With the Soundcast VG5 you don’t have to worry about what to arrive at the party, you are the party.
As school let out and we moved into summer, my children moved to outdoor activities. Whether playing in the sprinkler, setting up slip and slide tarps, walking on a slack line between two trees, having a water gun fight or simply enjoying an evening outdoors, our family wanted a speaker that could excite and amaze. The Soundcast VGX series VG5 Soundcast speaker arrived in a rather large 11 1/2 inches square by 22 3/4 inches tall cardboard box. The upper 3 1/4 inches tall black section wrapped around the entirety of the box. Within the dead space of each panel and the top black panel, the company displayed “VG5 Portable Outdoor Full-Range Bluetooth Loudspeaker System with Subwoofer.” The front and back panels displayed a top-down and front-view image of the tower-style speaker upon a brown cardboard background. The panel detailed the ability to pair two of the VG5 units for true Wireless Stereo configuration, the presence of a capacitive touch keypad, and high-def audio with aptX/AAC and connects via Bluetooth or NFC. Beyond these features, the packaging promised weather resistance, 15 hours of playtime, 360-degree driver array, a 6” down-firing woofer and auxiliary input.
The right side panel provided the product specifications: Premium drivers (One 6” long-throw down-firing woofer and Two 3” full-range transversals-firing 360 degree array drivers), Amplifiers (60W RMS Total System, BiAMP configuration, Bluetooth Hi-Def AAC/APTX codecs), Interface (backlit multi-modal capacitive touch keypad, on-board play/pause controls, power, muting, Bluetooth and TWS pairing controls, interactive LED fuel gauge), battery (High-Capacity rechargeable internal battery with 110/220V AC adapter, Play from battery or while plugged in), Technology (Built-in Bluetooth 4.2 technology with 8 memory slots, Qualcomm TWS circuitry, Bluetooth hi-def AAC/APTX codecs, 24bit DSP), connections (Aux input 3.5mm jack, DC power input, USB power bank charging output), weight/dimensions (7 3/4 inches by 7 3/4 inches by 17 inches or 197 x 197 x 432mm and 11.7lb/5.3kg weight). The last side provided six boxes detailing the features of the speaker, but in six different languages. Beneath the boxes, you will find an SKU sticker and many of the traditional product manufacturing labels.
When I opened the top of the box, I was greeted by a large styrofoam lid containing a multilingual instruction manual, blue battery, power adaptor with 71 inches long cable and a variety of world plugs. I removed the styrofoam and pulled out the 17 inches tall plastic-wrapped speaker. Using a Phillips #3 screwdriver I removed the four screws holding the base onto the speaker, connected the battery to the VG5 connector, routed the wires through the slot in the foam insert, and then re-installed the battery cover. With the battery installed, I plugged the type A wall outlet into the wall, the DC plug into the DC input port, and then charged the speaker for a full five hours. Once the device was fully charged, I touched the centralized power button for two seconds, tapped the Bluetooth button along the left, navigated to Settings, Bluetooth and then chose VG5 by Soundcast from the list. The LED conveniently turned a solid blue and alerted me to the paired status of the speaker. If you wish to pair a second device, hold the Bluetooth button for 2 seconds to re-enter pairing mode. If you wish to wipe the memory, hold the same button for 10 seconds and wait for the beep. If you need to connect to the speaker via 3.5mm input, simply plug the included 3.5mm cable between your smart device and speaker. As an added bonus, as you tap/hold the “+” icon or the “-“ icon to adjust the volume, the VG5 speaker will display the volume level visually. Lastly, they included a convenient keyboard lock feature. Press and hold the mute button for five seconds to activate the child lock feature, or ten seconds for the auto lock feature. When active, you can control the device from your smart device but little fingers cannot mess with the speaker.
I was impressed with the design of the speaker. The sleek tactical black color was a mix of glossy and matte black. Similar to other rubberized speakers/phone cases, this case appeared to attract dust/lint and fingerprints. The upper capacitive touch surface was responsive and allowed me to play/pause/mute music, to turn up/down the volume and to add additional Bluetooth pairings. The rubberized surface was well designed and appeared to support the IPX64 rating of the speaker. I loved the carry handle along the upper back of the speaker but wished that there was a small lip to curl my fingers under. The smooth surface of the carry handle relied solely upon a solid grip strength, which made it a little difficult to carry for longer distances. For the price, I found it odd that the speaker lacked track selection button and a speakerphone option. Evaluating the lower rear panel of the case, you will find a small rubberized access port. Behind this port, you will find a 3.5mm aux-in port, USB output port, pinhole reset button, and the DC-in port.
