Review: Adesso Xtream S3B Bluetooth speaker

Tablet speaker good for short range, lacks punch or clarity for everyday use (July 30th, 2014)

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Product Manufacturer: Adesso

Price: $50

The Good

  • Durability
  • Snug fit for iPad
  • Stand

The Bad

  • Controls/delay
  • Sound quality
  • Weak past a few feet

Finding a speaker purpose-built for a specific need is challenging. Even when a Bluetooth speaker can be paired with a mobile device, it doesn't mean that it's the right speaker for the job. When it comes to tablets, a speaker that can be kept to the side may not be the best purchase for something that's meant to be as portable as possible. So why not look for a device that can attach to an iPad or Android tablet, like the Adesso Xtream S3B speaker? Does the Adesso speaker provide enough of a boost to sound while retaining the original portability?

The Adesso Xtream S3B speaker is a small speaker bar that's designed with the speakers at the end, to allow sound to be heard evenly from the front and back. The bar design allows an iPad 2 to hang slightly over the edges, with the dimensions measuring 9.32 x 2.0 x 1.41 inches. The plastic and aluminum core is wrapped by a black silicone exterior for a combined weight of 0.38 pounds, which adds little weight to tablet when attached.

The silicone covering is great for durability, as the speaker can take several drops in a row without showing signs of any damage. In most cases, since so much of the exterior is silicone, it'll just bounce around a little without any sound interruption. There is a downside to the exterior, however, as it collects all sorts of dirt and hair.

The stand post for the Xtream S3B tucks into a hole on the side of the speaker. As it's just a single aluminum post that screws into the back to hold up a device, one would think that it isn't very steady. However, it resists tipping over quite well, and remains balanced, unless it's loaded in a top-heavy fashion and is pulled forward. An iPad 2 holds snug in the speaker, leaving little to fear that it might fall off or accidentally slip off when moving around.

Adesso states that the speaker contains 50mm neodymium drivers for "bass sound," but from the outside of the device they don't appear to be that large. Without taking the casing apart, the speakers on the end caps are the only visible drivers, and they appear to measure 30mm or less, based on the inner diameter of the plastic tube. For a speaker that consumers are dropping $50 on, this seems little odd.

Inside the speaker, there is a 1,800mAh battery which is said to last 10 to 15 hours on a single charge. During testing, it was found that the battery can surpass the 10-hour mark, even when left connected to a source device with no sound playing for a few hours. A total of 12 running hours was accomplished before the battery needed to be recharged. Charging time for the device was a little over four hours, which Adesso said could go as high as five.

Controls on the speaker leave something to be desired when operating the Xtream S3B. There are four buttons on the front of the speaker, below and to the right of the cutout for an iPad home button. The Bluetooth button, on the far left, doesn't actually do anything. Forcing the speaker tube out of the silicone sleeves shows that it's just a placeholder. The plus and minus buttons are used to change tracks with a single press, or change volume levels by holding them down. Power is controlled by the center button, but different presses also trigger Bluetooth pairing and pause/play.

When operating the buttons, there is a noticeable lag. Even getting responses seems to take longer than it should, when changing volume levels. Changing tracks results in a two-second delay before the song can be heard. One second of that is for the device to recognize the button press change, while the remaining is for the sound to kick on. To make it worse, the sound falls out of sync when watching streaming video from services like Netflix. In most cases it's only slight, but other times make it irritating to continue watching.

Sound for the Xtream S3B is a mixed bag, as it really isn't an effective speaker past a few feet. During the testing for volume levels, at three feet away and anything less than 100 percent volume, the volume levels can't be measured since they aren't greater than the ambient sound of the room. Drops from 100 to 25 percent at a distance of a foot away saw volume level drop between six and eight percent.

The quality of the sound also isn't that great. Listening to one end or the other, the sound is unbalanced, but that isn't unexpected. The issue is that there isn't any stand out signature, as everything sounds flat. One could go as far as saying the speaker has an overall tin-like sound. It doesn't help that when it's paired with a device, it lets out a slight buzzing sound with some static. Anything other than speech breaks up at levels above 50 percent of the speaker's capability.

For users looking for a speaker that's only purpose is going to give an iPad or Android tablet a little boost in sound, the Xtream S3B isn't necessarily a bad speaker to go with for some situations. There's a small list of things that a user will have to overcome to be able to get the most enjoyment out of it, such as overlooking the sound delay when watching a television show, or when changing a music track. However, the Xtream S3B sits out of the user's way, and doesn't detract from the experience of using a tablet. It's true that it is a little awkward to use with non-tablet devices, but for consumers who only require a little amplification, the Xtream S3B will do the trick. Just don't expect it to deliver great sound quality.

by Jordan Anderson


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