By Mike Riley on Tue, 03/29/2011
Bluetooth audio products have been on the market for years, though their momentum didn't really accelerate until the commercialization of the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) specification. Devices that support this uni-directional stereo channel streaming audio technology can wirelessly connect to a A2DP-compliant source. While most of these devices are phone headsets, a growing category is high-quality external speakers. SuperTooth's DISCO is one such product. Let's take a closer look at what the DISCO has to offer.
One of the first thing that I noticed was the DISCO's solid, weighty construction. This isn't a cheaply fabricated product, but one that should hold up nicely to frequent transport and use at parties, workshops and other social events. It's also unassuming enough to sit on a bookshelf or desk, ready for a host connection. The other attractive feature of the DISCO is in addition to being wireless, it also contains a rechargeable Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni MH) battery that performs up to 10 hours depending on the volume setting. My listening preferences made it last just just under five hours before requiring a recharge (long enough to last through most parties). With the inclusion of a durable case with a convenient fold-down flap exposing the rear power and audio in jacks. The case also has a small carrying handle on the side, though I would have preferred a shoulder strap that hooked on the left and right sides of the case to make best use of the case's mobility, but I was pleased just to have the protective case fit as snuggly around the speaker as it did.
And now the answer to the most important question - how did the DISCO sound? It sounded better than most external speakers I've listened to, but due to the limitations of the dynamic range offered by A2DP, it still isn't going to replace any high-end wired stereo speakers anytime soon. And as unintuitive as this may seem, even though non-A2DP audio devices can connect to the DISCO via the included 3.5-mm stereo male-to-male headphone cable, the audio broadcast over Bluetooth sounded much better in my subjective listening tests. Likely due to the proximity of the phone to the speaker, I found the wired connection introduce a minute amount of interference while not adding any much overall improvement in the audio fidelity. Using either type of connection, the bass booster added some punch to the overall sound (activated by pressing the Bass button on the circular front control). And in my opinion, the DISCO outperformed all but the most expensive Bluetooth audio speakers I've listened to so far. Considering the DISCO's reasonable price, that's quite a pleasant discovery.
The one design decision that didn't match my tastes was the aggregation of function buttons (rewind, play, forward, power on/off, add bass) encircling the audio volume knob. I don't have big fingers, and I felt like playing the classic Milton Bradley game Operation when trying to depress the right button between the knob and the metal ring marking the outer boundary of the buttons. I would have preferred the power button to be on the rear of the DISCO, and preferably more pronounced so I could locate it easier when accessing it. I would have also preferred a horizontal slider for the volume, and the controls to sit above that slider. But in actual use, the placement of the control buttons is mostly a non-issue since these physical audio playback navigation and volume controls are most frequently remotely controlled by the A2DP-compliant host device like an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.
Overall, the SmartTooth DISCO offers a great sounding and hassle-free, rechargeable battery powered portable speaker designed for mobility in mind at a fair price. While its physical control scheme and carrying case could have been tweaked, they are hardly showstoppers toward providing the ideal wireless Bluetooth speaker solution. If you're in the market for such a solution, set your sights on and tune your ears toward the DISCO.
Product: SuperTooth DISCO
Price: $149.00 US
Rating: 4/5 stars