Amplifying Music From My Phone 101 - 2017 Edition
December 25, 2016 11:49 AM   Subscribe

We asked for "speakers to play music from our phones" for Christmas. Some generous soul gave us an Echo. The thing is, we don't think we'll use the voice activated services, and we have mild privacy concerns. Could you point us toward something practical for doing things like listening to music (mostly from Spotify), NPR, podcasts, and audiobooks?

First, I should exchange it, amirite? I could see wanting to ask "how long to bake sweet potatoes" or saying "text Bob: please buy parsley" while chopping the sweet potatoes. But that is the only use case I can imagine using. In every other situation, it would be far easier to just quickly open the weather app, or whatever. And I'm uncomfortable with the idea that it's "always listening" or that it would transmit any part of our conversation.

What's the best speaker system in the $150ish price range (or less) that will do the things we want to do? My attempts to research this have revealed this to be really super-complicated. Here's our situation --
- We just want to play music or audiobook in one room at a time, though there are three rooms we might play music in, so being portable would be nice. But I can't see ever needing to play it from a battery.
- We can either stream things from our phone, or stream things directly to the speaker. We have wi-fi at our house.
- Good sound quality would be nice.

... I think that's about it. I did find this question, which recommended the Sonos Play 1 and the UE Boom -- are those still the ones to look at? Thanks!
posted by slidell to Shopping (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My spouse and I use a JBP Clip for exactly this purpose. It's small, fairly cheap, works over Bluetooth, and sounds great.
posted by neushoorn at 11:58 AM on December 25, 2016

So as it happens I just did this. While I didn't comparison shop speakers, I can tell you what I bought.

Edifier R1280T
These are $99 powered bookshelf speakers. I'll copy in what I wrote in my Amazon review:

I purchased these to mount inside a bookshelf in a small living room, with audio fed via Chromecast. The main reason I picked these over Mackies or a similar brand is that frankly they just look a lot nicer on the shelf, particularly with the shields on. They also have an IR remote which is very handy.

These are excellent speakers for what they are and for the price point. The main issue is that they lack the really low-end bass (obviously) and really loud, dense music can sound a bit muddy. For music like jazz that benefits from clarity, however, they sound excellent.

I also hooked them up to my television via a DAC and unsurprisingly they are a big improvement on the built in speakers. Again, you will see the biggest improvement in clarity of softer sounds, like a cigarette pull or shoes squeaking.

If you get these to use with a Chromecast Audio, make sure to set the Chromecast to full dynamic range via the Android app for the best sound quality. It makes a real difference.


Anyway, I have been using this system for a few weeks and it's been utterly fantastic. The only thing I would say is that the Chromecast Audio can sometimes be really finicky with routers. I had to make a few adjustments myself.
posted by selfnoise at 12:02 PM on December 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was going to say UE Boom, they really are superb. You can carry it from room to room whenever you like. It lasts an amazing length of time on battery (many hours), so you can leave the charger in one room and it'll charge up when you have it there. Your phone widget will let you see how much charge it has. You can also (perhaps later) buy more than one and choose which ones play.

Sonos Play 1 is another option, although it's really a bit overkill. Sonos is a system that plays music itself from the internet (for example, using Apple Music), but is designed as part of a multi-room system completely independent of your phone. You don't stream from your phone to the Sonos. So unless you are considering investing in a significant system (way over this budget) I wouldn't bother.

If you want to ask how long to bake potatoes, just ask Siri.
posted by tillsbury at 1:14 PM on December 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I adore my UE Roll. Built like a truck, waterproof, has a nifty bungee cord setup which lets me hang / mount / strap it anywhere. UE claims that two can be synced to provide stereo.
posted by Jesse the K at 3:33 PM on December 25, 2016

If you don't want to return your gift, in case you were unaware, the Echo has Bluetooth.
I pair it with both an android and an iphone.

Annoyingly, I'm fairly certain you need to use voice to pair it, but you might be able to use the app.
You could use an existing amazon account or if you are more paranoid, a throwaway amazon account.
Then just leave the Echo microphone muted. It's a button on top with a hard to miss visual indicator.

The Echo has good, room filling sound. Its comparable if not better than my UE Boom.
posted by madajb at 4:31 PM on December 25, 2016

You only need to pair the Echo via voice the first time, after that it'll pair just from your phone.

Seconding just keep it and mute the microphone. Though I really like some of the things it can do (setting timers as I'm putting things in the oven mostly, or doing ounce to cup conversions or whatnot while I'm cooking) so you might want to selectively unmute to get a cooking helper.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:01 PM on December 25, 2016

I got the UE Boom when it was the Wirecutter's rec and it's still going strong. I'd definitely second that recommendation. I use it with my laptop and with my phone, no issues, good sound quality, etc.
posted by leesh at 7:26 PM on December 25, 2016

« Older Patriarchy wars: episode vi - return of the...   |   Best non-vacuum travel mug Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.