CES 2014: New Bluetooth Speakers I - M

01
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iFrogz Tadpole

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Brent Butterworth

OK, now here's the world's smallest Bluetooth speaker. I think. Also probably the cheapest one, at just $19. The company wisely doesn't make any great claims for the Tadpole, only that it delivers a "two to four times volume increase compared to a smartphone's built-in speaker," a company rep told me. It's available in pink, black, white, red and blue.


To go to CES 2013 Bluetooth Speakers A - H, click here.
To go to CES 2013 Bluetooth Speakers N - X, click here.

02
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iLuv Syren Pro

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Brent Butterworth

The Syren Pro, a bigger version of the original Syren, is designed to provide a big, ambient, room-filling sound. The $149 Bluetooth speaker has an upward-firing full-range driver and a downward-firing bass port. You can pair two Syrens for stereo operation.

03
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Infinity One

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Brent Butterworth

The Infinity One is part of the relaunch of the Infinity brand, which also includes nine new home theater and stereo speakers. It looks and feels like a Bluetooth speaker designed by Navy Seals. The aluminum body contains four 45mm drivers plus a passive radiator at each end to reinforce the bass. According to the Harman rep I spoke with, the internal battery's rated at 10 amps. It'll be available in June, along with some "luxury type" accessories like a carrying case. And with Linkin Park as Infinity's new brand ambassadors, you know the One's gotta kick ass.

04
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Jam Rewind

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Brent Butterworth

Jam, makers of the Bluetooth speaker most commonly sold at places where you wouldn't expect Bluetooth speakers to be sold, showed the cheekiest Bluetooth speaker of CES 2014: the $99 Rewind, which is shaped more or less like an audio cassette. (Although if you want to get technical about it -- and I know you do -- it's really more the size of an Elcaset.) Buttons on top control the operation. The Rewind contains two active drivers and a passive radiator.

05
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Jam Storm

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Brent Butterworth

"Why's that little thing cost $129?" I wondered when I first saw the Storm. But I bet you'll agree it's worth it when you hear it. The Storm is an ingenious combination of a surface transducer (you know, those things that can "turn any surface into a speaker") and a conventional Bluetooth speaker, with two active drivers and two passive radiators. I was shocked to hear that the active drivers, the passive radiators, and the bottom-mounted transducer produced a fairly seamless and surprisingly smooth response, with more bass than I've ever heard from such a small Bluetooth speaker. (Of course, the bass output varies depending on what you place the Storm on top of.)

06
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JBL Flip2

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Brent Butterworth

The Flip2 is a slightly altered and updated version of the original Flip, one of the best-selling Bluetooth speakers of the last year. (Why? Because it looks cool and sounds great, I guess.) The $129 Flip is "built a little different," according to a Harman International spokesperson, and "sounds a little cleaner." It's available in red, yellow, white, black and "maybe blue."

07
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JBL Authentics L16

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Brent Butterworth

So what was the coolest Bluetooth speaker of CES 2014? No contest. Not even close. The coolest by far was the JBL L16, part of the new Authentics line of products inspired by vintage audio gear. Relics like me immediately recognize the L16's look, borrowed from JBL's classic L100. The three-way speaker -- with a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter, a 2-inch paper-cone midrange, and a 5.25-inch woofer -- was tuned by Greg Timbers, the same guy who designed JBL's top-of-the-line, acclaimed-around-the-world Everest speaker.

The L16 incorporates AirPlay, Bluetooth and DLNA wireless audio, and get this -- it has a moving-magnet/moving-coil phono preamp built in!

It's also the first home product to incorporate Harman International's Signal Doctor processing for compressed audio files such as MP3 and AAC. I got a demo of Signal Doctor in a car that had a Harman-built audio system; it genuinely seemed to be reviving the high-frequency harmonic structure and improving low-freqeuncy transients (i.e., punch) without introducing any undesirable artifacts.

