CES 2014: New Bluetooth Speakers N - X

01
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NYNE Cruiser

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Brent Butterworth

I loved NYNE's original Bluetooth bike speaker, the NB-200, when I tested it last year. The $89 Cruiser has been updated with Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, USB charge output for charging your phone, a carrying case and a better handlebar mount. Looks like a great deal to me.

To go to CES 2013 Bluetooth Speakers A - H, click here.
To go to CES 2013 Bluetooth Speakers I - M, click here.
 

02
of 17

NYNE Bass

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Brent Butterworth

The $149 Bass is NYNE's attempt to make a real backyard-friendly Bluetooth speaker. The 7-pound unit incorporates two active full-range drivers plus an active subwoofer. I didn't listen to it because NYNE's booth was in the middle of the deafening noise of the Las Vegas Convention Center's Central Hall, but it looks like it's built to party hard.

03
of 17

Ozaki Powow

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Brent Butterworth

Look, I have no frigging clue what that yellow thing is, so divert your attention to the camouflage accessory snapped onto the back of the iPad. That's Ozaki's $149 Powow Bluetooth speaker. The speaker has a magnetic back so it snaps onto the back of the included full-size iPad case.

04
of 17

Palo Alto Audio Design Rhombus and Cubik HD

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Brent Butterworth

Where'd this slick-looking stuff come from? The $299 Rhombus Bluetooth speaker/alarm clock (shown here in white) also has USB, Toslink optical and 3.5mm analog inputs. The $199 Cubik HD desktop system doesn't have wireless, but it's got USB and 3.5mm analog inputs. Plus a digital signal processor that the company says is tuned for flat response. Plus an awesome look.

05
of 17

Philips Pot and BR1X

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Brent Butterworth

The military-styled BRX1 (right) is a $79 Bluetooth speaker that can be, according to a Philips rep, "daisy-chained," which probably means you can pair two of them for stereo left/right or run the same signals into both to cover a larger area. That's an increasingly common feature in Bluetooth speakers. The design has two drivers and a passive radiator, plus a switch to optimize the sound for indoors or out.

The Pot at left is waterproof and drop-resistant. Tip it on its front and it puts the connected Bluetooth device (phone, tablet, etc.) in pause. You can get it in black, blue or hot pink for $59.

06
of 17

Philips Fidelio M5

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Brent Butterworth

With the $699 M5, Philips is taking Bluetooth a lot more seriously than most companies. Actually, Bluetooth is just one feature of the M5. It also has three HDMI inputs, plus coaxial, optical and USB digital audio inputs. It comes with a wireless subwoofer, and the tops of the speakers have battery-powered amps so you can detach them and use them as surround speakers. The cashmere covering on the bottom parts of the speakers was chosen not just because it looks cool, but because it had the desired acoustical properties. (That's what I tell people about my couch, too.)

07
of 17

Polk Camden Square

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Brent Butterworth

How can you not like a Bluetooth speaker that's wrapped in real leather and styled to recall the look of record grooves? The $299 Camden Square is part of Polk's Heritage Collection. incorporates four active drivers and a passive radiator. It also works with Polk's DJ Stream, so up to four people can pair their iPhones with it and create a collaborative playlist. Up to 128 other people using connected devices can vote on the songs on the playlist.

I mean, I'm no kid, but I can't imagine having owned this thing in high school and having to tolerate listening to some schlub's favorite Foghat tunes while I'm waiting for Zeppelin or Yes to play. Maybe kids today are a lot more sociable than we were ...

08
of 17

Riva Turbo X and Turbo S

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Brent Butterworth

In terms of pure sound quality, the Bluetooth speakers that most blew me away at CES were the Riva Turbo X and Turbo S, which I saw in a suite way over in the LVH Hotel, a good quarter mile from the Bluetooth speakers crowding the CES iLounge Pavilion.

Basically, these speakers sound like something in the next higher class of product. The tiny Turbo S, about the size of a Jawbone Jambox, sounds as full as a Jawbone Big Jambox (although considerably smoother). The Turbo X, about the size of a Big Jambox, sounds as robust as something much larger, like the B&W Z2.

Both have a Turbo mode that increases output by about +5 dB at the expense of reducing battery life by about two thirds. Wave your hand over the top of either one and the controls on top light up. They also have USB audio input, something I've never seen in a compact Bluetooth speaker. Two can be paired for stereo left/right operation or for dual mono operation.

The Riva speakers work their magic not just through expert tuning, but by using innovative engineering. Instead of the usual two active drivers, they have three: one front-firing and one on each side. Riva's Trillium processing splits the signal and processes it for a tastefully spacious sound while retaining a rock-solid center image. Four passive radiators -- two front, two rear -- fill out the bass. These passive radiators aren't just flat diaphragms, either. Each one has a bobbin and a spider, just like a normal active driver, in order to keep the diaphragm working like a piston to minimize distortion. An iOS/Android app selects music or movie EQ plus other functions.

Expect prices around $229 for the Turbo S and $329 for the Turbo X.

Riva is a new company stared by veterans of Aurasound, who designed some of the best-selling and best-sounding soundbars of the last few years (my words, not theirs). It's a joint effort with Wistron, a giant Chinese manufacturer with more than 700,000 employees.

Yeah, this might go somewhere.

09
of 17

Rocki WiFi Audio Adapter

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Brent Butterworth

Already got good audio gear but dying to get the multiroom convenience of AirPlay and Sonos? With the $49 Rocki, you can convert any system to do wireless multiroom WiFi audio.

