Top critical review
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Great Concept, BUT Sound Quality & User Interface Let It Down Badly
on 28 January 2015
I have respect for Roberts and their heritage as a British company, and I'm already a long term existing customer of theirs. So, I was eagerly awaiting delivery of this Blutune 100 sound system. I'd been attracted by some positive comments and the rather lovely looking design of the unit itself. In the flesh it really does look very good indeed - sleek, beautifully curved and in a lovely colour combination of graphite and dark wood grain. To my eye it's a modern 60's inspired Scandinavian retro look that I very much approve of. And then I plugged it in and my problems began.
Yes, the sound is big, I'll give it that much. At times though it's a touch too big for the box. Low frequencies pack physical punch, which is why decent sub woofers are big hefty objects built from thick and highly braced dense timber. The Blutune is a slender wee thing that tries to hang on for dear life and contain the pounding, but ultimately loses its grip. It can distort, and I found that the abundant low frequencies tend to swamp the rather more constrained higher ones.
As noted by some others the "neutral" sound out of the box, with bass and treble both in mid position, is awful. In fact it sounds like you're listening to the thing whilst it's still inside the packaging it arrived in. It's terribly muffled with thin mid range and virtually no treble. Job one is to turn down the bass and hike the treble up to max, and this is a worrying sign.
Actually achieving a tone adjustment is stupidly complicated too. A traditional set would have had two rotary knobs marked "bass" and "treble" giving simple and direct access to infinite tone control. Yes, those top mounted push buttons look sleek, but as a user interface it isn't the most ergonomic. Frustration mounts when having to tackle mode dependent sub menus involving between six to nine separate button presses (none of which are labelled bass or treble) just to alter the tone. Errors are made easier by the button sequence changing depending on what the set is doing at the time and the user is spun off into some other sub menu or mode. It's just bad design, and it makes using this set unnecessarily complex. I'm confident that Roberts could design something more user friendly and intuitive.
To add to my frustration, wrangling the sound into something approaching acceptable is a job that regularly needs doing because the output seems to be very sensitive to the type of sound you're listening to. I'll freely admit here that it depends on how critical an ear you have - for some listeners it will be just fine, evidenced by the mostly five star reviews. I don't count myself as being overly fussy, but I am someone who has some hi-fi owning experience and can detect differences in sound quality. So with that in mind, and in my own experience of this unit, voice, rock music, D&B, opera, acoustic, classical and most other genres in my eclectic listening mix all need different settings here. The setup that sounds okay-ish for one genre sounds poor for another. And this really is a sign of a major flaw. Unless the unit I received was a rogue one it tells me that Roberts need to go away and upgrade the amp in this unit and re-map the frequency response. Keep the great design visuals by all means, but get the bit that really matters right - the sound and the usability! As it stands this Blutune is woefully lacking in mid range clarity and there's little high end bight, the latter being particularly noticeable for speech or classical music. A more capable and stable amp stage would improve matters tremendously and remove the need for constant adjustment too. Remember, really high end audio has no tone control at all, and certainly no graphic equalisers. They just aren't needed.
I really did try very hard indeed to like this music centre, but I'm afraid it defeated me despite my best efforts to give it love. I suspect it suffers from the current obsession with "mega" bass at the expense of everything else. If you use music as background, or all you want to listen to is stuff that goes DOOF DOOF DOOF with a bit of distortion thrown in then this may well work for you, but for anything else - well, there's considerable room for improvement and other manufacturers are vying for your money.
So as a result of all this malarkey I returned my Blutune as being sonically unstable and less than engaging to listen to. I really do hope Roberts get these issues sorted though because if they can I'll be first in line to buy a Blutune. The concept, visual design and form factor are all excellent - it's just a shame about the poor sonic performance. Until that's upgraded I sadly cannot recommend this product for anyone into serious listening.