The Soundcast VG1 is a very portable, compact Waterproof Bluetooth speaker with more sound than you would expect.
Music is ubiquitous and tends to be contagious. Even if the song playing is not your favorite, the rhythm and the beat can make you want to move. With so many varieties of music, I believe it impossible for someone to be unable to find something that tickles their fancy. As I have grown up, I have owned a walkman, portable CD player, MP3 player/iPod, a variety of smart devices and now an iPhone X. Speaker technology has improved making smaller and more portable devices a reality. There are times that I want to be able to listen to an audiobook or a favorite song, in private, and then there are times that I want to be able to blast a song and jam out with my family. Bluetooth technology has allowed for better communication between our devices and has continued to advance alongside our smart devices. Thanks to the Bluetooth protocols, devices like the SOUNDCAST VG1 Bluetooth speaker are available for review.
The product arrives in matte black cardboard retail packaging, with a raised silver mesh hexagonal speaker, on the cover. The VG1 device promises a Bluetooth, High-Performace Wireless audio speaker. The top, bottom, and sides of the packaging all list the product slogan (The Take Anywhere, Everywhere, Premium Waterproof Speaker). The back provides 8 logos detailing the features of the device: Pair two units for True-Wireless Stereo configuration, Hands-Free Speakerphone with Siri, Stream High-Def Audio with aptX and AAC, On-Board Play/Pause/Volume control, Shock Resistant Waterproof enclosure (IP67), External Aux connection, Multiple drivers for immersive sound, Long Life Built-in Rechargeable Battery. LIft the top off of the box and allow the black edges to fold down and out. Each of the flaps displays a vivid photographic image: computer, a lady lounging by the pool, a group gathered by a bonfire and someone walking down a boardwalk/planks. The fold down edges proved to be a well-utilized packaging mechanic. The inner orange box again lists the slogan on all of the visible sides but provides a stark color contrast to the black shell of the box. I have not seen this form of packaging before, and it was rather refreshing to see the variety.
Remove the orange instruction manual and enjoy the multilingual details (English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Dutch, and Chinese). Within the box, you can expect to find the Accessory Bag (at the base of the foam, beneath the speaker), a 37 inches long Black/White braided USB-A to USB Micro cable, a lanyard carry strap and a similarly braided 38 inch 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable. The black leather cinch bag measures 3 1/8 inches wide by 4 7/8 inches tall and is well stitched/crafted. The drawstrings are elastic and function well to hold the accessories. I wish that there was a compartment below the speaker for the accessory bag, but alas there is not. Before your initial use, make sure that you charge the device to full (1.5 hours the first time). The LED will tell you when the charging is complete when it turns off. The device uses Bluetooth 4.2 Low energy with A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP protocols and has a charge input of 5V/1A. The included 2900 mAh LiPo battery should charge fully in about 3.5 hours and the instruction manual states you can expect 4-8 hours of listening time (more on this below).
Beneath the manual, you will find the 7 inches long by 3 inches tall by 2 1/4 inches thick Soundcast speaker. The edges are a black rubberized material and the front and back are a silver metallic mesh (not cloth/fabric). The base has two rubberized anti-slip feet, which measure 1 inches long by 7/8 inches wide. Along the inferior edge of the right side, you will find the 13/16 inches wide by 3/4 inches tall access port. Opening the port, you will find the micro-USB charging port and an AUX in and out port. With the rubber panel in place, you can enjoy the IP67 rating of the speaker. However, if you have the panel open, the waterproof rating is reduced. Along the top of the speaker, you will find the 4 functional buttons of the device and the LED indicator light. To turn the device on (once fully charged), press and hold the power button for 2 seconds and the speaker will play a tone. Unlike many of the speakers on the market, this version does not have any spoken cues. If there are no paired devices, the LED will alternate red and blue LED. Navigate to settings on your device, go to Bluetooth and find the VG1 by Soundcast device. The devices will then pair and the LED will flash blue once every 4-5 seconds. Interestingly, the speaker can keep up to 5 paired devices in memory and will try to pair with any of the devices when turned on. The manual details the pairing of two devices for true stereo sound. Having only a single device, I was unable to test this feature. To pair with a second device, hold the PLAY/PAUSE button. I tried pressing the on/off button and was unsuccessful. Once paired with a device, it will not automatically re-enter into pairing mode, you will need to press the play button for 2 seconds. Once I figured this out, the feature was rather convenient.