The explanation I got at the Rocki booth and the info I later got off the website aren't 100 percent clear, but here's what I know. Using the Rocki iOS/Android app on your phone or tablet, you can stream music from any device connected to your home network, and you can also stream music from SoundCloud. You can use more than one Rocki to play music all throughout your house; one Rocki serves as the master and the others are slaves. Because it's WiFi, you aren't limited by Bluetooth's 15- to 30-foot range, and it doesn't apply additional data compression as Bluetooth does. According to the company, you can play music from one device in the bedroom and another in the living room, as you can with Sonos.

I hope I'll get a chance to give a couple of these a try soon -- it seems like a nice, low-cost way to upgrade an older system.

10
of 17

Samsung Shape M5

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Brent Butterworth

The Shape M5 is a 25-percent-smaller version of the M7 that I recently reviewed. The Samsung rep I spoke with didn't have a lot of information about it, only that it has a similar driver array with smaller woofers. It's based on the same proprietary Samsung WiFi multiroom wireless system that the M7 uses.

Of course, LG and Samsung always seem to introduce pretty much the same thing about the same time. Spies? Korean government secret economic policy? Great minds think alike? I don't know, but it always seems like they're locked in one of those lethal knife fights where the competitors' wrists are tied together, like in the Michael Jackson "Beat It" video. Anyway, LG launched the NP8740, which I didn't get to see, but like Samsung's speaker (and Sonos) it works off its own wireless network that interfaces with your WiFi network.

The big question is, what do these system offer (at least right now) that Sonos doesn't? Except for Bluetooth, nothing I can see. Not yet, anyway. And what do you want to bet Sonos adds Bluetooth this year?

11
of 17

Scosche boomBOTTLE H2O and boomBOTTTLE mini

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Brent Butterworth

Scosche's original boomBOTTLE -- a Bluetooth speaker roughly the size of a bicycle water bottle -- was a big hit last year, so Scosche is augmenting the line with two more models, the $109 iPX7-rated waterproof boomBOTTLE H2O (the smaller model shown above) and the even tinier, $59 iPX4-rated weatherproof boomBOTTLE mini. The former has a 50mm driver powered by an amp rated at 5 watts; for the latter, the specs are 40mm/3 watts. Scosche says the boomBOTTLE H20 can be submerged 1 meter deep for 30 minutes without damage, and it also floats, which would seem to make it the ideal kayaking kompanion.

12
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Skullcandy Air Raid

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Brent Butterworth

The utilitarian, almost World War II look of the $149 Air Raid makes it look like serious stuff indeed. The rugged, splashproof, drop-resistant speaker incorporates two 2-inch active drivers, and it's intended to play really loud. It didn't seem amazingly loud to me, although the sound did stay clean when I cranked it all the way up.

13
of 17

Sony SRS-X9

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Brent Butterworth

The $699 SRS-X9 is the largest of Sony's three new wireless speakers. It accommodates  clean, lossless streaming through WiFi DLNA and quick'n'dirty streaming through Bluetooth. It even accepts high-resolution files in ALAC, FLAC and PCM formats up to 24/192 resolution. It also has USB audio input, and comes with Sony's Song Pal smartphone/tablet app, which conveniently collects all your streaming services like Pandora and Spotify in one place.

There are also two smaller and less-capable models, the $499 SRS-X7 and the SRS-X5 (which wasn't on display so I didn't catch the price).

14
of 17

Soundmatters DASHa

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Brent Butterworth

I didn't get a chance to see Soundmatters' DASHa at CES, but even though I don't have a bad trade show photo of it, I decided to included it here because it's cool and because Soundmatters practically invented the compact Bluetooth speaker. It's a smaller, slimmer, less costly version of the already slim and small DASH-7. Soundmatters is billing it as "slim portable soundbar" because it's sized to work with Kindle HDX and HD tablets, so you can get much better sound when you're watching TV, movies or videos on the tablet. The price is especially nice: $149, which is $70 less than the DASH-7.

15
of 17

Stellé Audio Couture Pillar

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Brent Butterworth

The Pillar is Stellé Audio Couture's second Bluetooth speaker, after last year's Clutch. You can get it in plain white for $349, or in one of the DwellStudio designs shown above for $399. It has two 1.5-inch drivers on the top, a down-firing 3-inch subwoofer on the bottom, and the most elegant optional carrying cases ever seen in the Bluetooth speaker biz.

16
of 17

Vizio Smart Audio Products

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Brent Butterworth

Details are sketchy on Vizio's two new audio systems, but once you know that one incorporates a 7-inch Android tablet and the other a 4.7-inch tablet, you can imagine the possibilities. Anything that's got an Android app can stream through these, without the need to connect your phone or tablet. The plan is to incorporate Bluetooth and WiFi audio, and to get 'em on the market in the second half of 2014.

17
of 17

X-Mini We

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Brent Butterworth

The $39 We is a slightly larger, Bluetooth-equipped version of the Me, a wired speaker that the company bills as the world's first thumb-sized speaker. (Well, maybe the size of your thumb after you get your thumb slammed in a car door.) It's just a little teeny tiny speaker, but it does play loud enough so you can at least hear the sound from your smartphone throughout your hotel room.

To go to CES 2013 Bluetooth Speakers A - H, click here.
To go to CES 2013 Bluetooth Speakers I - M, click here.