was about 42 feet, which is slightly more than the advertised maximum of 40 feet. For those who wish to hook up the Blazar to devices that don't have Bluetooth compatibility, it comes with a 3.5mm audio jack for auxiliary input. Though we only had one unit on hand to test, the Blazar can also be paired with an additional Blazar unit to create a full stereo effect with true left and right stereo sound.

The Blazar is advertised to have a 12-hour battery life when fully charged. After fully charging the Blazar, the speaker played music for 11.5 hours before it began to lose connection with the iPod once every few minutes. At a little over 12 hours, it had begun to lose connection upwards of six times a minute. At just over 12.5 hours, the battery was finally fully drained and needed to be charged. The speaker contains a 1300mAh battery, which takes approximately 2.5 to three hours to fully charge. The speaker cannot be used to charge other devices.

The Blazar sounds like a much larger device. With two 50mm titanium cores, and a 60mm passive radiator bass driver, it handles treble without tinny overtones, and the bass is extremely rich and full for a device that stands only 3.8 inches tall. The volume was tested from 15 feet away while paired with an iPod Touch. At that distance, the Blazar can easily reach amplitudes near 105dB using several guitar-heavy songs from the Modest Mouse discography.

Sound degraded noticeably at peak volume, but this is to be expected with any small sound system, as the bass began producing loud crackling overtones that became unpleasant to listen to. Even then, the speaker still sounded good around 95dB. The speaker plays most genres of music quite well, but it falls short on songs that are primarily comprised of bass. Those who listen to bass-heavy genres may want to look elsewhere.

The one major concern about the body of the Blazar is its overall durability. The aluminum, while attractive, is not very durable. The unit we tested was a matte graphite, and over the course of a week of handling it managed to pick up one relatively deep scratch. Users are advised to keep it away from areas where it may be bumped or jostled if they wish to keep the aluminum in pristine condition.

One point of potential confusion for users is that there is a small "share" button on the back, which we had originally taken as the button meant to pair the speaker with a device. The "share" button is to be used when linking two Blazar units together, and the Beacon button on the top is the one used to pair with devices.

While a small complaint, upon the fourth occasion of putting the Blazar in its protective case, the zipper of the case broke. This may be a point of concern for those who are looking to transport the speaker regularly. Because of the fragility of the speaker, it leaves it vulnerable to minor scratches and dents when being transported.

Is the Blazar a replacement for an at-home audio system? No, but that's not what Beacon Audio set out to do with the unit. It's designed for the times when an expensive audio system is impractical, but the same level of sound quality is desired. Popping the Blazar into a bag for a road trip, picnic or just over to a friend's house is unbelievably easy. Using it as a hands-free device with any Bluetooth-enabled phone should be simple. The Blazar is designed for people who are on the go, and want to take their music with them, and it does its job perfectly. The Blazar is reasonably priced for the quality it offers, and a single Blazar speaker costs $110, while pairs can be bought together for $219. The Blazar is a solid investment for anyone who enjoys taking their music on the go, or is looking for a way to cut down on cord clutter in the home - just handle it with some care.