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Customer Review

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much much more than just your average speaker..., 1 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Creative Sound Blaster Axx 20 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker with Microphone for iPad, iPhone, Android, PC or Mac Devices (Electronics)
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Should you buy it?

If you want an iPod/Android dock with phone capabilities and some bells and whistle?, YES. If you live in a small metropolitan flat YES. If you like gadgets and have money, YES. If you normally listen to music on your phone, and fancy a dock, YES. If you want a top of the range speaker phone or like to talk while cooking, DEFINITELY. If you are hoping to replace your expensive hi-fi with it, No. If you're mainly going to use it for movies and like mouth movements to be synced with speech, then you might want to read a bit more about it.

This speaker was tested with a number of different devices and operating systems:

Overview: Functionality across devices
1) You need to have the internet available to install in Windows 7, this seems unique to Windows. (PC with Windows 7)
2) Linux seems to work without a hitch (a reboot was needed). (Mint / Blueman Linux manager / cheapo micro USB Bluetooth dongle).
3) A Bluetooth enabled TV seemed to work easily too (LG TV 6th gen LCD)
4) Android is the easiest to set up, yet on initial observation seems to exhibit 0.5s of lag - see below / (Asus Transformer Prime Tablet)

Unboxing and Manual:
Everything is simple really, a USB cable, an optional power supply in case you don't want it plugged into a PC, a stand and a very brief manual that does not go into nearly enough detail as I would have liked. The Android app at least, there are some further tutorials. However, I still feel there is a lot of info missing. Perhaps it will become more coherent as time passes as it is a very new product at the time of this review.

Setup and Pairing:
1) The PIN is not given. I'm not really sure how it works without giving out the PIN, but if you get asked "what is the PIN" there is usually an option of registering without a PIN.
2) You can only Bluetooth pair with one device at a time. If you want to move it to another device, you have to disable the first.
3) You don't seem to need to re-pair as it remembers a number of devices. This is good. A lot of Bluetooth devices don't do this
4) A hidden option in the Windows app allows you to turn on auto pairing. So the device will look for example for a TV it paired with previously and pair with it, normally you'd have to get the TV to do this bit, which is a hassle. So this is handy, but not documented anywhere that I could see. It's also only available via Windows.

First observations:
1) This looks nice!
2) The capacitive buttons work well BUT take some getting accustomed to as they are not as responsive as modern tablets.
3) It is LOUD.
4) The Android app seems a bit primitive - I suspect it will be improved.

Sound quality and sound in general:
1) Audiophiles need not apply. This is not for you. If you've ever used the words soundstage or sibilance, just...move along ;)
2) Anyone with an iPod or android, yeah, this is for you.
3) If you can tell the diff between '10 and '100 headphones, this may be for you, depending what you plan to use it for.

The sound quality, I shall be as kind as I can, it's limited by the design. So what does it sound like? Well, it sounds like a very very good PC speaker. It does not sound like a bookshelf speaker that you could buy for the price. Not even close. But you have to balance these things. Your bookshelf speaker is just a speaker. This is not. Overall, *If* you tune it to how you like it in windows, it sounds nice. Nice enough to kick back and listen to. Nothing more, nothing less. Keep your expectations realistic and you won't be disappointed. Creative have done well with the parameters they have designed within.

Inputs, Outputs:
You do have more than just Bluetooth. The device also features an aux/mic in and a headphone out. Did I test it? You bet I did.
Aux in: This was tested on a Denon pre-amp with an input from a turntable. I like to challenge technology. Well, a turntable is not Bluetooth, right? Did it sound good? Yeah - it did, it sounded crystal clear and insanely sharp. Surprised? So was I.
Headphone out: Denon AC...something, in ear earphones. Do they sound good? Yep they do.

Phone related functionality:
This is where the device really excels. The noise reduction I'm told works exactly as it says on the tin, I called a friend and asked them if they could hear a particularly noisy air con unit which is situated next to the speaker. When I say noisy I mean shout over volume. The unit cut ALL the noise out and he could hear me perfectly at normal speaking levels. So noise reduction is a real feature here. I imagine you could cook, dry your hair, all while carrying on a normal conversation. Well done Creative!

Sound quality and reception seem great. I was told that with the Voice Focus button on, the sound was "echoey", and with this off, it fixed it. I was sat maybe 2 feet from the speaker talking at a low conversational volume. Everything worked. There were no "what?" or "Huh?". I am impressed.

Speakers for Movies and TV?
A special note about movies because the first thing I thought when I read about this device is Bluetooth encoding, transfer, decoding. That lags, right? Well somehow those smarties at Creative have managed to reduce that lag in most circumstances. Here's what I saw.

With the TV: Largely no lag. Occasional "catchy uppy" but not terribly notable. lip sync close enough to not be annoying. With iPlayer Linux: No lag in the ten or so minutes I was watching. I mean perfect lip sync. With Android mplayer: About half a second lag. I believe some Android apps do allow you to compensate but if that's to work it MUST be a constant lag and not "catchy uppy lag".

So I'm largely impressed with it for movies, but with caveats:
1) it's probably not going to be robust for hardcore movie watching. Too much can go wrong. You know what I mean. Halfway through the movie it might start to lag. You might have to turn it off and on again. You might. I can't back that up.
2) Bluetooth lag invariably is proportional to distance. At the very fringe of the device's range, you will suffer.

Other Observations:
If you have an Android phone that has fuzzy audio from the 3.5mm jack, then Bluetooth audio may surprise you. It does not appear to use the same amplification route as the 3.5mm jack. I get crystal clear audio from Bluetooth on both my phone and tablet. Games like OSMOS that really "do" sound, are outstanding with Bluetooth audio.

It did occur to me that if you had superb quality headphones and hooked them to this device, as a satellite to a TV set, you have yourself some wireless Bluetooth headphones. Granted, with a lead weight attached, but there's no trip wire from the TV.

Good points:
1) Looks great.
2) No seriously, it looks great. It is clad with the 80s style real material speaker mesh. None of your tacky plastic grills on show here.
3) It's going to be a talking point in anyone's house.
4) It works. When I read the spec, I thought it would have endless problems. Sure, theres a few teething issues, but no, it does work.
5) If you can use the software in windows, you get a LOT of controls. I'm talking crossover frequency, bass, independent input levels, that sort of thing. You get none of this when you're synced to a TV.

Gripes:
1) The volume control majorly lacks precision at the bottom end. I hope they fix this as it's almost impossible to play your music quietly on some devices [dependent on input level it seems]. You can work around this on a PC with the software, has a volume control in it.
2) For the price point could they not have included some sort of battery? A device like this screams rechargeable, and it's not.
3) More manual please.
4) To optimise sound quality you need to hook it to a windows PC with the drivers. I feel a lot of people won't know to do this, so they end up with it sounding sub-standard, or at least, not to their liking. I cranked up the bass. It helped a lot.
5) Still need to be a geek to get the best out of it. And the target audience are not going to do that, in my opinion.
6) lip sync could be a problem. It's a design flaw with Bluetooth really.
7) I had some problems "discovering" the device when it was connected by usb to a pc. I don't know if that's intended functionality because of how brief the manual is!

This is a stylish device is well suited for small living spaces, but it will probably not replace your high end hifi.
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