+ Monday January 20th, 2020

A couple of weeks ago, we took a look at the BlueAnt X2 portable bluetooth speaker. In theory it’s the bigger brother of the X1 that we’re taking a look at today, but there’s a couple of surprises in store with the X1 that I genuinely didn’t expect.

What is it?

Like the BlueAnt X2, the X1 is a portable Buetooth speaker. But this one is more aimed at budget-focused buyers and the design of the speaker is more barrel like than the cylinder design of the X2. It’s just over 110 mm high and a diameter of approximately 90 mm with the same very simple controls as it’s brother. Sadly (in my eyes at least) it had the same charging fail – Micro USB when the cost difference to go to a USB C module can’t be more than a few dollars.

Pairing to the speaker is as simple as any other Bluetooth device in the current generation. I found that turning the speaker back on, the re-connection could be a bit hit and miss. I’m not sure if this was due to range from my phone – or if the Bluetooth in the speaker isn’t as good as it perhaps should be.

There’s a microphone built in for call handling, but I found the in-call sound very tinny and people on the other end were regularly experiencing echo of their own voice. So aside from a couple of quick tests, I was actively not using this feature.

Google Assistant

The Assistant integration was significantly more useful on the X1 than the X2. I didn’t experience any of the issues with the trigger (double tap the plan button) on the other model. I found the assistant voice quality to be tinny, as with the voice calls on my phone but in this instance I was happy to deal with it. I’m still not sure why, with a microphone built in that BlueAnt couldn’t have had a “Hey Google” trigger working from the microphone.

Being a smaller, somewhat more stout version of the BlueAnt Speakers the X1 weighs in at a whisker over 400 grams which means you can drop it in your bag and annoy your co-workers daily with your tunes in the office! I honestly never thought I’d want or need a speaker like this, but now I have a couple of different ones I’m finding reasons to grab them and turn them up.

The battery will last you over 10 hours at pretty high volume, I got nearly 15 hours from a single charge at moderate volume consistently. I wouldn’t go dunking it in a bucket of water, but a splash poolside, or a drink knocked over won’t do any major harm as it’s ip56 rated. Like the X2 a lovely little bonus to this one is the AUX line in if you’re perhaps playing music from a source that doesn’t have Bluetooth or you’d like batteries to last that bit longer.

The Sound Quality

At Officeworks you can pick one up for $79 at the time of writing this review, so you’d be excused for thinking that this is just a budget speaker. You’re right when it comes to the dollars you output, but I’ve had significantly more expensive speakers sound a lot worse.

It’s not going to rival significantly more expensive options, but to put in perspective the sound quality – side by side with a first generation Google Home speaker it stood its ground well. It does lack a bit of outright power to take over and dominate a larger space, but at 14 watts you wouldn’t expect it to do that.

I found the results were best at a mid-range volume where there is opportunity to drive the speaker reasonably well but not flat out. Impressively for a cheap speaker though, when you do turn it up to 11 there’s no real distortion – which really surprised and impressed me – to be heard unless you’re listening to something very bass heavy.

Aside from the bass distortion at full volume, I was impressed at how well the X1 handled everything I threw at it. I tried everything from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice through to Five Finger Death Punch. There were times where there was a notable lack of clarity to the sound compared to some of the other, significantly more expensive speakers I have in my life. In fairness to BlueAnt and this speaker specifically, set your expectations of the audio in line with the money you’re spending and you’ll be really happy with your investment.

What is it good at?

The BlueAnt X1 delivers really good value for money, great battery life and sound that is very acceptable for the dollars you’ll invest in this. The hardware is not as “pretty” as other options but it’s built to handle what you’re likely to throw at it during regular use.

The controls are so simple to use that both my kids figured it out without any coaching. This is going to be a really good investment if you’re regularly in the outdoors, or perhaps wanting a speaker for your kids to thrash and not worry about the replacement cost too much.

Where is it lacking?

I really want Google Assistant to be voice controlled, if I’ve got to press a button to trigger it – why wouldn’t I just grab my phone out? The other issue that bothered me with this is the Micro USB charging, that’s not a deal breaker for many but everything in my life is USB C so I just don’t want to be carrying another cable to charge a speaker.

Conclusion

You can pick up some really cheap portable Bluetooth speakers, but for just a little more money you can pick up the X1 or X2 BlueAnt speakers with solid sound, battery life and (provided your expectations are set appropriately) no buyers regret.

The X1 could be prettier, but it stand side by side with some more expensive options and deal with some factors of life through the IP56 rating that others won’t. The BlueAnt X1 is a solid investment for buyers wanting to dip their toes into the water of portable speakers without going the whole 9 yards and multiple hundreds of dollars.

You can pick one up for $79 at Officeworks. If you keep your eyes out during the specials around Christmas, you may well pick one up for around the $65 mark.

Phil Tann   Associate

Phil Tann

Phil is an Android enthusiast who spends most of his time reading up on U.S. Android news so he can get the low down on what could possibly hit Australian shores. Coming from a background in IT & T sales, he’s in the perfect position to give an educated view on hardware and software.

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