Skepticism was abound when the House of Marley offered to send over their Bag of Riddim.  It’s a $300, and is perhaps one of the best Bluetooth speaker systems that is finished with a variety of natural elements that include hemp (no conicedensce there), cotton and recycled plastics.  And yet, the face of the Bag of Riddim is made of birch wood, which adds some opulence but seems to defeat the intended eco effects of the recycled material. Moreover, their eco friendly strides are slightly squashed by the battery bay which calls for 6 D batteries.  Hardly eco friendly, unless of course you opt to invest in a set of rechargeable batteries or buy the company’s sold separately rechargeable battery pack.  And while the Bag of Riddim may not score big points for being landfill friendly (at least at a glance), it most certainly has a way of pleasing the ears. If you want a speaker that will add to your room’s aesthetic, you might find our review of the Woodbourne Bluetooth loudspeaker interesting.

The [amazon_textlink asin=’B00C9WFJ5S’ text=’Bag of Riddim’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’gadgetreviewc-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’05b9a9a4-4c8e-11e7-a4b2-29d19384e5e6′] comes in two models.  One includes an iPhone 4s dock, and the other Bluetooth connectivity.  Neither have both, and because of that I prefer the Bluetooth version, which is the one I tested.  Why?  No matter what phone I have in my possession, be it an iPhone of any model, or an Android or Windows device, this speaker will remain compatible.  Moreover, Bluetooth means wireless, and wireless equates to convenience.  That said, both units include an AUX input, which means any audio device, regardless of wireless connectivity, can jack into this stereo box.

Bag of Riddim Bluetooth-003

Now, I’ll get to sound quality soon enough.  But first and foremost I have to get something off my chest: I loathe the product’s name.  “Bag of Riddim” makes me cringe when I say it, hear it, or have to write about it in this post.

Read: Best Portable Speakers

Also, I’m not too keen on the bag’s design, materials and styling.  In hand it feels a bit cheap. Perhaps it’s best described as feeling too light weight to produce a descent spectrum of sound (more on this in a minute).  Nevertheless, attached to the body, by way of a set of snap buttons (as found on a pair of old jean pants), is a bag styled in image of a Bob Marley CD cover.  It includes a few of pockets as well as a shoulder strap.  To remove the bag, you simply just need to unbutton it, which reveals its rather thin (read: cheap) feeling, black plastic body.  It’s a stark contrast to the speaker’s wood face, but with that comes a sturdier, lighter, more durable build.  I’m still rather surprised that a built-in rechargeable battery isn’t included, especially when the bag is clearly designed to be carried around slung over your shoulder.  Mind you it’s not too large or heavy to negate an average sized person from performing such an activity.

Bag of Riddim Bluetooth-004

On the face of the Bag of Riddim are a four touch like buttons that control power, volume and Bluetooth connectivity.  They’re positioned in a circle along a plastic black ring and are joined by power and Bluetooth indicator lights.  Powering on the Bag of Riddim is as simple as touching the power button, or so one would assume.   Unfortunately  my review unit’s power button, along with the rest of the touch buttons were about as sensitive as a concrete block, requiring me to tap them again and again to illicit a response.

Bag of Riddim Bluetooth-003

To test the Bag of Riddim I powered on my Nexus 4’s Bluetooth and paired the two devices.  Once paired I had no problem reconnecting the Bag of Riddim with my phone, provided I could get it powered on.  Spotify is my music source of choice, so with that in mind I ran the Bag of Riddim through the paces, testing it with a wide swath of genres of tunes.

Bass is ample, yet not overly deep, which generally speaking can cause the housing to reverberate – it doesn’t.  The “high”, while not hiss free or the cleanest is by all account respectable.  The sound stage of the bag is by no means equitable to that of stand alone stereo system, but given the products rather small size and portability I’m still impressed.  Moreover, it’s got enough juice and gusto that it makes it a favorable suitor in its class of speakers.

Bottom line: a well rounded Bluetooth speaker system that sonically performs quite well despite the distasteful name and abysmal touch buttons.

