Whether you’re at the beach or having a party in the garden, music will no doubt feature within the ambience. In the past this would mean hooking up a portable stereo to an outlet somewhere or carrying a portable radio with an average quality speaker. Not the best way to get the best out of music I’m sure many will agree!
Thankfully wireless technology has evolved dramatically over the last few years and we have a whole range of portable speakers that can pair up with phones and tablets to stream all media and communications with little to no loss in quality.
Today I’m going to review the Kitsound Hive Bluetooth Speaker which Gearzap have kindly provided. Kitsound have a healthy collection of products in the portable audio market. They say “By understanding music we stay true to its craft. Pure, rich, incredible sound. We settle for nothing less.”
I am reviewing it based on my real world usage experience with a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, Note 3, S3 and a Google Nexus 7. So without further ado, let’s explore the Hive and see if the above statement holds true.
The front of the box features a nice image of the speaker.
The packaging is interesting, it mirrors a very similar design style to their website which is minimal, professional and functional. It gives a hint of things to come and sets high expectations of the product I feel.
- Bluetooth: v2.1
- Range: up to 10 m
- Play time: up to 10 hours
- Output: 5 W RMS (2.5 W @ 4 ohm x 2)
- S/N Ratio: 78 dB
- Frequency response: 50 Hz – 20 kHz
- Aux in: 3.5 mm
- Unit size: D49 x H64 xW165 (mm)
- Weight: 400 g
For those worried about potential sound quality issues because it’s only rated at Bluetooth 2.1 instead of the current 4.0 have no fear, this will be talked about in a moment. The speaker comes bundled with a soft pouch, MicroUSB cable for charging and 3.5mm stereo cable for to hard wire in a media player should you not wish to use Bluetooth.
A Closer Look
The Hive is made of plastic but the quality feel of it is very welcoming. It is matte textured and rubberised in feel. It has even more rubbery feet to stop it slipping and everything has a high quality fit and finish from the honeycomb vent design to the buttons themselves which have a very tactile feedback when pressed. There is a single LED which blinks blue or red to indicate its current status and when music is actively passing through to the speaker wirelessly it will be a steady blue.
The top of the Hive has 3 buttons. The left controls the call or media functions of whatever device you’re paired up to via Bluetooth. The remaining buttons control the volume. At this point it’s worth noting that depending on what device you’re paired with you may want to check the output volume controls on that first before adjusting the volume on the Hive – In fact this applies to all Bluetooth speakers. In my case I have been testing this on Android devices and as such once you pair a bluetooth audio device you can independently control just the bluetooth media volume as well as the volume on the speaker unit itself. By default the bluetooth volume is set quite low so it’s worth increasing this to the maximum to really get the best out of the Hive.
The left side of the speaker is blank and the right side contains the business end, from left to right: 3.5mm audio in, power switch and USB power in.
The underside contains the bass radiator vents.
Android sees the speaker as a communications and media device, the Hive has a built in microphone so you can take calls with it as well.
I recorded a short video demonstrating the quality of the Hive compared to a smartphone, in this case a Note 2 which has an excellent onboard speaker but once put next to the Hive it pales in comparison for clarity and bass. The difference really is night and day.
[youtube width=”720″ height=”480″]http://youtu.be/8ae4oVUSGsw[/youtube]
As you can see, the difference isn’t small, it’s huge. The bass that the Hive outputs is unreal when you consider how small it is and the clarity of voice and other instruments/effects in the background are perfectly audible without being muffled around like on other speakers. I mentioned that the underside had bass vents earlier on and if you turn the Hive upside down when playing something you will notice the woofer resonating quite a few millimetres. It’s pretty clear that Kitsound have put a lot of R&D time into perfecting the use of materials for the speaker components in order to live up to the statement I quoted in the introduction to this review.
Throughout testing I have been using it around the home and at parties. I found the rated 10 metre range to be accurate for Bluetooth streaming to work flawlessly and the speaker can be so loud that you will easily be able to hear the dynamic range of music from the end of a lengthy garden.
This is indeed a very special product and in my opinion, punches way above its £60 asking price and that makes it excellent value for money in my opinion.
It outputs a sound signature that will make people look twice when they first see it in action and some may still be unconvinced thinking there’s a bigger speaker hidden somewhere.
I was not the only one amazed by the Hive either. At one barbecue a guest was so impressed that they bought one for their barbecue several weeks later, it just really has to be heard to be believed.
Kitsound have managed to do what many other manufacturers could not. They’ve packaged big sound into a small speaker and priced it at a point where nobody will raise an eyebrow once they hear what it is capable of. I found the design very appealing and it’s a sort of timeless one too. I cannot see it looking dated in 3 years time, for example.
- Excellent build quality.
- Logical layout of buttons and connections.
- Excellent sound quality, I have not heard a better speaker in this class.
- Long battery life.
- Quick and seamless Bluetooth pairing.
- Included wired conectivity.
- Ability to handle calls via built in mic.
- If connected via Bluetooth and you plug in a wired media player then the wired player will take priority. Would have been nice to have a source select button.
- At very low volumes there is an ambient hum output from the speaker. This goes away at higher volumes.
- The included pouch fastening strap buckle broke within a week for me.
- Only volume control. Would have been nice to have playback controls as well to skip tracks.
While there are a few things I’d like to have seen featured on the Hive I understand that having them would also increase the price in most cases and the lack of them isn’t a huge issue for most. This is more of a personal preference than a widespread problem and because the Kitsound Hive excels everywhere else and leaves the immediate competition standing I am very pleased to give it the Editor’s Choice award.