Bluedio TS-3 Bluetooth Speaker Review by mark2410
Thanks to Bluedio for the sample.
TLDR? Try here http://www.head-fi.org/t/821971/bluedio-ts-3-bluetooth-speaker-review-by-mark2410#post_12907529
First Impressions: Is it me or is there a sudden explosion in the number of Bluetooth speakers lately? Anyway I have another one here from Bluedio and because I couldn’t decide which colour I liked best, the “black” or “gold” one both looked lush in pics so they very graciously said they could send me both. Winning!!! Right so acoustically they ought to be identical so I’m gonna be mostly working off the “black” one. It’s called black but its black and silver. Getting the box out it seems pretty nice, the outer sleeve then the book opening type reveals the speaker and the manual attached to the front cover. Whipping out the speaker there is a couple of cables, a micro USB and a 3.5mm male to male cable for using the Aux input. I doubt ill use it but it’s nice that its included.
In the flesh I can’t deny I’m a tiny bit disappointed that the shiny silvered bits are chrome plated plastic. It still looks very funky but real metal would have been super lush. I know more difficult to work with, more expensive and would have made the thing more heavy but you know. In the flesh it’s a seriously funky design, I could see it being love/hate to some but it’s just so different and quirky, super eye catching. I don’t know what I’ll do with having two of them but I can see me wanting to keep these around.
Pairing it to the phone and music comes out, oh this is so different to that LG thing I had. This is a proper 2.1 set up with a cute little “sub” driver on the bottom. It seems to be the same size as the disc control thing on the top. So when I say sub, yeah it’s still a little bitty driver so don’t expect room shaking lows. It initially seems much more linear, the bass of course can’t do low but it hasn’t any overcompensating a mid bass thumpy hump. Mids are very clear, nicely clean. This is really rather nice. Burn in time.
Source: Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and a Huawei P8.
Lows: Right away the bass is much more grown up. It is a small speaker and it doesn’t do any stupid massive mid/bass hump of thumpy irritating “bass” like somethings might. The bass presentation is much cleaner and I could see some wanting to EQ it up a touch as Bluedio have been very purist. That places it in a funny position, a more purist sound signature yet I’d expect people wanting a more pure and unadulterated acoustic balance probably wanting things much higher up the food chain. However I’m unsure what to make of how well it does with some Bach. Naturally the lowest notes aren’t there yet its composure and elegance is so at odds with its funky looks. Its quality is rather skilful though I still feel that I want to EQ it up a little. I think that’s more down to an upper vocal / lower treble spike than strictly down to the bass itself. The bass, is actually, dare I say it, pretty good. Now it’s still a little speaker and they can’t do real proper bass like your home theatre 10 or 12 inch driver can but this is quality wise, rather good. I’m impressed.
Firing through tracks and a couple of my favourites Beverly Craven’s “Promise Me” and “Hope” both sound very pleasing. It is a little light and it of course hasn’t the depth that the songs have in them but for something this size it’s so cleanly rendered. It’s not trying desperately to be something its not and could never be, its quality is very nice for a little speaker. It’s very well behaved and polite bass, clean and articulate. You can make it punch a little but this is not a bassy, thumpy, all the bass in one note thing.
Mids: Nice, very nice, very well suited to girly and very clean vocal ranges. Male vocals are very clean too but can come across as a touch lean with the lack of the mid/bass rise you’d expect. These are little drivers and they aren’t adding any warmth or richness at all. Tonally it’s all very much what you would expect of a larger speaker but the drivers just haven’t the size to quite match their lower vocal outputs. Yet I’m so pleased with how clean girly vocals are rendered. Cyndi Lauper’s “At Last“ album with her very accented and dry vocal style, gosh its really well done. “If You Go Away” sounds not just pretty good but bloody good and its taking all the willpower I can muster to not burst into an attempt at singing along. The tuning on this is so very nicely done.
The quantity of the vocals and mid range is going to be a little much more in comparison to the bass output. The balance is much more along the lines of a pure, audiophile like flatter response that is very pleasing to me. It’s just all not at all what I expected from this given its looks and it being a 2.1 setup. Additionally classical music rather shines, cellos are a bit dry but the detail and the tone are lovely for a little thing.
