iClever IC-BTSO9 Speaker REVIEW

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I remember growing up, listening to tapes and records on my father’s stereo system. Anyone in their 30’s-40’s can at least remember the transition from tapes to CD’s to MP3 and now to MP4. With this transition came listening at home/in your car, to the Walkman to the portable CD players, MP3 players and ultimately the iPods. Now we have our phones to generate the music and rather great speakers to listen to the sound. Prior to the invention of Bluetooth in 1994, by a group of researchers at Ericson, there was no good way for our tech to talk to each other. The Bluetooth technology borrowed its name from history. Jaap Haartson, with Ericsson, used the name of the 10th century Scandinavian King Harald Blatand “Bluetooth,” who united many Danish tribes into a single kingdom, to detail his unifying technology. In fact, the symbol for Bluetooth combines the Danish runes for H and B into a single figure. Since the inception, Bluetooth has become more and more integrated into our devices. Additionally, there have been new Bluetooth protocols developed, which have expanded the distance, decreased the power consumption and have improved overall communication.

I have tested multiple iClever Bluetooth headphones and speakers and a large majority of them have been good to great. The Clever IC-BTS09 is another speaker offered by the iClever line through Hisgadget. Like nearly all of the speakers I have tested, iClever suffers in the product packaging category. This product is shipped in a plain cardboard box with an ink outline of a round speaker sitting atop a base resembling a Batarang (Batman’s boomerang). The only words on the front of the box are “Wireless speaker.” I do not know why the packaging is created in such an ambiguous way.

Rotating the packaging 90 degrees counterclockwise, I found a few small stickers: one has the manufacturing date and another contains the UPC code with product name “iClever IC-BTS09 Wireless Stereo Speaker.” The back of the box has the iClever logo and “Wireless speaker,” and the opposing side lists the needed international product tags and the email to iClever. The top has a simple white carry handle. There is no pizzazz, there are no product specifications and unfortunately for the consumer, nothing to catch your eye. It is a shame, as this speaker has a really neat shape and sounds pretty good.

Within the packaging, the speaker is encased in cutout cardboard. Loose within the box, you will find a 25″ 3.5 to 3.5mm cable. a 25″ USB-A to USB-micro cable, an eight-panel User manual and a Warranty card. The card details 24 hour response time, 30-day money back guarantee 18 month replacement warranty, Lifetime support. You will need to register the product prior to using these services. Having talked with iClever historically, the customer service is not bad. If you review the amazon page, you will notice that the customer services tries to reach out to the consumer. The Warranty card provides you with the link to warranty, refund, and exchanges, super user program, and provides the ability to connect on Facebook.

Like any good techie, I put the speaker on charge and turned to the instruction manual. This battery has a built in 4000 mAh battery, which is a reasonable battery for this type of speaker. Ideally, it would have a battery life of about a week, but it will only last you about 8 hours of continuous play. Personally, I would have included an 8–10,000 mAh battery, to allow for a full week on a charge. I found that using the device for 1–2 hours a night, I was able to get just at 4.5–5 days of use before I had to recharge the battery.

When the battery is low a voice prompt will alert you to the need to charge. If you do not listen, it will automatically turn off the speaker. I appreciate auto-off features on my devices, as there are times we all forget to be shepherds of energy. In this case, 10 minutes is the magic time period after which your device will be turned off. Other features of the speaker include the dual 10W drivers and the use of Bluetooth V4.2 with A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP profiles. These profiles essentially allow your phone to talk with your speaker and the speaker buttons to control the functions on your phone. The measured dimensions are 220 x 200 x 130mm (8 Inch speaker diameter and 5 7/8″ base diameter) and a weight of 1 lb 13.4 ounces (836 g). The device is completely charged within about 2 hours and you can see the remaining power on the Apple power widget, along with the top of your screen.

The speaker buttons are pretty straightforward and similar to others in the class. From left to right you have the power button, mode button, Play/Pause/Call button (MFB), volume down/previous track and volume up/next track buttons. At the base of the speaker you have an Aux In Port, TF card slot (MicroSD), and a micro-USB charging port. Along the front top of the speaker is a multi-colored LED. While the device is plugged into power, you will notice that the red LED will be in the on state. The flashing red LED indicates low power and when completely charged the indicator will turn off. This way, you can visually know when the charging is complete and not rely on setting a timer or memory.

