Soundcast Systems Melody Bluetooth Outdoor Speaker Review

Outdoors-ready. Crankable. Friendly.

Melody outdoor Bluetooth speaker
Brent Butterworth

The Soundcast Systems Melody is one of the few portable Bluetooth speakers built for people like me, who live in sunny places. People who live in sunny places live in sunny places because we like to spend a lot of time outside. And few Bluetooth speakers are designed to withstand the harsh rigors of the outdoors. You know, rainstorms, sprinklers and the splashes when your kids have a cannonball contest in the pool.

Not only that, lots of Bluetooth speakers can fill a room with sound, but almost none can fill a yard with sound.

It’s for us outdoors-loving music lovers that Soundcast Systems created the Melody, a $449 Bluetooth speaker that’s sold as “weather-resistant” and “splash-proof.” What’s that mean? Soundcast doesn’t specify an IP rating for the Melody, but figure it can handle at least a light rainstorm, a spilled drink and a substantial splash of pool water. It’s also cited as UV-resistant, and its controls are waterproof membrane types rather than conventional buttons.

Want to find out how water-resistant the Melody really is -- and how it measures in the lab? Check out my measurements section.

Features

• Bluetooth aptX/AAC wireless audio capability
• Four 3-inch/75mm full-range drivers
• Four passive radiators
• 3.5mm aux stereo analog input
• Micro USB jack for charging
• 12-volt automotive charger included
• Membrane-type controls with Bluetooth device control (play/pause/skip)
• Dimensions 9 in/22.9 cm diameter, 9.5 in/24.1 cm high
• Weight 9 lbs./20.3 kg

Ergonomics

The Melody was designed to be lugged around. It has an integrated handle in the top. A rubbery pad below the handle lets you use the handle as a temporary cradle for your smartphone. Because the speakers point in four different directions, the sound radiates fairly evenly, so you can just plop the Melody down wherever and it'll perform at its best.

Mating my iPod touch and Samsung Galaxy III S phone with the Melody was easy, and I found that like my other favorite Bluetooth devices, the Melody re-mates reliably and quickly. It never required me to go into my phone's Bluetooth settings to get the connection going again.

If you need a quick primer on the advantages and disadvantages of Bluetooth relative to other wireless technologies, check out "Which of These 5 Wireless Audio Technologies is Best for You?"

Battery life is rated at 20 hours, which sounds about right. I've only charged it twice during the time I've been reviewing it -- once when I unpacked it, and a couple of weeks later when I just wanted to be sure it'd run for a few hours while I was embroiled in a DIY acoustics project. It never ran down. It's the first Bluetooth speaker I've used where I never ran down the battery. Nice!

Performance

There's one word that describes the Melody's sound: robust. It can easily fill a room or even a modest-sized backyard with sound. The sound is gratifyingly full, always, with any material.

The sound is also gratifyingly pleasant. The Melody's tuned for a nice tonal balance that rarely sounds too harsh, too thin or too bassy. Listening to Holly Cole's Night, I noticed that the mids sounded smooth and natural; all the charm and emotion of Cole's rich alto came through on tunes like "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues." The bass sounded big and round, never distorted, never compressed.

That said, the bass wasn't particularly tight or well-defined. But with a speaker that seems as party-oriented as Andrew W.K., I'd much rather have bass that's a little loose than not enough bass to begin with.

You're probably not going to party with Holly Cole tunes, though, are you? If you've got an ounce of sense, you'll party with tunes like Crayon Pop's "Bar Bar Bar.". I bet the Melody was voiced just with stuff like this in mind. The passive radiators seemed tuned just to do those big, deep bass notes in electropop and EDM recordings. The unit plays really loud on this highly compressed material without distorting or sounding thin like a lot of Bluetooth speakers do if you push them.

So if you're gonna play a lot of Deadmau5 at your pool party, the Melody is the perfect speaker for you.

I did notice Cole's voice had a bit of distortion or coloration in the lower treble -- let's call it "tizziness" -- but the sound wasn't excessively sibilant, just a little edgy at the top range of vocals. Same with James Taylor, too. He sounded smooth in the midrange, just a little tizzy on top.

So if you're gonna play a lot of Sinatra at your backyard wine tasting, the Melody isn't the  perfect speaker for you -- although honestly, you'll probably still like it a lot.

Normally, a 3-inch driver used without a tweeter might sound dull, and yes, most listeners would probably describe the Melody's tonal balance as "mellow." But the top end still has plenty of life. No, you don't get that natural, airy ambience you hear from a good tweeter, but there's enough high-frequency energy that even the super-high-pitched instruments like glockenspiel come though just fine.

I did probably most of my Melody listening with jazz, which is my day-to-day, go-to listening. The Melody sounded terrific on "Jane Fonda Called Again" from vibraphonist Gary Burton's Guided Tour, keeping the vibes, the guitar, the bass and the drums all in perfect balance. That lower treble coloration I heard on pop vocal music was evident only occasionally, and only on Antonio Sanchez's ride cymbal. The four-driver arrangement gave Guided Tour a nice, moderately spacious sound -- not real stereo per se, but more what audio engineers sometimes call "fat mono." In my opinion, that's exactly what a backyard speaker should do.

Measurements

For the full lab measurements -- including my water-resistance test -- click over to this section.

To sum it up, the Melody doesn't have smooth response, but it has an even overall tonal balance and good response in all directions. My maximum output test produced less consistent results than usual because of the omnidirectional design, but I got somewhere between 96 and 103 dB, which is pretty darned loud.

Final Take

To tell you the truth, I didn't expect all that much from the Melody. For various reasons, the review unit sat around my house for a couple of months before I actually listened to it. Maybe I'm prejudiced against white plastic speakers? Regardless, I find I'm now lugging it around the house like a teddy bear, so I can get nice, full sound indoors or out.

At $449, the Melody isn't cheap, but it's in a class by itself. Strongly recommended for those who want a good, easy way to get outdoor sound.