Christen Costa

Grew up back East, got sick of the cold and headed West. Since I was small I have been pushing buttons - both electronic and human. With an insatiable need for tech I thought "why not start a blog focusing on technology, and use my dislikes and likes to post on gadgets."

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  1. I’ve had issues with the buttons I thought with it coming on when it pleases but recently I think I realized it’s actually the charging system. I noticed a plug in spot to charge on the battery itself and it charged and fired right up np. Hope this helps a few. Some said pull the battery and plug it back in but I had no luck with that one. I personally think it’s the box charger going to the battery on these things that act up.

  2. after 3 months of using my bag of riddim speaker, i cant connect thru bluetooth with any phone. Any recommendations please?

    1. Unfortunately we didn’t have the version with a built-in battery so we can’t comment on that. I’m sorry.

  3. Thanks so much for information about the battery. I ordered a new battery and assumed the one I received must have been faulty.. I tried charging by itself and left out for 3 minutes and all is good. Appreciate your help . Oh and the info on the buttons was great too.

  4. just ordered one the other day and finally got it in, like everyone else the power situation is what bothers me the most. out of the box it cut on but then when I came back it wouldn’t come on again. I must of made a mistake and held my finger on the power button and it came back on. the sound is stunning and the Bluetooth is why I purchased it in the first place.

  5. Hopefully this comment will help someone with the sudden death issue

    Had the same thing happen to me, today after a few days not touching it, tried to turn it on, and it just won’t

    With charger or without it, even took out the battery and put it back and nothing

    Until eventually I’ve got an idea that maybe its a battery sensor that’s stuck

    So I took it out and charget it directly (it has a separate connection on the battery itself

    Charged it for 5 min reconnected everything and it’s back to work like a charm

    Hope it helped :)

  6. I’ve had a BoR for a few years. It worked and has worked great. Up until IOS 9.1 ish…somewhere in apples updates the Bluetooth part of the system was getting mucked up. Now with either a 4S or a 5s iPhone delivering the music stream (it seems to prefer phone stored music…) the BoR would just disconnect (although it had a fully charged Lithium Ion battery inside) but leave itself appear connected. lol it became apparent that the bluetoothing, app coding and iOS updating were causing funky stuff to happen.

    So as of Summer 2016, this wonderfully sounding (compliments from many friends) BoR would work properly ‘if” you disconnected BT 1st, then changed stations/channels then reconnected the BT. Oh and if it totally shut down…it needs to have the battery out and left for about 3 mins to reset itself. Then plug the battery back in, power up and off I /we would go.

    I talked with the company sometime back..there are NO spare parts or replacement boards, etc…just the warranty replacement or buy a whole new BoR.

    My 2 bits on a nice, but quirky product that sounds awesome.

  7. I will buy anyone’s BoR which will not turn on.
    As for the review, the power button requires you to rest your finger on it, not tap it. this is a feature designed to prevent accidentally turning the unit on and wasting power. Once the unit is powered up with a rested finger, the volume up/down and bluetooth buttons work with a slight delay to also prevent accidental activation.
    Otherwise, your review is quite good.

  8. Great speaker while it worked. Lasted about 7 weeks before it wouldn’t turn on one day. I give it 5 stars while it worked. Read too many reviews about speaker going out within couple of weeks out of box but thought I would give it a shot. Would not recommend due to my experience and others same experience.

    1. You have to take the battery out of the BoR and charge it separately, you can’t charge it with the charge/plug while its in the BoR as the charger just gives its extra power to the system so you can play even loader if you wish. Unfortunately this seems to be the only set back about the BoR as I have had mine for the last two years and it has worked like a dream. The on and off button’s also require you to lightly hold you finger over the button to turn on/off as it was designed to avoid accidental changes while playing to avoid killing the mood.

    1. As far as the buttons not being sensitive, “tapping” isn’t going to work. The button must be touched and held until the power light comes on. This is to prevent accidentally turning the unit on my brushing the power button. I can picture you tapping away lol.