If you press and hold the power button (first time), you will enter pairing mode. You will notice that the LED is a blue flashing light in this mode, again conveniently detailing to you the state of the device. A slow flashing light is present during music playback and a solid light means connected and no active music. It is at this point that I was glad that I actually read the User manual. The reason, the speaker has a backlight LED as well. If you short press the power button a blue LED ring will illuminate. Press again for medium and yet again for low light. Using the light does reduce the amount of time for music playback as it utilizes the same internal 4000 mAh battery. I was still able to get a good 4 days of 1–2 hours per night music, with the light on.

The Sound:
If you have read any of my reviews, I tend to utilize the same songs/test tracks. This track selection allows me to compare devices in a more apples to apples manner. I typically start out using the Audiocheck site to get an idea of the upper and lower limits of the device. Here, I utilize myself, my wife and my seven/five-year-old sons. The reason, after about the age of eighteen, we can no longer hear above about 14–15kHz. I still have the ability to hear 15kHz, but I suspect that this will fade soon. A good set of headphones/speaker should be able to generate a low of about 20Hz (lowest range of our hearing). The ic-BTS09 started at around 40Hz. This is not terrible, but unfortunate for a speaker with dual 10W drivers. Alas, the test track for the Darkness Rising Joker Theme “Why So serious,” was not as dynamic nor was the opening for Star Wars Attack of the Clones. To further test the bass, I utilize the Gladiator soundtrack and found that this was not missing much, in fact, the instrumentals were rather smooth. The Far and Away soundtrack also showed the same quality for instrumental music. To round out the testing, I utilized “Hotel California” from the Eagles, “Paradise by the Dashboard light” by Meatloaf and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. A relatively new test utilized Cee Lo Green “Bright Lights Bigger City,” as the bass line of the song is rather pleasing. The speaker did provide a good sound without too much muddy sound.

The speaker has a lot of positive features in its favor. The sound is quite good at 1/4–3/4 volume on the iPhone. Above 3/4, there is a considerable amount of sound but it does get a little harsh and distorted. At much below 1/4, the sound muddies and there is a huge difference between 1 click and off. I wish that there was more fine tuning to the lower volumes. The speaker has 3 modes with Bluetooth mode as the default. You can plug in the 3;5mm jack to automatically switch to AUX mode and you can insert a microSD card to auto detect and switch to memory card mode. You can press the M (mode) button on the top of the speaker to interchange between these modes. The LED backlight is a rally nice feature for ambiance but eats up battery. Another nice feature is, the device can be used while charging. Thus, you do not have to stop listening to your music or to Audible. Perhaps one of the best features, and one that was not mentioned is the rubberized base of the speaker. The profile of the base is not that large, as stated above. However, the rubberized footing increases the friction so much that the speaker should not move on your desk unless you physically pick it up.

Despite the positives, there are a few negative findings as well. I really dislike speakers that utilize the short press for changing the track and long press for volume. This is incredibly insensitive and you cannot make small changes with the device. I agree that you can still use the phone to make these changes, however, it feels that the button combination is backward. I appreciate the option to include the call features, but I do not ever use them. I have found that the microphones pick up ambient background noise and sound like you are in a tunnel. I do not like that there are not many gradations between 1 bar of volume and off. Meaning, there should be quieter levels than there are. Lastly, the company really needs to work on the packaging. More people would stop and look at the speaker if the package was more appealing.

Summary:
I really like the round shape of the speaker and the oval base. I wish that the speaker was a little bit taller, to allow an Amazon Dot to fit into the center. I found that this device worked quite well, paired with my Amazon Dot device. Unfortunately, it is just a little bit short to clear the Dot. I was able to utilize the speaker in both the 3.5mm Aux-in mode and with Bluetooth connectivity. The sound was not as good as the native Alexa speaker. However, if you are looking for a $70–80 dollar speaker to pair with your Dot, this may be the choice for you. There are definitely more expensive speakers on the market, some with better sound and some with sound that is not as good. For the money, this device has a lot of features not present in more expensive units. The backlighting, the shape, and build are classy and should entice Apple fans with the silver on white coloration. The lines are clean, the base is well shaped and adherent to prevent slippage. The speaker needs to be roughly 1/4–1/2″ taller to allow an Amazon Dot to sit at its feet. I actually like this speaker and the sound output that it provides. I think for the price, it would be difficult to find a better speaker. I would rate it at 4/5 stars.

BUY FROM AMAZON

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Originally published at macsources.com on January 30, 2017.

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