Highs: They are a bit more than I would like an a bit more hardly cool than I would like too. Once you get off axis that diminishes greatly as is the way with small speakers so it’s really intended to be used not with you having it pointed at your face. The treble ease with which it can rise up too when you throw on fast, poppy bouncy stuff it’s what the tiny drivers find easiest. There has also been a number of times when as volume I’ve winced at a sliver of sibilance. For long term use I’d be inclined to EQ the treble down a smidge and let those mids shine more. Its looks just scream fat blonde girl but it sounds so Krall woman. This really is just so nothing like what I expected. Feeding it nicely recorded, quality tracks and I’m very pleased with its performance. When the treble is delicate and refined it’s nicely rendered. It’s a bitty hard in presentation but while I know it’s on paper, not perfect it’s so nice and the good stuff. On the other hand Owl City’s “Cave In” the treble is hard, highly cutting and comes out too far forward. The bass of the track can’t come close to keeping up with the treble extravaganza that’s taking place. I was always pulled towards treble diminutive tracks.
Quantity wise, the treble is a smidge more than I want and especially at volume, the treble can cope easily. In rambunctious stuff with hard treble the treble just steals the stage too often. I think it’s either EQ it down or just stick to well recorded more gentle pieces. That is where it shines pleasantly.
Soundstage: Not too bad. While you won’t really ever mistake for a great big speaker its tonality is more that of one. Its presentation is more or less what you’d expect from a moderate thing. If anything it’s a little smaller as that bass is just so unassuming.
Dynamics: Well it can get loud but that bass doesn’t ever seem to have the same legs as the treble and to more you push it the more things veer to the upper ranges. The bass driver is capable of outputting more it just won’t increase at the rate the treble does. Vocals have a nice range of output but I found that I was listening more often to more quiet songs. The lower frequencies just didn’t have the same dynamic abilities as the upper ones.
Power: it isn’t naturally a power mongering device. It can spit out loudness but the inclination on the bass to polite makes it feel a little reserved and a little small. I don’t object as it is a small speaker and I think it much better to offer a purer sound rather than try to small penis compensate by massively dialling up the warmth ( cough LG, cough.) Much better to accept what you’ve got and do the best with it than faking it with over bravado. This is capable of loudness but it never was a room filling sound not even a small room. The lower end output can give a more realistic bass impression and it can be dialled up safely too without it sounding ridiculous. Power amp and its little bass tone dial, crank that baby up as much as you like to no ill effect.
Battery Life: Yeah I need to kill this section as seriously, it’s the most tedious thing to remember. Anyway they claim 5 hours, yeah that seems wrong because I got more than 5 hours out of it. Now the spec says “about 5 hours” rather than the more common “up to” so linguistic miss speak? I think 8 hours seems are more realistic figure to me but why they then say 5? I dunno maybe I listened to it more quietly than they think people will. Interestingly its standby time says “about 1000 hours” that is almost 42 days!!! It must be super power efficient when on standby.
Build and Durability: Well I can’t say I wasn’t disheartened when I found that the chrome bits were plastic, it made me a little sad. The trade off is that it is very light I think for its size. Light means it’s much easier to move around but it doesn’t feel like you could beat someone to death with it. It has no imperfections or anything my eyes nor fingers could find but it is unashamedly plastic.
Aesthetics: The promotional photos of the TS-3 look great, they really do and in the flesh, not quite as much. It’s very clearly a funky looking thing, both the “black” and “gold” ones both are really visually interesting. I don’t think the “gold” one is very gold, it’s silvery with a little hint of champagne. I’d just call it silver myself but hey they can call it what they like. As to which is the better looking, well I didn’t know when I asked for both and having both in front of me, I still don’t know.
Phone Use: Ringing up someone and the call volume at my end was really quite loud, the other party sounding very clear to me. However, they reported that I wasn’t very loud and that every so often they would get a yapping like sound that they said sounded like there was a dog barking in the background. Yeah, there was no dog barking so I have no idea what was going on there. I mean I don’t really think anyone’s buying one of these to use as a speaker phone but it would seem the other end wasn’t super happy with it.
