“Takes care of your personal entertainment needs, and offers some eye-candy as well”
When it comes to mobile accessories, apart from cases covers and scratch guards the most popular category can be summed up under audio. So be it headsets or speakers, wired or wireless, most smartphone users today like to invest in after-market accessories to improve their overall audio experience. Device makers see this as a big opportunity and that is the reason today we are seeing a flood of audio accessories available for smartphones in Indian market, both from brands as well as generic ones. To create the much needed differentiation, brands are trying to innovate on design, functionality, as well as added utility. A classic example is JBL's Charge, which is a Bluetooth speaker system that offers the added functionality of a power bank if the need arises.
However, innovating on the design front is what seems to be the current fad, especially among the smaller monaural Bluetooth speaker devices. Accessory maker STK has launched a range of devices for the Indian market, out of which we have the STK Groovz SMC 970 Bluetooth speaker for review at our labs. While the speaker does offer impressive looks, we'll try and find out how well it fairs in the audio department.
Skillfully designed, the speaker comes with a transparent polycarbonate shell, which has been painted white from the inside to make it look stylish. The design and the shape chosen seems somewhat inspired from a water drop with a wide base and a narrower opening on the top. Aesthetically this design offers the much-needed differentiation in terms of the look-and-feel while at the same time, the shape offers better sound resonance as it leaves a wider space under the audio driver or the speaker to boost the lower frequencies, which is one of the key problems faced by small speakers.
The device sports a single LED module that works as the notification, alert and status indicator as well. With the transparent polycarbonate shell, the LED lights up the whole speaker unit and gives a subtle yet appealing look.
As for the button placement, the speaker has one single key on top that controls the call connect/disconnect function and preps the speaker for the pairing mode. The surprise is hidden below the speaker, where the volume keys and the media control keys are located. This is an odd placement for the controls, and though it's clear that this approach has been taken to avoid spoiling the look, it's quite cumbersome to use since adjusting volume levels during playback means lifting the speaker and then accessing the control keys.
Connectivity is handled by a Bluetooth 3.0 receiver on the device that makes sure that the speaker offers compatibility with most of the devices. The setup process is simple and seamless, and takes under a minute from the time you turn on the speaker. Apart from paying music, the speaker doubles up as a conference call solution with its integrated microphone, and can certainly be quite handy for conference calls.
In addition to this, the speaker also features a 3.5mm aux-in port for compatibility with audio sources that do not offer Bluetooth functionality. Then there's a micro-USB port, which has been provided for easy charging with any and all smartphone chargers.
Audio reproduction is handled by a 1-inch, upwards firing speaker, which is neatly suspended in the middle of the polycarbonate shell. The upward firing speaker takes care of the directional sound and offer a more balanced sound listening experience. In addition, the mid-way suspension helps in increasing the resonance chamber under the driver for a fuller bass experience.
In terms of overall power, the speaker unit delivers close to 3 watts of RMS power, which for its size is good, and users can easily use this speaker for personal music and audio listening purposes. However, if you are planning to use this as a party speaker, then you might want to look at other options. The volume levels offers by the speaker are good and while at the lower end it's barely audible, midway along the volume level, things really start getting powerful and by the time you hit the higher levels the audio stays strong and the bass levels also stay within the threshold of the speaker and there's minimal distortion.
Different music genres have different effect of the speaker’s performance and the Groovz SMC 970 is happy playing jazz, while trance and heavy bass tracks leaves it gasping for breath.
The company claims that the speaker can deliver close to four hours of playback between recharges, and in our music tests the speaker did deliver similar results with the music shuffle on and the speaker happily playing audio at about 50 percent volume levels. However if you are planning to listen to something powerful and more punchy the battery life gets reduced to about two and a half hours, which is definitely on the lower side.
To sum it up, Groovz SMC 970 is priced at Rs 2,999 and at that cost, the speaker offers good sound and nice looks as well. However, the low battery life and playback times are its key pain points. All in all, this is a device that one can carry to be entertained on the go, especially if you like to listen to music without earplugs. With ample sound to offer and that too with good volume levels, we think it's worth a look – with the battery life being the only gripe.
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