No matter how attractive the speaker may be, it is only as good as the sound it produces. The speaker does provide reasonable sound but is quite directional. The sound is strong directly in line of the speaker but weakens as you move around the speaker. Turning to audiocheck.net, I decided to test the parameters of the speaker. Unfortunately, the low-frequency test showed that the lower range of the speaker was somewhat lacking. Human hearing is capable of detecting down to a range of about 20 Hz. The speaker did not have any sound until about 50 Hz, missing out on some of the lower sounds. The high-frequency test is dependent on both the speaker and on the age/hearing capabilities of the listener. To test this, I placed the speaker in front of my 2-year old daughter, 6-year old son, 8-year old son, my 34-year old wife and myself (37). I then ran the high-frequency test. My 3 children heard the high pitched sound between 17 and 18 kHz and my wife and I were able to hear at 15 kHz. For age, this is very reasonable and showed that the upper range was acceptable. With these tests complete, I turned to a few songs with heavier bass lines: Cee Lo Green “Bright Lights Bigger City,” Gladiator Soundtrack, Opening theme to Star Wars Attack of the Clones, and then Johnny Cash. With Christmas upon us, another good way to test bass is to listen to some acapella from Pentatonix (my guilty pleasure listening) and Peter Hollens. The speaker does have a good quality of sound but is a little weak in the bass department.
The sound output from this speaker was quite strong, much better than I expected based on the size of the speaker. The VG1 speaker will fill an average size room at roughly 3/4 volume on an iPhone. At higher decibels, the sounds became a little less crisp but were still reasonable. Once you increase the volume above about 3/4 volume, the speaker sound quality becomes sharper and is not as pleasing in close proximity. The sound recovers and is again pleasant when you move the speaker to a distance of about 10-15 feet away. When reviewing the volume, I noticed a definite/noticeable jump in sound from around 4 bars to 5 bars, which was odd. There was a smooth transition in sound/decibel level as you progress through the levels and then a very noticeable increase/drop at that level. The speaker is very responsive to changes from the iPhone X and iPad 10.5″ Pro and controlling the volume from the device was very responsive as well. Single pressing the volume up or down buttons changed the volume. The long press on this speaker does not adjust tracks forward or backward, similar to other devices. This was a little disappointing as this seems to be a standard feature on similar devices. Thus, to change the track, you must use your phone/device.
The speaker is capable of accepting a call by pressing the play/pause button. The microphone is not as strong as I would like and the call feature/speakerphone feature was a little underwhelming. To utilize the Siri feature, double press the play/pause button. Your smart device will beep, and then you can direct Siri to complete your desired task. Regarding the bass, I would rate the speaker at 3 to 3.5/5 stars. I would say that the greatest quality of the speaker is in the mid-low range and could use some improvement in frequencies from 20-50 Hz. For overall sound and tone, I would rate the speaker at 4/5 stars. As stated, the little speaker is very strong for its size and would work perfectly for a living room, dorm room, bedroom and for every day listening. The speaker would benefit from a little more bass. I do not mean stronger bass, I mean deeper tones and fuller sound. At 1 pound and IP67 water resistance rating, the speaker would be a perfect addition to a pool party or for a little music at the beach. Setup was easy and the features were standard for the style of device. The ability to pair up to 5 devices was a neat feature and the ability to pair two speakers for stereo sound is very similar to the Fugoo speakers I have previously reviewed. I do not think that you will be disappointed with this speaker and I would give it an overall rating of 4/5 stars.
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