HANDS-ON REVIEW: Sol Republic Deck Bluetooth speaker
Enjoying the rare summer heatwave that Britain is currently luxuriating in, my pals and I have decamped more or less entirely to London’s great parks, picnic baskets in hand, summer playlists carefully prepared. However, even the most carefully curated of tune line ups can’t suit all tastes, so as well as playing a game of football, we’ve also reluctantly introduced another game – “Pass The Bluetooth Speaker”, laboriously pairing and unpairing mobile devices in order to share each other’s tunes through whatever speaker we’re currently using.
It doesn’t have to be this way – the latest Bluetooth standards allow for many devices to be connected to a speaker at once, a fact that lies at the heart of the design of the new Sol Republic Deck speaker. We wen’t along to a preview event for the new Bluetooth tune box last week, and share our initial thoughts here.
A little smaller than a DVD case, the Deck allows for up to five Bluetooth devices to be connected simultaneously. A pill-shaped slab with a perforated grill on the front and back sides designed to offer the widest dispersal of sound from the diminutive speaker, it also has a light up strip that glows one of five colours, assigning a shade to each of the five potentially connected devices.
And here’s where things get fun. The Deck offers what the company describe as a “Heist Mode” – rather than having to manually disconnect and reconnect each individual Bluetooth device before another can play, would-be DJ’s can knock each other’s tunes off the device simply by pressing Play on their own players. If someone is floundering around with James Blunt b-sides, you can kick them off without fuss, allowing up to five pals to instantly take control from one another without fussing with any settings.
A potentially great party game, there’s of course the potential here for the set-up to frustrate, so a simple switch on the side of the device puts the Deck back into a single-connection Bluetooth mode, giving one user ultimate control.
The Bluetooth 1.5 standard employed here not only offers up multiple simultaneous connections, but a greater range too. Sol promise that you’ll be able to get up to 45 metres away from the speaker before your tunes are lost over the airwaves.
Sonically, the Sol Republic Deck impresses too. A clear and impressively loud speaker given its size, the Sol Deck manages great bass levels thanks to a sideshot bass port, pumping out plenty of air to give a really beefy sound. Should you want to push the volume even louder when outside, an “Outdoor Boost” setting pushes mid and high tones, dropping bass (which is usually lost in open spaces regardless with a speaker this size), gaining an extra 6db. Additionally, a limitless number of Deck speakers can be daisy chained together thanks to 3.5mm in and output ports. A dual-mic array also allows the deck to work as a capable speaker phone too.
As well as a Bluetooth connection, the Deck also offers NFC technology, allowing for a simple tap-and-connect pairing method. Sol are looking into offering scripting apps to allow NFC devices to, for instance, trigger designated playlists when NFC-paired with the speaker.
Though we were unable to test the claims, Sol Republic state that, dependent on volume levels, you’ll be able to squeeze a minimum of 4 hours from the built-in rechargeable battery, and upwards of 10 hours on more conservative volume levels. If true, that’s an impressive figure.
The company have also promised a protective carry case that will be available alongside the speaker, using a “transparent audio design” that doesn’t inhibit sound output in any way.
Launching in a range of colours in the UK from September, the Deck will be priced at £169.99.
Early indications suggest it’ll be a really neat speaker, offering the right balance between useful tech, an attractive design and solid sound. We’ll be putting together a full review once we’ve got our hands on a review model during the coming weeks, so check back soon for our final verdict.