Kew Labs K1 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
- Handles high volumes well
- Water resistant
- Big buttons are easy to see/find/use
- The black rubbery part collects dust
- Not compatible with Alexa
High-quality speaker with a low pricetag.
The Kew Labs K1 Bluetooth speaker is pretty impressive for what it is. It’s easy to use and has better sound than I expected. It’s also better than any of the four other Bluetooth speakers I have sprinkled throughout my house, especially at higher volumes. It puts out a lot of sound for its compact size. At max volume, it’s loud enough that I worried it’d disturb my neighbors while I was testing it out.
I used this speaker to listen to the complete Hamilton soundtrack, a few episodes of Game of Thrones, a few podcasts and several random songs. Overall, I’m impressed with its sound quality. Everything sounded like it should – the treble ranges never sounded tinny or distorted, even when pumped up to a high volume. Nothing got muddled, and it didn’t sound hollow. The bass exists and is perfectly acceptable. Really, I have zero complaints about how the K1 speaker sounds. It uses two 5W speakers and one passive radiator speaker for bass enhancement.
As mentioned above, the Kew Labs speaker gets very loud at max volume. Indoors, it’s a little overkill, but it would be great for use outside. I kept it at 50% volume or lower for most of my listening, and its sound quality is consistent across volume levels.
The Kew Labs speaker is shaped like a pill with speaker mesh the front and back and a band of rubberized plastic around the top, sides, and bottom. I received the gray/black version, but it comes in three other color combinations as well. The front of the speaker is branded with the geometric Kew logo, and the back, which houses the device’s microphone, is blank. I like the way it looks, but I did have issues with the rubberized plastic gathering dust particles very easily. My favorite part of the design is how straightforward its buttons are. There are five of them: power, Bluetooth, minus, plus and play. The power and Bluetooth buttons are raised, and the latter three are inlaid in a contrasting color. They’re very large, and you can easily find them by feel if it’s dark. The top also has two small status lights: one red/green power indicator and one blue Bluetooth indicator.
The speaker feels sturdy, like it can survive a few tumbles. I didn’t drop it to test out this theory, but I’d be comfortable taking this speaker outside and traveling with it. It has an IPX4 rating, which means that it isn’t rated for dust and particulate ingress, but it’s okay if it gets splashed with water.
Ease of use
Nothing about using the Kew Labs speaker is difficult. Its buttons are labeled well, and it only has two inputs – one micro USB charging port and a 3.5mm jack for non-Bluetooth audio. When you first turn it on, it enters pairing mode and then reverts to that device when you turn it on again, if it’s in range. Its Bluetooth 4.2 technology has decent range and wide compatibility. Its 2400 mAh battery gives 8-12 hours of playback time per charge, so it’s fairly low maintenance.
The Kew Labs K1 Bluetooth speaker is a good buy. It sounds like a more expensive speaker than it is, and it looks good doing it.