Week 15, 2017: Three great Bluetooth speakers, scanning and restoring old photographs

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 15, 2017

Q. I am looking for a new Bluetooth speaker. I am familiar with your usual recommendations, anything new to talk about before I start shopping?

-K.C., Atlantic City, NJ

A. I have come across some especially great products lately, all with something that makes them stand out in a very crowded marketplace.

Kicker Bullfrog JUMP, $399: The weatherproof “amphibious” Kicker Bullfrog JUMP speaker is so heavy and solid it would not seem out of place riding on the back of military vehicle in a combat zone. It has speakers on both sides so it radiates sound far and wide and is perfect for tailgate parties, picnics, camping, boating, and the beach. It has a 20-hour battery and a USB connection to charge phones, which should make it especially popular at such social gatherings and it can even tune FM radio. A separate app can be used to adjust the sound and quickly tune radio stations. Like the sleeper hit Kicker Amphitheater speaker I wrote about last year, the Bullfrog JUMP has rich, natural sound quality you would associate with a high quality Hi-Fi system, not a portable device. Kicker Bullfrog JUMP on Amazon

Soundcast VG1, $149: A $149 price tag for a small speaker like the Soundcast VG1 may seem like a stretch, but let me assure you it is not. The Soundcast VG1 offers a high-end experience from the moment you pick up the box, with luxurious packaging that reeks of quality to the rugged feel of the waterproof speaker itself.

As for the sound, I was floored. No matter the music genre I tried, the Soundcast VG1 brought it to life with its full sound, tremendously crisp definition and impressive dynamics. It’s absolutely the best sounding speaker in its size class, and possibly in its price class too. Highly, highly recommended.  Soundcast VG1 on Amazon

iClever BoostSound BTS-09, $65: The iClever BoostSound BTS-09 speaker looks like a cross between a small table fan and a shower head. This may not sound like a particularly attractive combination, but I showed it to a woman I know to have particularly good taste and she immediately exclaimed, “I like the way it looks!” The sound is competent at the price point, though it lacks some stereo depth.

When you factor in the great looks, variable intensity blue LED nightlight, and its ability to play music from a MicroSD card slot, the iClever BoostSound BTS09 is a fantastic value. For some reason it is not on iClever’s website, but it is easy to find on Amazon.

Q. I have some old photos (1930s & 40s) that I want to get scanned at the absolute highest resolution and quality available so I can get high quality prints made suitable for framing. What scanner would you recommend for that? Maybe you know of a service I could use, rather than a scanner?

-J.R., San Jose, CA

A.I don’t know that getting into an expensive scanner would make a difference for an amateur if you are looking for superior results. It is not just the initial scan quality, it is more about having a color corrected monitor and software (which non-pros will not have) and doing a good job tweaking and restoring the photographs in software. You were on the right track when you asked about using a service. Your best bet is to find a pro photo lab that will do both the scanning and printing for you. Look for “photo restoration” services online or at a pro photo lab near you. Be picky, and don’t be afraid to pay more for someone who really seems to know what they are doing.