Brookstone Big Blue Live Bluetooth Portable Speaker

Review Category: 

Review: 

Brookstone Bid Blue Live Bluetooth Speaker
$99, available at Target or $79 from Amazon

Features:
Dual Speaker design with internal Sub
White or black plastic casing that flows with iOS device design
6 control buttons on top
On and Off switch, Mini USB charging port, and 3.5mm audio jack on the rear
Microphone
Activity LED's below speakers
A2TP and ability to function as Speaker phone
6 hour battery life with 2-3 hour charge time

Orientation:
With the front speakers' grill facing you, the top possesses the 6 control buttons. These are arranged like a braille cell, so I will use this analogy to describe it. For those not familiar with the braille cell, 1, 2, and 3 are on the left side from top to bottom, with 4, 5, and 6 on the right.
1 - Previous Song Button, for iTunes and some other media apps
2 - volume decrease
3 - On, off, pairing, and action button. I will refer to this button simply as the pairing button below.
4 - Next song for iTunes and some other media apps
5 - Volume Up
6 - Answer call, call waiting, and action button

With the speakers facing away from you and the top buttons facing up, the center of the back possesses 3 important items. Starting from the left, there is an on and off switch. Think of this as a master on and off switch, whereas the top button one works with turning pairing on and off. The switch moves left to right, with the left being off and to the right is on. Next to this item is the mini USB power port. Cable is included. On the right is the 3.5mm audio in jack, though no cord is included.

Set-up:
Before connecting, instructions insist on charging the device first. This may occur either with the included USB cord plugged into a computer or into a wall outlet with the included adapter. Once fully charged, we have two methods of using the device, as a bluetooth or wired speaker. First the Bluetooth method.

Bluetooth
1 - Slide rear power switch towards the mini USB port. No sound will occur.
2 - Locate the Pairing button located as described above in braille cell 3 or the button on the left closest to the speakers.
3 - Press and hold the pairing button for about 10 seconds or more. Two things needs to occur. First you will hear an ascending tone indicating the speaker has turned on. Keep holding as the next thing you need to wait for is the LED's to flash Blue and Red. For those unable to see, this is why I say about 10 or more seconds. At about the 5 to 7 second mark is when the sound occurs. 3 to 5 seconds later is when the bluetooth pairing activates with the LED's flashing
4 - Connect your device as its instructions indicates. You will connect to a device named Big Blue Live.

This device requires one to un-pair with it before deactivating. Additionally, you will need to do this whenever you wish to switch devices via bluetooth or to a wired connection.

1 - Press and hold the pairing button for 3 to 5 seconds, until a descending sound occurs
2 - If ceasing to use the device, slide the rear on and off switch to the off position, which is away from the mini USB port

Wired Connection:
If you wish to connect a device to the speakers, you must make sure the device is not actively paired to any bluetooth devices. Similarly, do not try to pair any bluetooth devices to the speakers during wired operations, or you will lose the wired input. The device’s protocol places bluetooth connectivity as the preferred method for input. Additionally, you lose the ability to use the 6 control buttons during wired operations.
1 - Un-pair any bluetooth device connected to the speakers
2 - Connect the device to the speakers with an audio cable
3 - if the on and off switch is in the off position, slide it to the on position
4 - Press and hold the pairing button for 5 to 7 seconds, or until you hear the ascending tone
5 - You should now be able to hear your audio

Review:
Overall, I am not overly impressed with the Big Blue Live by Brookstone, but yet would recommend it for anyone looking for a sub $100 portable bluetooth speaker. The main draw for me stemmed from its availability at a physical store location, Target. I live in a town that offers very little in terms of consumer electronics, and even less for iOS devices. When I noticed this device was available, I figured the risk would be minimal as I can always return it. Secondly, my goal is to turn my iPhone into a speaker phone. Finally, I was looking for cheaper alternative to devices like the Jawbone Jambox. Other reviews on the internet rates this speaker has a good buy, and comparable sound quality as the Jawbone Jambox.

Physical Appearance and Size:
The The Big Blue Live will easily store in a backpack or larger bag. As a user of satchels and purses in the medium to small range, I cannot fit both the speakers and my iPad with the keyboard case both inside. The plastic construction feels solid enough, but I would not try putting the durability to any tests. The general purpose for the device involves portability and remaining stationary when in use. I doubt the device would endure any rough handling and definitely not inclement weather or wet environments. On a major positive note, the buttons are big enough where I was able to place braille labels on each of the them for identification.

Loudness:
For such a compact unit, it offers a fairly large amount of sound. I live in a 2000 square foot two story home with stairs in the middle. Placing the speakers on the middle of the stairs and set to roughly the loudest setting, music from iTunes and Pandora carried very nicely. On a different note, during speaker phone mode, sound filled my office but not much more before it became difficult to hear. It is not overpowering by any stretch of the imagination, but will be able to function as a great portable option for the backyard or other tighter setting.

Sound Clarity:
If you are looking for something that produces a clean and crisp sound at the higher pitches, keep looking. A general description of the sound is muffled or bass heavy. Understand I am not an audio expert, but I do know what I like. For test songs, I chose three artists, Smashing Pumkins, children's, and IZ. I really enjoyed listening to the Smashing Pumkins with the speakers. The extra bass provided by the unit blended very well. However, listening to children's songs and IZ left me wanting. On a positive, my 3 year old enjoyed carrying around the speakers with Elmo playing.

Speakerphone:
As for the speaker phone function, it seems Brookstone added this as an afterthought. Call clarity lacks in part to the muffled output. Additionally, the microphone leaves a lot to be desired. Optimal range for the mic occurred at 3 to 6 feet, and slightly above the speaker. Unfortunately, even with this determined, callers reported that I was speaking from inside an echo chamber. This seemed to increased outside or inside that 3 to 6 foot range. Slightly differently, FaceTime calls and Skype did not suffer these same experiences to the same degree as voice calls.

Other Items:
Siri cannot be activated via the control buttons on the speaker. Yes, you can answer calls, switch to call waiting, and hang up conversations, but that is the limit of the action button.

Comparisons:
While general reviews from across the internet rate this speaker as possessing many benefits over Jawbone Jambox thanks to loudness and price point, I cannot make those comparisons. However, I have the JBL Flip, which features a similar price point of $99 and similar features. Side by side audio quality and loudness will show JBL winning hands down. Similarly, JBL's speaker phone capabilities and Siri controls once again has JBL winning. About the only area the Big Blue Live comes out on top is the battery life and utilization of the USB mini cable.

Devices Accessory Was Used With: 

iPhone
iPad
iPad

Rating: 

3 Stars

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