Review: iLuv SyrenPro outdoor Bluetooth speaker

Outdoor speaker provides stereo alternative, but suffers from distorted sound (August 10th, 2014)

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Product Manufacturer: iLuv

Price: $130

The Good

  • 360-degree sound
  • Driver design/placement
  • Outdoor protection

The Bad

  • Rubber fit
  • Sound delay
  • Sound distortion

While most Bluetooth speakers are meant to be portable or desktop solutions, some are made to be used outdoors. Many of these speakers either take up a large footprint or are ruggedized, depending on the use, but other times they are simple meant for listening to a song on the porch. Of those set and forget types of speakers, what kind of features should be included to appeal to consumers? Is it huge presence and stereo sound? Or are features like weatherproofing and long battery life in high demand? The SyrenPro from iLuv attempts to include all of those features for the maximum outdoor experience. But does the SyrenPro succeed in trying to be all things to everyone, or will consumers be better off going with something smaller?

The SyrenPro is an odd-looking speaker, taking on a design that would be more familiar to an elementary school science fair experiment than a traditional speaker. There is a good reason for the volcano-inspired construction, as it places the driver at the top of the cone to give a 360-degree sound experience. The speaker features a slick plastic shell, with rubber highlights and rubber feet covers on the bottom. It's bigger than many Bluetooth speakers as well, at 11.61 inches tall and 8.35 inches in diameter at its widest point. It's also heavier, at a little over four pounds.

Not only is the SyrenPro powered by a single three-inch coaxial speaker at the top for a solid punch, but it also has ample porting at the base. Cutting away a large wedge on the front of the speaker, a large port that travels up into the body of the SyrenPro allows it to push large amounts of air at high volumes for some substantial bass. Below the port, iLuv included a cone to disperse the air coming out. On the back of the device is a carrying grip that's molded into the body, as well as a rubber flap at the bottom for auxiliary inputs, power and a mode switch.

The fit and finish of the SyrenPro is fairly good - until the rubber highlights are examined. It appears that all of the rubber pieces, with the exception of the feet covers and the back flap, are attached by a thin layer of adhesive. In some places it appears that the rubber wasn't completely pushed down into the channels molded for it. In other spots, there isn't enough adhesive to hold it in place. The rubber doesn't create any issues with the use of the speaker, but users can easily see the mismatched seams.

On the rim at the top of the speaker, the SyrenPro has seven buttons allowing users to control most aspects of the sound. There are buttons for track forward and backward, volume up and down, pause/play, power on/off and a Bluetooth pairing button. Each button performs its task when pressed, clicking down just enough that a user can tell the speaker should react. There can be a small delay at times, mostly when it comes to the pause/play, Bluetooth and power.

Speech announcing the connection of devices and pairing sounds like it has a slight British accent, which refreshing to hear when compared to a series of beeps other Bluetooth speakers use. Pairing with Bluetooth is easy, as the speaker shows up when powered on. There are some small hiccups with it, most likely tied to it being Bluetooth 3.0. The first time the SyrenPro is powered on, it takes some time for the sound to change outputs. Then when connects, the speaker cuts out for a second to announce its paired and then cuts back to sound.

Other delays were noticed as well. It takes about a second for sound to emit from the speaker after sound is started from idle. Audio on streaming videos would drift out of sync between one and two seconds at times as well. However, since this speaker is primarily meant to be used for outdoor situations where listening to music is likely the priority, the sync-drifting is unlikely to be an issue unless a user is gathering the neighborhood to watch projected movies in the backyard.

Stereo sound, as in two points of sound, is possible with the SyrenPro as well. Users can pair two of the speakers together for what iLuv calls "TrueWireless Stereo." The company states that it can take up to a minute for the speakers to pair, but the mode switches on the back of the speakers must be changed to indicate one is left and the other is right. Unfortunately, as we only had one speaker for review, it's unknown how well this feature works.

The position of the driver makes the sound signature of the SyrenPro different from other speakers. Given that the unit is designed to be heard without obstruction from any angle, listening from above the driver compared to the sides is much different. Standing above the sound loses some of its bass power and gains harshness. Listening from the sides, the speaker is fairly balanced, with the highs covering part of the mids. The harshness from listening above the driver shows up again whenever the source volume passes 50 percent, due to the severity of the distortion of the treble.

At 100 percent speaker and source volume, the distortion is so bad in most songs that it ruins the overall experience. Even at 50 percent, the shrill buzz is obvious. For a speaker that would most likely need to be at the upper half of its volume to cover the distances required outdoors, this feels like a significant oversight. Considering the idea that the SyrenPro has integrated technology that is meant to create sound balance for 3D listening, the distortion seems even more out of place.

Sound output for the speaker is fairly powerful as well, as it hit a peak of 95.6 dB on "Hunter" when tested from a foot away at 100 percent volume. The curve per 25 percent volume drop was fairly consistent, with only "Notorious" producing a shallower curve overall. Volume levels at a distance of three feet dropped nine to 12 percent from 100 to 25-percent volume at the source. At 25 percent, "Notorious" recorded 72.9 dB at nine feet away.

Battery could also be a point of contention for consumers, as the unit has some varied battery life. According to iLuv, battery life can be up to four hours on a single change. During indoor testing, it was found that the battery could last closer to 10 hours with source volume at or around 25 percent and speaker volume near 50 percent. The estimate by iLuv most likely reflects high volume levels during outdoor use. Four hours of life for a Bluetooth speaker does sound incredibly low, especially when you consider it takes about 4.5 hours to charge the 2,200 mAh battery. It also produced a terrible buzzing sound when the speaker was allowed to play until the battery died. It only stopped when the SyrenPro was plugged in to charge.

There's some weather protection is built into the SyrenPro as well. While the speaker doesn't have a stated IPX rating, documentation says that it should be splash resistant. Hitting it with a wet hand and a couple streams from a spray bottle had no effect. The speaker is also stated to have UV resistance. Leaving it outside in a high desert environment for half a day showed no effect other than some dust collection.

The SyrenPro tries very hard to be a good speaker for outdoor use. On paper, it has many of the items that would make for a great speaker between the design and placement of the driver and the stereo capabilities. It should be perfect during a barbecue or some time at the pool. However, the distortion and harshness of the sound coming out of it kills any enjoyment that music might bring in those situations. Considering the speaker costs $100 on Amazon, we can't recommend it. A small, good-sounding speaker that's better suited for indoor and some outdoor use could be picked up for less.

by Jordan Anderson


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