Connectivity: The inputs this has is for the most part, standard. You get an Aux 3.5mm input and obviously Bluetooth too. So far so good right? Then we get a much more unusual option. You see on the back, so unobtrusive I didn’t even notice it at first. There is a little slot. A little slot that looks like a little micro SD card slot, nooo, surely not?!?!? Oh but yes it is!!! Yeah, seriously you can slap a little card in it and it’ll play back from there. So you can use this as a completely standalone music system. As we all know phone battery is a precious thing and this means you can have your music without taxing it in anyway. You can best control it using their own Bluebox app. A little irritatingly it’s not in the Play store but I get it, in China third party stores are the thing and if you scan the QR code in the manual you’ll get directed to direct link for its download. I’d like the link to it to be readily apparent on Bluedio’s website but it isn’t, I got over it. What I’ve net really gotten over is that I wish this had the same Wi-Fi capability as the AT had. Fingers crossed a Wi-Fi version is forth coming, if it does I may just wet myself with excitement!
Format Support: Okay, so confession time. I got lazy and the micro SD card a slapped in I think only had FLAC and mp3 files on it. I know I should have gone out of my way to test more but I just could not be arsed. I mean come one they are the two file formats that really matter anyway right? So the card play back, it’s really very good. You change it to the micro SD card on the Bluebox app and almost instantly the phone screen is filled with the card contents. It’s really snappy too, I just expected it to be slow and underpowered but it worked great.
Alarm Clock: Yeah you can configure the thing as an alarm clock, if only it had a clock on it, it would make a great little bedside unit. Though that would be battery sapping so I get it. Still it’s a bonus feature. Though changing the actual alarm sound I was less clear on. It didn’t want to seem to let me and while I could have looked at the manual, I, err that lazy thing again.
Value: It’s priced at £70 or US$80 so it’s beginning to pull away from the cheap end of the market. While I’m still miffed by that chrome being plastic I can’t fault its audio output. Its initial balance is a little light but it’s highly amenable to a little bit of EQ’ing and as so it’s a much more grown up acoustic signature while looking so funky. I’m also rather pleased by that micro SD card slot. It’s a little thing but it transforms this from a standard Bluetooth / Aux input speaker like there are so many out there. I mean there must be more with direct support for playing back directly from a card, I’ve never stumbled across one. Still what I find its best value feature is that linearity of the bass it’s capable off. It can’t do real lows of course but it’s very much more linear than most and composed, a very competent rendition. All of that, to me, adds up to very nice value for money.
Conclusion: I really like the TS-3. It’s totally not what I initial expected, from the looks to its sound I thought one thing but it’s just not. The looks, it says I’m a funky poptastic mean machine but its playback is much more mature. I expect some will buy and think with its 2.1 set up its going be all thumptastic mid/bass but it isn’t. That little tiny “sub” driver is really very pleasing in how well it tries so hard to be like a grown up sub. It’s desperately trying to be the very best it can and it results in a much more linear descent than you’d think. New it does trail off, it’s a 59mm driver so that’s basically 2 inches. It is a tiny little thing in terms of a sub driver but it’s good, proper, real decent stuff. It does in my opinion need an EQ’ing which I normally don’t like but really, just do it.
The crux of the TS-3 is its acoustic balance. Its default is too light in the lows and too ebullient in the upper end. That if you play anything that goes anywhere near sibilance it will leap up and it will be a touch ear stabby. Yes it’s more linear technically but yeah, no. I want little speakers to be easy on the ears, not stupidly warm (cough LG, cough) not to try and be something it’s not. The TS-3 is upfront, it’s a little speaker and the laws of motion mean that upper frequencies it can do more easily. Yet its itty bitt sub driver really is capable of doing a way better job of increasing its output and still retain all of its composure. Bluedio have something good on their hands here I’m just not totally convinced they have tuned it to its best.
So would I / should you buy one. I think I would actually. Its looks are misleading but I’ve been using this as my default speaker on my desk for several days now. It doesn’t match my big speakers obviously but it’s rather enjoyable. Seriously, it’s genuinely quite the pleasure to use. While its speaker phone had some mic issues, I was again told I wasn’t coming through great but it was good enough to carry on a normal conversation and them when the call ended, boom music came back. Just EQ up the bass and down the treble, I’m very pleased with its performance capabilities, like a real grown up speaker especially its low range performance. I understand why Bluedio might have been conservative with its output level but it can easily take a significant bump and retain its quality levels. It’s an unexpectedly, maturely capable little thing and I’ve been very pleased with it.