The Sbode M400 has numerous bells and whistles, combining features of multiple devices but lacks adequate bass.

We live in a portable, on-the-go world and media has never been closer to our fingertips.  You would be hard-pressed to find a teen/young adult without a smartphone and likely a pair of headphones.  Sometimes I want to have sound in my environment, without the need to place a device in my ears.  I have regularly used my Echo at home and Echo tap on the go, and I wanted to give Sbode a chance.  With first-rate packaging, high quality reported build and a very pretty looking speaker, I wanted to love this thing.

Sbode Accessories
The product arrived in an attractive 4 3/16 inches wide by 8 9/16 inches tall by 3 15/16 inches thick cardboard box.  The top and bottom of the box emanated energy, using a bright neon orange color.  I was pleased with the color choice, as it contrasted nicely with the glossy white panels of the box.  The cover displayed a matte black cylindrical speaker with an active water splashed scene.  I feel that they did a great job selling the product.  However, it was unfortunate that the design team missed the glaring typographical error on the cover “Muti-function Wireless Speaker.”  The left side panel demonstrated the pairing feature of the speaker;  you can link two M400 devices to create a “True Wireless Stereo” experience.  The right side of the box displayed three icons detailing the true wireless stereo, FM radio, and IPX6 waterproof features.  It is somewhat of a pet peeve, to call IPX6 waterproof.  If you review the Ingress Protection data (International Protection Marking), you will see that IPX1-6 are additive for the degree of water resistance.  Once you become IPX7 rated, the device can survive falling into water and various degrees of submersion. However, this does not necessarily mean that the device is jet proof either.  I know the semantics may be confusing, but my general rule is IPX6 is splashproof but not water(submersion)proof.

The reverse face of the packaging provided a great overview of the features, accessories, and specifications of the Sbode m400.  The device shipped with a 2200mAh LiPo battery for up to 8 hours of use, a built-in microphone, multiple inputs (Bluetooth, Aux-In, MicroSD), built-in FM tuner, and the ability to connect to your computer via USB A to USB-micro.  This feature will allow you to play music from your computer and charge simultaneously.  Opening the box, you will immediately notice the black mesh of the speaker and numerous icons along the back.Beneath the black plastic speaker mold, you will find a flat 42 1/2 inch black USB-A to USB-micro cable, a circular 42 1/2 inches long 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, a dual-sided, 5-panel instruction manual and a happy/not happy card.  I was pleased with the inclusion of the 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable and felt that the length of both of the cables was more than generous.  We have all had the experience of placing the speaker on your dresser, and the cable will not reach to the charging brick at the wall.  The speaker accepts 1A input and can be charged from your computer or a wall outlet.

The cylindrical speaker weighs just under 1 pound (15.5 ounces) and measures 7 5/16 inches tall by 2 11/16 inches diameter.  Along each end, you will find a black rubberized layer with a floating black plastic disk.  The ends resemble speaker cones but do not seem to move when the speaker is playing.  Located along the back of the speaker, you will find six 1/2 inch diameter buttons with a mixture of short, long and double press functionality: 1. power on/off (Long)/mode switch (short).  2. Phone answer/hang up or change Bluetooth mode (short), reject a call (long) and redial (double press). 3. Play/Pause button (short press). 4. The plus icon will allow you to advance to the next song (short press), increase the volume (long press) or change folder (double press).  5.  The negative icon will allow you to return to the previous song (short press), decrease the volume (long press), or switch the folder (double press). 6. The TWS button will allow you to start/end the TWS function (short press), or clear the TWS (long press).  Just above the power button is a 7 inch long woven wrist/hanging strap.  Just below the TWS button, you will find a 1 3/8 inches long by 5/8 inches wide access port, housing an Aux-in port, micro SD port, micro-USB charging port and a reset port.

Sbode end

Pairing the device to my iPad Air 2 or my iPhone X was incredibly easy.  I held the power button for 3 seconds and heard a female voice announce “Power On, Bluetooth Mode.”  I then navigated to settings, then to Bluetooth and found Sbode M400 at the bottom.  A female voice then announced “device paired.”  I enjoyed the initial experience and the ease of use.  The power button contains a blue LED and illuminated when the device was powered on, providing a visual cue that the device was functional.  If you forget about the device, it will power itself off within 10 minutes to conserve battery life.  Additionally, the company provided a battery indicator with four yellow LED to indicate 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%.  Combined with the battery widget on my iOS devices, the power monitoring features were very appreciated.  If you short press the power button, you will be able to cycle through the FM Radio mode, Aux-In mode and back to Bluetooth mode.  While in Bluetooth mode, the battery widget will display on the iOS device.  As expected, however, when I left the mode, this feature was not available.

