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January 02, 2008

Sharper Image Bluetooth Speakers

By Rich Tehrani, President and Editor-in-Chief

When you think bluetooth speakers, you likely don't think of the high fidelity sound these fine speakers produce.

In a time when consumer electronics device sales are on fire, it is almost impossible to keep track of all the peripheral products which are designed to work with devices such as Blackberrys, iPhones, iPods, etc. To that end, I recently decided to purchase a pair of bluetooth speakers to work with my bluetooth-enabled phone. The idea being that I would like to listen to music without having to plug my phone into a dock.
In this way I am free to still use the phone for other purposes while I enjoy music.
The specific product I purchased was the Sharper Image Bluetooth 2.0 Wireless Hi-Fi Speakers #KO500. http://www.sharperimage.com/us/en/catalog/product/sku__KO500 I was initially hesitant to buy speakers which at 40 watts for the pair seemed underpowered. After a listen in the store, I was impressed at the sound quality and the dynamic range of the speakers and decided to pick them up and try them at home.
Configuration was easy as I plugged the speakers in and pressed the bluetooth button and the blue light indicated it was pairing. My phone picked up the signal a few seconds later and I guessed correctly that 0000 was the passcode. (Manuals?? - who needs manuals ;) )
I must mention the weight of the speakers is quite substantial. They feel solid and sound it as well. I listened to a wide variety of music from classical to dance and rock. I was not disappointed at all with any of the titles I sampled.
In addition, the bass sounded and felt quite substantial for what I consider to be a budget price to pay for an amplifier and two solidly constructed speakers.
It is also worth noting that with the speakers and bluetooth device turned to maximum volume, there is no discernable distortion.
The speakers are currently on sale for $99 and at this price they are a very good deal. The retail price of $199 is a bit tougher to swallow but then again, this is a wire-free solution to listening to music and there are music docks which cost more and sound worse.
Of course the speakers do need wires from the right speaker into a power outlet and from the right to left speaker.
Even though wires are needed, one benefit of bluetooth speakers is that you could position them on a bookshelf while your bluetooth-enabled device is in your hand or on a nearby desk. In addition, no receiver or ancillary power amplifier is needed.
I found the range of the speakers to be less than satisfactory meaning that even when I was 15 feet away with a door in-between, the sound degraded rapidly and became choppy. However within 15 feet, my line of sight tests were fine.
This could be seen as a positive actually as you could have a few pairs of these speakers throughout the house with a single portable device powering them all. In this way, you would not have the concern of having the wrong speakers picking up the signal.
If there is a downside, it is that there is a bluetooth dongle is included. Nowadays it seems like most products have bluetooth built-in making this an unnecessary addition to the cost. Moreover, there is no speaker grill. This is nice from an aesthetic perspective - as the sound drivers look very modern, but if the speakers are on the ground and you have kids or pets, you might worry that a pen or other sharp object (a claw for example?) will find itself piecing a woofer. It is for this reason you may want to consider the extra $20 cost for a 3-year warranty.
In the end, I wholeheartedly endorse these speakers at $99 and even at twice this price they are a wonderful way to have the flexibility of optimal speaker placement with the potential of putting your bluetooth device wherever you like.
Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor in Chief at TMC (News - Alert). In addition he is the Chairman of the world’s best attended IP Communications event, Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO.
Mark your calendars! Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO — the first major IP communications event of the year — is just days away. It’s not too late to register for the event, which takes place in Miami Beach, FL, January 23–25, 2008. The EXPO will feature three valuable days of exhibits, conferences and networking that you won’t want to miss. So what are you waiting for? Sign up now!

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