Review: NudeAudio Super M and M Bluetooth Speakers

Cool Looks, Easy Portabilty .... and Good Sound?

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The M (left) and Super M (right). Brent Butterworth

I first encountered NudeAudio Bluetooth wireless speakers not in a Best Buy, not on Amazon, but in a design boutique in San Francisco. What's that tell you about the audio biz these days? The product seemed to fit the setting, though. The "nude" in NudeAudio refers to the simple, no-frills design, something one can appreciate whether their preferred reading is About.com Stereos or Dwell. The company calls its philosophy the "anti-feature" policy, and I dig it.

The company's Super M seems based on customer feedback from the original M, which was cute but too fat and squarish to fit easily into most pockets.

Like the M and the other NudeAudio portable speakers, the Super M has a waterproof rubberized chassis, a handy rope lanyard (great for hanging the speaker from a hook or a shower knob), and controls for on/off, volume and Bluetooth mating. It also has a speakerphone function and a 3.5mm analog input.

Engineering-wise, though, the Super M goes much further than the M. It's an omnidirectional speaker with two active drivers and a bass-reinforcing passive radiator on each side. That's double the driver complement of most compact BT speakers. This design has a lot of pros, such as:

A) Don't have to worry about which direction you point it.
B) Provides optimal sound for people on either side of the speaker.
C) More drivers = more output, all other things being equal.

It also has some cons, such as:

A) Omnidirectional radiation pattern may annoy office mates and family members who don't want to hear your jazz tunes, and may annoy you if you buy your daughter one and you're forced to hear her One Direction tunes blaring from the other side of the speaker.
B) The eternal question: Better to spend X amount of money on six cheap drivers or three more expensive ones?

I got to try out an early production sample of the Super M. It definitely plays louder than the M, reaching an average output of 87 dBC on my max volume test, which involves playing Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart" full blast (or at least as loud as the unit will play before distorting), and measuring the average C-weighed output during the first verse at 1 meter. I actually got 88 dBC max, but at that level it sounded too distorted to me. In comparison, the Edifier Extreme Connect hit 85 dBC, while the M reached just 82 dBC. To put that in perspective, the Super M can do a reasonable job of filling a good-sized hotel room with sound, while the M's -5 dB lower output relegates it to use for light background listening, talk shows and podcasts.

That said, I actually like the M's sound quality better. It's very smartly tuned for relatively flat response at an angle, because the M is designed to sit flat on a table or shelf. The sound isn't loud, but it's surprisingly smooth and natural. The Super M sounds somewhat less smooth; I heard occasional distortion from it, and the voices on Toto's "Rosanna" had a subtly buzzy quality to them. BTW, the Extreme Connect sounds smoother than either one, and never edges into distortion the way the Super M sometimes does -- but the Extreme Connect is, in comparison, a little soft-sounding.

The Super M easily survived several dunks under the shower, although the sound gets very dull with the grille holes fill with water. "Duh!" you're saying? Well, the grille holes in the Sound pOp waterproof BT speaker seemed to clear out much faster. The Super M's rope lanyard also gets waterlogged. But it dries out in a few hours, at least in L.A.'s relatively dry climate.

But these speakers all sound pretty good for casual listening, which is what compact, portable BT speakers are all about. The Super M has the nicest form factor by 1,000 miles because it's the only one you can slip into a pocket or even a slim tablet case.

In fact, I'd say it's pretty much the perfect form factor for a speaker of this type. It also plays the loudest of this bunch. For sitting at my desk playing KNTU (my alma mater's mostly jazz radio station), I like the M best 'cause the sound is smoothest. But hey, what Bluetooth speaker is perfect?