[Review]TaoTronics® Rechargeable Bluetooth Speaker TT-SK01 For All Smartphones

Discussion in 'Off Topic Forum' started by TerenceL, Aug 19, 2013.

  1. TerenceL
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    TerenceL New Member

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    I wasn’t really in the market for a Bluetooth speaker, but my wife was interested in something for her classroom. Something small, cheap, portable and easy to use – something she could take to school (she’s a teacher) and use to listen to music when class isn’t in session. Since her students have light fingers, she really wanted something she could afford to lose.
    Of course – she wanted all this AND it needs to sound great.

    Looking for something under $30, I ran across the TT-SK01 at Amazon. The TT-SK01 (just TT from now on) comes in a box smaller than you think. When you open the small box, you find a little black “egg”. It’s little, solid but not too hefty and rather attractive as cheap electronics tend to go.
    Further inspection of the box reveals a short, multi-language manual that actually tells you exactly what you need to know – in honest to goodness English. Finally, there is a flat, USB cable included – again, remarkably decent quality for a cheap Chinese piece of electronics. Mine is even red. Nice compliment to the black egg.


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    Physicality

    The TT’s upper body is half open to let the sound out; within this opening you can see the speaker itself and the diffuser that spreads the sound out. Vertical ridges run along the bulge of the egg – adding to the aesthetics but also helping you keep a grip on it.
    Along the bottom of the egg you’ll find the controls and ports. There is an on/off switch, a microSD card slot (labeled TF – or TransFlash), a multi-function rocker switch and a headphone jack. There is also a small multi-colored, multi-purpose LED that is your only indicator of what’s going on with the unit (well, other than the sound).
    Finally, you’ll find a standard microUSB port. The bottom of the egg is a flat, rubberized surface that acts as both a non-stick pad as well as a simple yet effective shock absorber. Overall, a pleasing package.

    CIMG3557-150x150.jpg

    Capabilities and Functionality

    The TT is a wireless, Bluetooth technology driven speaker. This makes it compatible with just about anything with Bluetooth capabilities – phone, tablet, netbook and even a Bluetooth equipped PC.
    Pairing is done like any other Bluetooth device – so I won’t go into details. Suffice to say, there is nothing special like NFC pairing or anything like that.
    The headphone jack lets you plug in a standard set of headphones – making the TT not just a speaker, but a wireless headphone adapter for your bluetooth device.
    Using a microSD card (I tested a 16GB one) filled with MP3s, you can playback music directly off the memory stick. Supposedly, the TT will also read USB devices via the microUSB port. To do this, you would need a male-to-male microUSB cable – something I don’t have handy to test with, nor was one included with the unit. This would be useful for those with older MP3 players that act as a USB mass storage device when plugged into a PC. Ideally, you could plug in the MP3 player and it would behave the same as a microSD card. They should have at least included an adapter for the included USB cable, but I understand why they didn’t; it is an ancillary feature.
    The multi-function rocker switch performs three tasks. First, it acts as a volume control. Hold it one direction or the other and the volume goes up and down. Tapping in a direction will change tracks forward or backward (provided your device supports it – most do). Pushing IN the switch will change modes (Bluetooth, microSD card, Aux) as well as answer an incoming call or hang up a call in progress. The unit even works when it is plugged into power – which is a nice touch.

    CIMG3562-150x150.jpg


    Sound Quality

    Here is the real question, right? How does it sound? Let’s start off by saying I’m not into heavy bass music like hip-hop. I listen to almost everything else, though; dance, pop, classical. I did take some “heavier bass” pop songs out for spin as well (compliments of Google Play Music service).
    When it comes to sound quality, I look at three things. Fidelity, range and loudness.
    When I discuss loudness, this is what I call maximum volume without distortion. Once you reach a point where the audio gets distorted, that (in my opinion) is as loud as the device gets. How does the TT black egg perform? Surprisingly well. Look, this is a $30 speaker – and you aren’t going to cater to a house party with it. However, if what you want to do is fill a moderate room with sound, this does the job. I found the quality to start dropping out about 80-90% of max volume.
    Range is about the ability for the speaker to play ‘highs’ and ‘lows’. As one might expect from a tiny black egg for $30, the performance in range is average. The lows are a bit neutered, but the highs sound pretty good. Anything in mid-range is perfectly acceptable for this class of device.
    The quality of the sound overall might be considered fidelity. While the range is a bit short (and it should be here) the fidelity is remarkably clean. The quality of sound from the TT belies its tiny size and stature. I attribute this to the rather unique design over all. The sound defuser really works well, filling the area with decent-to-good sound. As expected, the sound is a little tinny, but I was blown away by the overall quality. I’ve heard some $300 Bluetooth speakers that didn’t sound all that much better than this little guy.

    CIMG3560-150x150.jpg

    The Dark Side

    No product is perfect. TT has a few shortcomings of its own. It is a $30 product – as such, it isn’t going to deliver what a $300 unit is going to deliver. That isn’t a negative on the device – you know what you pay going in – but if you’re looking for a Jambox for $30, you’re not going to get it – not with the TT egg or anything else that runs $30.
    While the quality of the TT is above average, there are a few elements of construction that suffer. Mostly the switches. The on/off switch is tight out of the box, but I get a feeling it won’t hold up with heavy use.
    The multi-purpose rocker definitely feels like the Achilles Heel of the product – I doubt it would last a year with even regular use. You might be able to gain significant life out of the switch by always using your Bluetooth device to control the volume and track change.
    Using my Samsung S4 phone, I had some inconsistency with connecting after the original pairing. Sometimes I’d get MEDIA audio connecting, but not PHONE connecting (and vice versa) – requiring I cycle the Bluetooth on the phone. I’ve seen this before, so it isn’t unique to the product. Still, it needed to be said.

    Final Words

    This is a $30 Bluetooth speaker. Keep your expectations in check, and this device will delight you. The overall product construction is good and the sound it pumps out is above average. It has many features including microSD card reading and speakerphone capability. Do yourself a huge favor; buy two – because someone else in your family is going to steal yours if you don’t. My wife is already trying to steal mine – so I’ll have to order another one.

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