I tried the FM radio first and was shocked that it was so clear.  There was no indication of the station frequency, and I had to short press the up/down buttons until I found a song I wanted to enjoy.  Similar to most radios, the quality of the station depended upon the physical location of the signal and the ability of the device to receive the signal.  One of the stations that played amazingly well was K-Love (90.3 FM).  As soon as my wife heard this playing, she told me to stop.  Unfortunately, I did not see the speaker for the rest of the week.  She used this in various rooms through the house, when doing activities.  She has loved the Amazon Echo but wished that it was portable and that it had a physical radio to listen to K-Love.  Interestingly, this feature became a #1 hit for her and she has discussed this device with friends.  We all wish that the company reversed the buttons for station search/volume, as long pressing the button is very clunky.  Perhaps another option would have been to separate the volume up/down buttons.  We also wished that there was a digital LED screen to detail the station frequency.  The higher the speaker was placed, the better the reception.  Also, simply holding the speaker increased the antenna reception.  Luckily the water bottle sized device fits perfectly into my hand.  Interestingly, my wife’s favorite use for the product was actually as a small gym speaker to listen to TV/radio.  She used this sitting on a shelf and used it as a dumbbell/weight while walking.

The speaker bass could be a little stronger for the size, and there could have been a more fluid transition between each volume level.  I noticed that there was a huge difference from mute/off to 1 bar of sound and then again from 1 bar to 2 bars of sound.  This difference decreased as the speaker volume was increased.  Using, the speaker was audible at 50Hz, which was a bit of a disappointment.  Humans can hear down to 20Hz and this speaker left out a lot of the lower range.  You will immediately notice this when listening to some more bass heavy songs by Johnny Cash, Josh Turner or Cee Lo Green Bright Lights Bigger City.  I truly expected better sounds at lower levels but was left wanting more.  At higher levels the speaker did okay, but it did get a little harsh/sharp.  Moving the speaker further away improved the enjoyment, but I did not like the sound over 80%.   We loved the radio feature and felt that this was a similar listening experience to car listening/driving.  However, we wanted more with Bluetooth audio.  Unfortunately, the bass was lacking and less rich than some of the other speakers on the market.  The build quality, the packaging and the appearance were top notch.  The ability to use the device in multiple modes was convenient, but the sound could use some work.

Sbode features
I read all of the 238 Amazon reviews/questions and agree with many of the plusses and negatives.  I did not appreciate 360-degree sound, as the speaker felt very directional.  There was a noticeable difference when the buttons were facing you or facing away from you.  It is true that you can utilize the speaker in vertical or horizontal position.  I did not appreciate much of a difference in sound quality from either of the modes.  Additionally, I did not understand the plastic/rubber end caps as they did not seem to do anything if open or covered.  I could feel sound from the ends, but they did not change the quality/volume if completely covered.  I found the speaker to last the full promised eight hours but only if you listened to below 50% volume on my iPad Air.  If I cranked the sound up, the length of life decreased.  At full power, I was able to get about 1/2 the life at about 4.5-5 hours.  The charging time was reasonable for 4 hours.  If I left the device plugged into an outlet, or to my MacBook Pro, it did not matter all.   I repeated this three times over the last two weeks and felt that the charge to use time was very reasonable.  We found that the call feature was average, picking up ambient sounds from the background.  This was also very dependent upon the location of the speaker in relation to the caller.  I did test the Aux-in mode and found the sound to be very similar to the Bluetooth tests.  In my bedroom/living room, I enjoyed the sound at about 4 bars on my iPhone/iPad.  This device may be a great choice for a dormitory room but is not powerful enough for a party/booming experience.

The appearance of this speaker is very similar to the JBL Flip and Charge speakers, but they do not have an FM stereo and tend to be upwards of 2x the cost of this device.  The winning features of this speaker are the inclusion of the FM capabilities and at a cost under $50.  The sound is neither bad nor great.  This may not necessarily be a negative aspect to the speaker.  You can take it to the park, to outings and assume a carefree attitude toward this device.  It is cheaper than other devices but feels expensive.  Honestly, it felt so good in the hand and so well built that I expected more sound out of it.   I did not have two of these to test the TWS feature and the left/right/duplicate options.  I have considered buying another device, just to test the feature as personally, this was one of my favorite features of the Fugoo Go Waterproof Bluetooth Speakers.  I would rate the overall experience at 4/5 stars based on all of the above features.  I think for another $20 dollars they may have been able to include a hardshell case like that of the Amazon Tap or the Sbode EVA travel case on Amazon and to provide slightly stronger bass drivers.   I would absolutely buy two devices to pair if they had a case and the bass was stronger.  As proof that it can be done, the bass was stronger in the Tribit XSound Go that I reviewed recently.  It was about $10-15 cheaper than the Sbode and was IPX7 rated.  The device did not come with an FM radio, which may be worth the price of the device alone.  If we are throwing out critiques, I would also fix the prominent typo on the cover!

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