  9. Your photo suggests ‘fun young guy!’ while your review suggests ‘grumpy old curmudgeon’. Quite the contrast. Yours is an oddly ‘negative yet positive review’ of the Bag of Riddim which tells us very little – except that you’re a writer who has no problem beginning a sentence with the embarrassingly clunky ‘skepticism was abound’. **

    As a designer and audiophile, I find this rethink of the classic boombox to be nothing short of stunning. The design shows a sense of style AND humour and gives a nod to the past while still managing to be very ‘now’. One of the most newsworthy features – which continues to be ignored by non-audiophile reviewers – is its incredibly practical and logical ‘speakers up’ format for outdoor use. This makes the unit truly omnidirectional and ensures the controls are accessible from any approach – a real problem with all other boomboxes. This feature alone is worthy of five stars.

    Audio-wise it’s a star as well. I spent an entire afternoon – with three selected test-tracks – comparing the Bag of Riddim (the dock version) to a dozen or so of its competitors and it managed to outperform units at more than twice the price – even non-portable units from very reputable audio brands.

    Yes, the buttons ARE difficult – until you realise that applying pressure won’t do squat. Just leave you finger there for slightly longer than you think you ought (and lightly) and they work just fine. You’ll soon adjust – just as you did when you went from slip-ons to ‘big boy shoes’.

    Finally, how does the use of birch “…defeat the intended eco effects of the recycled material…”? Environmentally responsible doesn’t mean 100% recycled. It means using and sourcing materials wisely – so the birch you whined about isn’t an issue, it’s a benefit – an FSC Certified benefit. As for the ‘cheap’ plastic housing, it’s actually very high quality (again well sourced) plastic which has surprisingly good acoustic resilience. As for the lack of a rechargeable battery, that’s a no-brainer. Or should be. Using your own rechargeable D-cells is FAR more environmentally responsible than using a purpose-built, plug-in, rechargeable battery pack. But the House of Marley – being nicer folk than I – still decided to sell one of these as an extra for the dumb-dumbs out there.

    I’ve made (yes made) several people go out and buy one of these (or its super-elegant indoor brother) and they all love them with an almost Apple-like zealotry.
    For $280AUD (about $265USD) this is by far, the best value audio device (on a price to quality sound ratio) I’ve come across in a long time. Dr Dre and Monster only wish they could do things so well for so little.

    Yours, matt

    ** ‘Scepticism abounded’ or ‘I was abound with scepticism’ would work better for you. I’m not even going to comment on how dim-witted sceptic with a ‘k’ looks. Oh hang on, I just did. ;-)

    1. I agree about your review of the reviewer. The negativity was out the gate. I got a better understanding about the speaker from a review on iLounge and also a couple of reviews on YouTube. I’ve compared this “boom box” to the Beats Boom Box as much as possible and it seems like a STEAL and 100% better in sound! Just ordered one for a Christmas gift and hope your review and everyone else’s lives up to all the great comments!

    2. Agree.

      It’s ridiculous to say a built-in battery is more environmentally friendly than a standardized, user replaceable one. Built-in battery means once it is dead you can throw away the whole speaker. Well, you can hope for some technical support to replace it, but normally after a few years you will not get any replacement part. It’s sad that manufacturers already moved away from standardized batteries, and almost all of these gadgets are sold with built-in batteries. Please, at least do not ecourage them to follow this really environmentally and user unfriendly policy!

  10. Well – one could also argue that the buttons are not so responsive to avoid accidental powering off, switching to aux from bluetooth and vice versa. I have the product and your review is spot on. Just keep in mind that the buttons needs to be held down a bit longer than you’d expect.

  11. SpokenWar

    I have left a review at the “House of Riddim.” Of course, since it wasn’t ‘peace and love,” they never printed it. This product does not work. The touch on/off and the volume high/low does not work (it has a horrible time in the sunlight). I called the “tech support,” and the woman I talked to did not have a clue. She was without a doubt the worst tech support person I ever talked to.

    I sent this back.

    First of all,

    1. Hey there,
      agreed about the touch buttons, very frustrating, but never to the point where they just didn’t work. I”ll take another look and perhaps amend my review based on your feedback. Thanks for commenting.

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