The Bluetooth speaker market has unofficially become commoditized. It’s not the first time I’ve griped about the number of portable Bluetooth speakers on the market and it most certainly won’t be the last. That said, sifting through the bin, so to speak, of wireless speakers can now be a daunting task. There are hardly any features that separate one from the next. If you’re none the wiser you might end up with nothing more than a tin can duct-taped together with wires and magnets. But does it make it to the top-rated Bluetooth speakers?
Philips Shoqbox is not that speaker. Unlike the OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth speaker, it’s rugged, unique looking, and offers a feature set that we haven’t seen in a portable Bluetooth speaker before, though we’re not sure it’s something we care for or truly need. More on that later. But if you want a Bluetooth docking speaker then you should check out our Philip Fidelio DS7700 Bluetooth Docking Speaker review.
The version I received is the SB7210/37 and is finished in all white. Not a good idea Philips, as it is very prone to marring and marks. But that should go without saying. The included carrying carabiner is about as cheap as they can get, so do yourself a favor and toss it out before you even attempt to strap it onto your backpack. I know I gave it a go only to find out that I’d probably lose it mid-stride hurdling down the street on my bike at 20mph. Sure, one could argue tunes and those kinds of speeds are a recipe for disaster, but ask me and I’ll tell you they were born to be together, like peanut butter and chocolate (yeah, I just went there).
With that in mind, you can control the Philips Shoqbox without actually touching it thanks to a “smart sensor” on the front of the speaker. Swipe left or right and you can reverse or skip tracks respectively. Place your hand over the sensor and the music stops or begins to play. During my initial use, this simplified the playing and fiddling process, but as time drew on I realized how annoying it could be. One wrong move and I was pausing my music or skipping a track. Leave it on counters, where it tends to roll around due to the design, and the Shoqbox will pause or play music unwillingly. So in theory the smart sensor is a great idea, but in practice not so much.
Fortunately, volume is adjusted by an oversized metal knob embedded into the end of the Shoqbox. It looks like it could survive a nuclear bomb – yes, it’s that rugged, as is the Shoqbox itself, minus the white facade which as I already mentioned is prone to marring and marks. Power is turned on using a small button that glows blue once juiced up – followed by a tone no less. Unlike other speakers of this ilk, you simply need to tap it to turn it on. Tap it again and a voice will emit speaking the battery life, which is delivered in 3 increments: full, halfway, and “charge anytime soon”. Shutting it down requires you to hold down the power button for a few seconds, which you’ll want to do when it’s not in use, or be forced to do when the power button goes from Blue to flashing Red (this indicates that the battery is almost dead).
Hidden behind a rubber flap is a mini USB port. Adjacent to that is an AUX input protected by a rubber flap which further ensures that this portable Bluetooth speaker can withstand the elements, which includes the occasional splash or drop to the floor. And given its solid feel in the hand that isn’t too heavy (just a pair of 1lb), I’d have to agree. For those who’d love a much larger Bluetooth speaker that works great outdoors then our Pioneer Steez Crew review should come in handy.
Though the volume knob can continuously turn on its axis, the Shoqbox SB7210 will eventually emit a tone when the maximum has been reached. Which mind you significantly loud and full of bass, relatively speaking for a speaker of this size and ilk. Sure, the timber and warmth one would want from a larger speaker system isn’t present, and nor are the mids, but it’s a caveat and one you should be willing to make in light of its portability, size, and 8-hour battery life (this will vary with your volume, but expect about 8 hours). And for those with a spec obsession, the audio is produced from two 4-watt neodymium speakers and Philips wOOx bass radiators. You can also make calls over the Shoqbox thanks to a built-in microphone.
So at $180 the Philips ShoqBox SB7210/37 Wireless Portable Speaker is a rather remarkable piece of kit. It won’t blow the doors off of anything, won’t replace a regular-sized speaker system, but it will suffice and survive when you’re on the road, or like me hurdling down the tarmac at 20mph on your bicycle.
Bottom Line: a well-balanced portable speaker with an exceptionally rugged design and tough look.