Review: bem wireless Mobile Speaker
As a long-time Apple user, I’m used to seeing hardware get progressively smaller, thinner, and lighter, and for the most part, as with phones and laptops, this “smaller is better” attitude has largely been successful. Even camera lenses have been able to produce above-decent images at less than 1/8th the size of traditional camera lenses.
However one area where “technology shrinkage” has not traditionally been kind is audio. It seems no matter how hard manufacturers try, it’s apparently quite difficult to get truly impressive audio from a pocket-sized device. I’ll assume this has something to do with the laws of physics and leave it at that, as my understanding of how audio works fails to even understand how 100 year-old technology like a record player or telephone speaker can reproduce sounds, let alone the logistics of MP3’s streaming wirelessly over Bluetooth from an iPhone. And while I doubt you’ll be throwing out your home theater’s surround sound speakers any time soon, the 2.5-inch bem wireless Mobile Speaker has come as close as this reviewer has seen to achieving the Holy Grail of “better-than-decent” sound in a tiny package. That is to say, it is tiny, but doesn’t sound tinny.
The unremarkably-named bem wireless Mobile Speaker produces sound worthy of its $69.99 price tag, and provides a versatility and style that few, if any speakers in this price point, can match.
Measuring almost 2.5 inches square (about the size of a square tennis ball) the bem is available in 6 colors. The speaker is made of an ultra smooth material which is pleasant to hold, and the bottom is a nice piece of solid rubber. The bem is not light (considering its size) thanks to its 6-hour rechargeable battery, and not quite pocket size, although it would not be a problem to throw in a backpack for a hike or picnic. I have been enjoying using the bem on my desk as a nice upgrade to my iPhone’s speaker for listening to podcasts.
The power button is located on the bottom of the unit, and there are a set of touch sensitive controls on the front of the bem for adjusting volume and pausing your music. These are not “buttons” in the traditional sense – a light tap will cause them to activate – and I found the ability to pause my music from the speaker to be quite handy, especially when my iPhone was in my pocket. On the rear of the bem is a mini USB port for charging, and both an AUX in and out port, so in theory you could chain a couple of these together, although I’m not sure I see the benefit of doing so. bem includes the USB cable as well as a stereo mini cable for wired listening.
Sound-wise, I feel bad using the old “it sounds great for its size” disclaimer, as it sounds quite a bit better than its size, and certainly has a deeper bass than you’d expect. While, there are better sounding speakers for a similar price, what you are also getting here is the rechargeable portability, wireless playback, and small physical footprint that makes this speaker great for taking room-to-room, on the deck, out for a walk or to the beach. And yes, the bem can get loud enough to hear at the beach, although for indoor listening the sound is much better at lower volumes.
There’s not too much to complain about here with the bem wireless Mobile Speaker, aside from its name. However I can always find something to complain about, so here goes.
Video playback is a bit of a crap shoot with the bem wireless Mobile Speaker (at least wirelessly) as it occasionally suffers from a noticeable lag between the picture on your iPhone and the sound coming from the speaker. This is not unique to the Bem – I’ve experienced this lag with most bluetooth speakers I’ve tested, and SOMETIMES it works fine. I can’t really figure out a cause, although sometimes reloading the video you are playing or turning off and on the speaker again will fix it. However you CAN simply plug in a regular stereo mini audio cable to get around this delay, and I don’t often watch videos this way, but it is something to be aware of.
I really love the bem wireless Mobile Speaker , and it is sitting on my desk playing Spotify as I type this. The audio is above average, though mono, and I enjoy the untethered-streaming via bluetooth. Ideally suited for desktop or bedroom listening, the bem is loud enough and certainly portable enough to go on a hike, bike ride, or picnic and keep the tunes rocking.
Pros: Small, great sound, portable, 6 hour battery, multiple color options, solid build
Cons: Occassional bluetooth delays make video watching a crapshoot