The L16 will cost $999, and the smaller, two-way L8 will cost $599. Both come with the classic black "waffle" foam grille. And -- this just keeps getting better -- classic blue or orange foam grilles are also available. Plus you can get an optional floor stand for it. Gimme!

08
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Libratone Loop

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Brent Butterworth

Libratone came out with the $499 Loop AirPlay speaker last year, and later this year it'll be updating the unit with Bluetooth capability. Although it hardly seems to need it. Libratone products are the only AirPlay speakers I've encountered with PlayDirect, a feature that allows direct streaming from a smartphone or tablet through the speaker's internal WiFi router, so you can have the quality of AirPlay even when there's no WiFi network around. The Loop has two ribbon tweeters and a single woofer with a passive radiator for bass reinforcement.

09
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House of Marley Liberate Bluetooth and Get Together

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Brent Butterworth

House of Marley showed two cool new Bluetooth speakers, the $149 Liberate Bluetooth (foreground) and the $199 Get Together (background). The Liberate's based on the look of the Liberate headphone; it's got four drivers in a sealed enclosure -- yep, there's no passive radiator, which is rare in a Bluetooth speaker. The Get Together is a two-way design with two 1-inch tweeters and two 4-inch woofers. The latter's out now, the former's coming in Q2.

10
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MartinLogan Crescendo

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Brent Butterworth

I bet the Crescendo got most people's vote for "best Bluetooth speaker of CES" -- even though such a vote was, sadly, not conducted. The Crescendo uses two of the Folded Motion AMT-type tweeters used to such good effect in the company's Motion Series speakers, plus a 5 x 7-inch oval midrange/woofer. It has Bluetooth, AirPlay and Ethernet DLNA wireless capability, a USB input, and a subwoofer output with a switch that automatically filters the bass out of the Crescendo for a better blend with the sub. Two ports on the bottom augment the woofer's bass. The solid MDF cabinet and real wood veneer give the Crescendo a classic "early days of hi-fi" look I really dig. An extruded aluminum remote is included, and the target price is $899.

The super-clean, powerful sound the Crescendo delivered in my brief listen caught me off guard. The bass sounded deep and tight, the sound was reasonably spacious for an all-in-one audio system, and -- incredibly -- there were no obvious sonic colorations. In other words, the Crescendo seems to sound pretty much like the speakers from which its design is derived.

11
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Matrix Audio Cube+, Qube2 and Qube Bluetooth

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Brent Butterworth

I really liked Matrix Audio's little aluminum-enclosed Cube when I saw it at the 2013 CES. It even sounded pretty good. Now the company's expanding its line -- in quantity, anyway. The biggest model is the roughly $150 Qube+ (shown here with the red grille). At far left is the new $49 Qube Bluetooth, which is slightly larger than the original Qube and has a 40mm driver instead of the Qube's 33mm driver. At far right is the $79 Qube2, which is sort of like two Qubes put together with Bluetooth added.

12
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MiiKey MiiBeast

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Brent Butterworth

MiiKey's $149 MiiBeast seems to have been out for a while, but I've never seen it before and the company was stuck in an out-of-the-way backwater of the show, so I thought I'd include it. The crescent-shaped speaker snaps onto the back of a tablet computer. It also acts as a stand, and folds up for easy portability. A fabric carrying case is included.

13
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Monster SuperStar

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Brent Butterworth

As usual, Monster's press event was heavy on celebrities and light on specifics, but toward the end the company did show the $149 SuperStar Bluetooth speaker. Shaquille O'Neal was in attendance to introduce the SuperStar, sort of, or at least to reinforce Monster's "Size Does Matter" slogan. The SuperStar has two active drivers and front and back passive radiators. The press release called it, "...simply, the world’s smallest high-end loudspeaker," which for me immediately brought Hitchens' razor to mind.

To go to CES 2013 Bluetooth Speakers A - H, click here.
To go to CES 2013 Bluetooth Speakers N - X, click here.

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