If you are familiar with Balmuda products — like viral Balmuda The Toaster — you know they have a certain elegance that screams disposable income. The Tokyo-based creative and technology company is on a mission to turn home devices into great experiences, and the thing is… they’re really good at it. I’ve had my eye on the Balmuda kettle for a few months now so when I had the chance to try out their new portable speaker(Opens in a new tab)I was excited—and a little nervous—to try it.
Yes, Balmuda products are gorgeous and luxurious, but could the company behind an internet-famous toaster actually create a stellar portable speaker? That’s what I decided to find out, and the answer surprised me.
How is the Balmuda speaker different from other speakers?
If you’re skeptical about a home appliance company creating an amazing audio experience, you’re not alone…but it actually makes sense. Balmuda CEO and founder Gen Terao was in a Japanese rock band and created the speaker in an attempt to mimic the live music experience. Unlike many portable speakers, the Balmuda speaker points upwards to create 3D sound — so you get the same experience no matter where the speaker is facing — that’s “vocally directed” and doesn’t have the distortion that many portables face speakers. Designed to mimic the live music experience, you can connect to the speaker via Bluetooth or AUX input.
Soundcore Frames Review: Soundcore Sunglasses That’s Easy to Fall in Love With
For an extra immersive experience, the speaker also features three light tubes in the central chamber that sync with the music in three different modes: beat mode (with full sync), ambient mode (a more subtle version) and candle mode (for steady, soft shine). Designed to represent three members of a band on stage, the result is a speaker that looks—and sounds—unlike any other portable speaker you’ve seen before.
Testing the Balmuda speaker
Right out of the box, the Balmuda speaker(Opens in a new tab) visually breathtaking. It has a simple, beautiful design with a matte black finish that feels purposeful and luxurious without being over the top. It’s heavier than I expected — especially compared to my trusty JBL Charge — but it manages the balance between rugged and sensitive in a truly unique way.
After charging the device, it only took a few seconds to pair it with my iPhone and the sound quality was simply spectacular. The Balmuda speaker lives up to its promise of clear, voice-centric sound, and I loved being able to hear the vocals of my favorite artists without the muck that comes with my JBL speaker. It was easy to switch between the three light sync modes with the push of a button, and I found myself gravitating towards the “beat mode” for a more robust lighting experience.
The speaker has buttons for power, volume and three lighting modes.
Credit: RJ Andersen/Mashable
Now, it’s important to add the caveat that when Balmuda says this speaker is vocal-based, it will change the way you experience some of your favorite music, especially if you’re used to other portable speakers. The sound depth isn’t that strong – in some songs, the bass almost disappeared entirely – but the resulting experience isn’t bad… it’s just different.
However, it did mean there was a bit of a learning curve in choosing what music to listen to on the Balmuda speaker. When I wanted to listen to songs with a stronger bass line or jam to dance music, this speaker was not the right choice. However, it is obvious by design that it is not tries to be.
I found myself using the Balmuda speaker on quiet mornings while starting my day, but my main use was definitely when I was unwinding after a stressful day. It was great to sing along to my favorite songs, but I often felt like something was “missing” from the tracks. Sometimes you want to be carried away by the music as much as the vocals, and some songs that I thought would be great to hear on Balmuda fell flat. Yes, the sound is crystal clear, but it didn’t live up to the promise of a live music experience for me.
There are a few other downsides
While I enjoyed using the Balmuda speaker, there are a few things I wish were different. It’s a little heavier than I’d like — especially considering how thick it is around the waist — which means I’m a little nervous about dropping it. It’s not terrible, but it’s a portable speaker, so I’d like it to be…you know…portable.
Battery life is also a bit shorter than I’d like, at about seven hours, so I had to charge it quite a few times. Considering that most portable music speakers offer at least 10 to 20 hours per charge, seven hours on a single charge was incredibly low.
My only other complaint is that it’s only made for indoor use, so it’s not as portable as I’d like it to be. Is this a bargain? Absolutely not, but it’s a little disappointing – especially when the speaker looks like it’s intended for quiet evenings around a campfire with friends.
The best outdoor speakers
Is the Balmuda speaker worth it?
At $399, the Balmuda speaker(Opens in a new tab) it is definitely a luxury market. If you’re a music lover and interested in trying out voice-based 3D audio, the answer might be yes. I could also see this being a great purchase option for someone interested in design, especially if you’re looking for a portable speaker that looks as good as it sounds. But your opinion of sound quality is likely a matter of personal preference.
For the average shopper? You may want to skip this one. The speaker wasn’t as immersive as I hoped it would be and — while it delivered one very clearer sound than my JBL Charge by miles — it’s a bit too expensive for my taste. I definitely enjoyed using it, but in terms of rich, immersive sound I think I’ll stick with my headphones.