The Bluetooth speaker market is heavily saturated at the moment. Considered by many to be an ideal accessory to gift someone, high sales of the popular audio devices have prompted manufacturers to come out with cheaper, smaller models to try and take the sale away from a more-expensive, higher-quality device. The KitSound Hive 2 appears at first glance to be a middle-of-the-road option, promising good audio quality combined with a relatively affordable price, but is it enough to satisfy customers wanting great sound with good value for money?
Cuboid shape, hexagonal theme
On the face of it, the Hive 2 is a large speaker compared to many others on the market. Measuring just under seven inches long, two and a half inches high, and two inches thick, it is barely describable as an easily pocketable device, but combined with its 420 gram (14.8 ounces) weight and its cuboid shape, it has no problems being packed into a bag or holdall.
Housed in a rubberized plastic casing with a honeycomb design on all sides, the Hive 2 has an unusual soft-to-touch coating, and a minimal number of buttons and inputs. On the top are four buttons for initiating pairing with another device over Bluetooth, which could also be used to answer phone calls; volume up and down buttons that also perform double-duty for switching between audio tracks on a playlist; and the last one is an illuminated power button. They may be few in number, but those four buttons are all you really need from a Bluetooth speaker, and they also have a satisfying click when pressed down into the casing.
On the front is a speaker grille, slightly obscured by the honeycomb pattern and with a tiny KitSound logo in the corner, with the left hand side including a logo indicating where NFC pairing can be performed from on the speaker, by placing a smartphone near that point. On the back are the micro USB and line-in ports, as well as the product information sticker, and the base side has more hexagonal holes showing the internals, and two decently-sized and surprisingly-grippy rubber feet that work well on the smooth desk surface.
Accompanying the Hive 2 in the decently-designed packaging is a soft carry bag to protect it in storage, and a 2.5-foot long micro USB cable for charging -- though there's nothing stopping you from using one supplied with another micro USB-powered device. Lastly, it also has a 20-inch 3.5mm cable for using the auxiliary audio input, a pretty neat "flat" cable that can be easily rolled up when not needed.
Surprisingly good, loud audio reproduction
Pairing the speaker is remarkably simple. Turning it on adds a green light around the power button, while the Bluetooth button starts flashing. Putting an NFC-equipped smartphone near the NFC image starts a quick pairing process on the smartphone, but connecting it using the device's Bluetooth menu is just as simple.
Inside the brick-like case are a pair of 40mm active drivers, producing 6W of RMS output, a total of 12W, combined with a passive bass radiator. KitSound claims this to give a "warm, full bass" and "excellent sound quality," something that it appears to accomplish. Trawling through the musical archives, this speaker holds up tremendously across pretty much any musical genre you throw at it, avoiding the tinny sound produced by some cheaper speakers in favor of a full-bodied audio experience.
This audio quality isn't sustained at the speaker's highest volumes, but it doesn't degrade too much. The manual claims it can kick out up to 80 decibels. In our tests, the Hive 2 actually reached volumes of up to 90dB, though it is distorting at this level, but reducing volume down to 80dB and below brought back the missing clarity.
Range, battery life, and other functions
As for the less important functions, it does connect over Bluetooth 3.0 at a claimed range of up to 10 meters (33 feet), which our test results tend to agree with, when unimpeded by walls or other objects. It includes a microphone, allowing it to be used as a speakerphone, and it works decently enough for most users.
The battery life of the Hive 2 was surprising, as it appeared to beat both of its main claims. The playtime of the device is said to be up to 12 hours from a single charge, though playing music at a comfortable volume showed it to last for around 12 hours 40 minutes, longer than promised. To go with that battery life, the charging time of 4.5 hours was also beaten with the test device, by about 20 minutes on average from flat.
While the majority of the speaker's capabilities are excellent, there are still a few issues buyers may need to know about, but they are all relatively minor. For a start, the design of it means it is highly susceptible to water, dust, sand, and other elements getting inside the casing and causing some damage, so it isn't suitable for some outdoor locations. Also, the supplied power and aux cables are shorter than they really need to be, and feel a little bit cheap to be included with a nicely-designed portable speaker.
The Hive 2 is an extremely capable Bluetooth speaker that punches well above its weight with an unexpectedly brilliant sound quality, a cool appearance, and an easy-to-use interface. The minor issues it does have are easily rectifiable or bypassed, and can easily be ignored thanks to that fantastic audio output.