Personal Bluetooth speakers are all over the place these days, and there are a huge variety of speakers with a huge variety of styles and performance. The fact that you can probably find cheap personal Bluetooth speakers in impulse-buy territory at some grocery/drug store should tell you how far Bluetooth speakers have truly saturated the market. Most of those speakers won’t really be worth your time, but thankfully there are still some quality entrants in the field. Today I’m going to talk about two such personal Bluetooth speakers – the Rapoo A300 and Rapoo A500.
Before even turning on the speakers I have to say that I was quite impressed with the packaging for both. Each came packaged in a thick clear plastic shell with the product name embossed on the front. The A300 sat on a grey plastic box containing the rest of the accessories while the A500 was clipped into a brushed metal base. Both just screamed of quality. The packaging, while impressive, is only good if the products inside are just as impressive. Thankfully, they are. I’ve found a new appreciation for Rapoo design after reviewing their KX Mechanical Keyboard, and that quality design continues with the A300 and A500.
The A300 is a very compact device, a cube measuring only a few inches on each side, but the design is very nice. The entire speaker is held in an aluminum alloy frame with capacitive buttons on top. The back of the device features a standard on/off switch, a micro USB input for charging, and an AUX port for wired operation.
The A500 is twice the width of the A300 and roughly half the depth. It features a soft-touch plastic case and the same power/microUSB/AUX input as the A300. The speaker itself is wrapped with a decorative metal band.
The A300 is small but mighty. It honestly puts out a surprising amount of sound for such a small speaker, and at full volume it can easily fill a small room. While it won’t be able to overpower a large party or anything like that it was definitely able to cover cooking/cleaning noise with ease.
The A500 has a very clear sound, and is slightly louder than the A300. Some of my best testing of the A500 also came while cooking (exciting, I know), and it performed admirably.
Both speakers feature NFC connectivity for first time setup, which makes them easy for anybody to set up. Simply hold your NFC enabled phone up to the speaker, and you’ll be prompted on your phone screen to connect. Once you accept, your phone will turn on Bluetooth (if it was off previously) and connect to the device. After first time setup the NFC connection isn’t really necessary, but it is a great feature for people that might not understand exactly how Bluetooth works.
Chances are good that you’ve never gotten a full, expansive bass sound out of a compact Bluetooth speaker. Speakers of this size just don’t have the oomph to really hit those low notes. That streak will continue here, but not without a fight. Admittedly, I didn’t put any funk/dubstep/other super bass-heavy music through either speaker (I know better), but some of the loud, obnoxious metal that I listen to has its share of bass, and both speakers performed well enough. Both speakers could easily sit on a desk at work and provide a quality music experience.
Both speakers offer Bluetooth calling/speakerphone, though in this area the A500 clearly outshines the A300. Both function as a speakerphone, though the A300 speaker was a bit fuzzy when the caller was talking. I tested in a few areas just to be sure poor cellular signal wasn’t the problem, and while it did get slightly better when cell signal wasn’t an issue the A500 was still the champ in this category. If using your compact Bluetooth speaker for conference calls or as a speakerphone is really important to you, you’ll probably want to look at the A500.
Most Bluetooth speakers tend to estimate 10-12 hours of battery life, and that’s pretty accurate for both the A300 and A500. The A300 does just a bit better in the battery department than the A500, though only by maybe an hour. Either speaker will handle a good evening of music, or even the longest of conference calls.
Both speakers come with a few necessities, and a bit extra. The A300 comes with a short (roughly 3ft) auxiliary cable, short (roughly 18”) USB to Micro USB cable, and a nylon carrying case for the speaker. The A500’s included cables are longer: 5ft AUX and 3ft USB. The A500 also includes an interestingly textured, rubberized type of carrying case. Not all speakers come with cables or cases, so these are some nice extras.
The A300 is available starting at around $35, and the A500 at $45. This is slightly out of “impulse buy” territory, though these are also slightly better speakers than you’ll find in the bargain bin. Most cheaper speakers also don’t include any cables, which adds to the value of the Rapoo speakers. The carrying cases are a nice addition, though I’m not sure how often they’ll really be used to carry the speakers. If nothing else, you might be able to use them to corral cables or other small items.
Compact portable Bluetooth speakers come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, prices, and with different sorts of features. The overall quality of design, the impressive sound, and the inclusion of some of the added accessories put the Rapoo A300 and A500 speakers a notch or two above most other compact Bluetooth speakers at this price point. There are still definitely a glut of options when it comes to compact Bluetooth speakers, but the quality devices will usually rise to the top in the end.
The overall rating below will be a reflection of both speakers, while the pros/cons will note the specific strengths and weaknesses of each.
*We were sent demo units of the Rapoo A300 and A500 for the purposes of this review.
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