To test the sound output, I chose to use the audiocheck.net website. I used the Low-Frequency Response and Subwoofer Audio Test (10-200 Hz) and heard the reassuring rumble of bass at 20Hz. Utilizing the High-Frequency Response and Hearing Audio Test (22-8 kHz), I was able to hear the test tone at 15kHz, which was the upper limit of my hearing. I used the subwoofer crossover noise sweep to show that the sweep remained even from 50Hz through 400Hz. I did not appreciate any changes in the level of the sound, which showed a balance between the subwoofer and the other two 3 inch drivers. Throughout the testing, I was pleased with the upper volume but a little disappointed when I wanted to listen to softer/quieter music. Sound became audible at 3 clicks on my iPhone XS Max and then quickly expanded. Designed for the outdoors/larger crowds/rooms, the speaker worked amazingly well on my deck, while presenting to a bunch of middle schoolers about the dangers of Juuling, and for my portable projector speaker. While enjoying their slip and slide, my kids and I turned to the new Aladdin soundtrack, listened to Trolls “Get Back Up Again,” Imagine Dragons “Believer” and “Natural,” and to a little Auli’i Cravalho Moana. When it was my turn, I listened to some classics by Johnny Cash, CCR, “Carribean Blue” by Enya, “Bright Lights Bigger City” by CeeLo Green, the country version of “Ring of Fire” from Home Free, several additional songs by Pentatonix, Homefree, Prince “Purple Rain,” and “Sound of Silence” by disturbed. I was pleased with the clear volume and the smooth tones but missed having an equalizer to balance the upper frequencies a little more smoothly. There was an obvious sound quality change from volume level four to volume level five, which became even more evident when changing from volume five to level six. Interestingly, the speaker sounded better as I increased the volume; there was more punch, more blend, and more quality sound as the volume increased. To further test the balance of the speakers, I listened to Queen “Somebody to Love,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and selections from Billy Joel “Piano Man,” and “The Longest Time.” If you have read any of my reviews, then you would know that I typically use the same songs to compare speakers. I was pleased with the overall sound and enjoyed several of the oldies as well as many of the newer pop songs. I chose songs by Meghan Trainer, Charlie Puth, Michael Jackson, and Prince as well, to round out my testing.
The speaker was designed to provide 360 degree sound and it worked better with the base on the ground. The 6” long-throw woofer was designed to be down-firing to allow the deep base to reverberate off of the ground. The 3” full-range drivers were designed to provide 360 degree sound, which seemed to work very well. As noted above, the speaker seemed to work best when outdoors or in larger rooms. When used indoors, placing it into a corner seemed to add a little something extra. I was pleased with the blend, with the upper level sound output but would have liked the option for similar sound at quieter volumes. At five hash marks of sound, I placed the speaker 4 feet from my iPad Pro 10.5” and using the Decibel X App, I found the speaker volume to be at 54-58 DB. At full volume, I had to move my iPad Away from the speaker as it approached 100 DB. “Train Song” by Holly Cole was really fun at near full volume as you could almost feel the thumping bass line. With maximal phone/speaker volume, the sound would fill a home office, dorm room, living room, a pool deck and other medium-large sized rooms. The speaker was stereo; I bet the TWS feature would be exceptional, when combining two of these devices. I would love to have a second speaker to simply try out the TWS feature.
To summarize, the 10-hour life at 60-70% volume was reasonable but could have been better. We had to install the tiny battery and I believe a 20-hour battery live would have made the device better. It is designed for larger rooms or outdoor use and sounds pressured when used in smaller rooms. Additionally, the weatherproof nature, the child locking feature and the design work well for a deck speaker or a poolside speaker. The heft may be a bit much for a hike out or camping trip, as 12 pounds is on the heavier end. There was a convenient carry handle along the upper back portion of the speaker but there is no compartment for a 3.5mm cable, or for the charging device. Unfortunately, there was not an included carry bag/case for the speaker either. I loved the audio/visual cues with the button presses, and the responsive buttons in general. I wish that there was a little more kick to volume 3-5 but it really took off at volumes 6+. The 360-degree sound was quite powerful and provided a full, crisp, beautiful sound on my deck. In my tiny office, the speaker was quite bass=heavy and muddy. I was a fan of the button combinations, the capacitive touch surface, and with the LED lights/Bluetooth connectivity. However, I did find it odd that there was no option to control the track from the speaker itself.