By Don Lindich
Week 47, 2016
Q. We have a Bose SoundLink Mini that we use with our iMac desktop computer. Recently the speaker has performed erratically, requiring lots of setting changes and turning it on and off. Just last night it developed irritating static which I was unable to cure. The unit is perhaps 3 years old, not heavily used and has never been outside or gotten wet. Do these things actually wear out? Are repairs possible and worthwhile, or should I just replace it?
-J.S., North Oaks, MN
A. I’ve seen many portable products of different brands go bad with time and use, and repairing them rarely makes financial sense. What hurts in your case is you probably paid quite a bit for it. Though it says Bose on it and is premium priced, internally it probably isn’t built any better than less expensive Bluetooth speakers from other major manufacturers. Most serious audio enthusiasts don’t consider Bose a high-end brand and I think you can get the same or better quality for less money, or much better quality at the same price.
The OontZ line of portable Bluetooth speakers has typically been my go-to brand for products of this type, and as the line has expanded with new products and features it has become even easier to recommend. They sound good, look good and are extremely affordable. All of them work with your phone for hands-free speakerphone calling and have a miniplug input to use with your computer.
The $109.99 OontZ Angle 3XL is the closest speaker to what you have now. It has the same 4.5-star Amazon rating as your SoundLink Mini, but can do much more. Since its introduction it has received refinements in drivers and tuning to improve sound quality, and it is powerful enough to fill a decent-sized room with sound. It can charge your phone or tablet like a power bank, connect with another Angle 3XL to make a stereo pair with wide-dispersion sound, or connect to a TV with a miniplug cable and use Bluetooth to send the audio to a second 3XL located across the room.
At the other end of the spectrum is the OontZ Angle 3, which is tiny, IPX5 water resistant and extremely lightweight. It sells for under $27.99 and is Amazon’s best-selling Bluetooth speaker, with over 11,000 reviews yielding a 4.5 star rating. Two colors are available and a sturdy, sweet-looking case is available for $10.
A new mid-sized model, the OontZ Angle 3 Plus, has deeper, richer bass output than the Angle 3, is also IPX5 water resistant and has 30 hours of battery life at 60% power. It is on sale for the holidays for $39.99. I like the Angle 3, but for $12 more I would be inclined to get the Angle 3 Plus unless I was buying a large number of them as gifts and needed to keep cost down. See all three speakers at theoontz.com.
Fluance Fi50 Bluetooth Speaker: This week’s holiday product highlight could also be considered part of this column’s Q&A for those who don’t require battery power and are OK with a much larger speaker. The Fluance Fi50 has clean, simple styling and attractive wood finishes that remind me of Scandinavian furniture, and its quality components make warm, dynamic and extremely clear music. I recently recommended the Fi50 to someone looking for a $300 system to play records. She added a $99 Audio-Technica AT-LP60 turntable connected by a miniplug cable to recreate her classic console stereo in a modern and portable package. It’s a phenomenal buy at only $199. fluance.com