The Blazar by Beacon Audio is the largest bluetooth speaker they make and it packs quite a punch. This is a high end portable bluetooth speaker system with a less-than-high end price.

The nitty-gritty: The Blazar is an approximately three and a half inch cube that weighs in at just under four and a half inches. The body is constructed out of a single aluminum outer shell with rubberized top and bottom. Playback controls are found on top, with raised shapes in the rubber to indicate buttons: up/down for volume control, left/right for skipping and scrubbing, and the center button for play/pause. The back has two auxiliary ports (one for in, one for out), the “share” button, power slider, USB charging port, and indicator lights. The sides are dedicated to speaker grilles for the two 50mm drivers, and the bottom has a built-in pedestal underneath which houses the 60mm bass driver. The front of the device is fairly clean, showing only a logo and the microphone holes.

Bluetooth connection is very straightforward: turn the device on and press and the up button on the top until there’s a beep and the LED light flashes to indicate pairing mode. Then you just find “Blazar by Beacon” in your bluetooth devices list. It’s always convenient when devices have an easy to find bluetooth name. Bluetooth connectivity is only 2.1, which is fine, but 4.0 is ubiquitous (and cheap) enough that there’s no reason Beacon shouldn’t have included it. 4.0 saves energy and is often more reliable.

IMG_4075The Blazar includes NFC to make connecting with NFC enabled devices practically effortless: just place your phone near the speaker and wait for the connection dialog to pop up. While this popup showed very quickly for us (within 3 seconds), actually connecting to took a couple attempts. Still, this is a useful feature that saves us the trouble of navigating menus, and it’s possibly fast enough to connect while receiving a phone call to quickly enable speaker phone use.

The Blazar also includes the ability to connect a second blazar unit to use the pair as left and right channels. We didn’t have the opportunity to test this feature out as we were only sent one unit, but the idea seems pretty straightforward: put both speakers into pairing mode, press and hold the share button on the back until they connect and each will announce which direction they’re being used as. Then you just connect your phone and boom, stereo bluetooth speakers. Look ma, no wires!

With both in and out auxiliary connections, you can use traditional 3.5mm cables to connect and to daisy chain other speakers.

Playback controls are situated on top, and should be familiar to most: up and down arrows control volume, left and right buttons control both skipping forward and back, as well as scrubbing through media by holding the buttons. The center button will play or pause, and holding the button will put the device into pairing mode. There is a disturbingly loud beep when turning the volume to max, however. This really should be a lot lower, both in volume and tone.

Build quality for the Blazar is very solid. The single aluminum piece that surrounds the four sides and tough rubberized top and bottom make for a sturdy piece of kit that will no doubt take the odd bang or small fall without too much issue. The larger drivers give the device a satisfying but not encumbering heft. The playback buttons are built into the top using a single rubber surface, which will provide durability over time. The rubberized bottom give it a nonslip grip on pretty much any smooth surface

The sound you get from the Blazar is pretty exceptional considering how small this thing is. You get a great response from the full frequency range at all but the loudest volumes. As with almost any speaker this small, cracking the volume to the max will result in some rather muddy mid tones. Overall, the sound quality exceeds expectations: High frequencies don’t sound like they’re from an empty tin can, nice flat mids that keep everything audible, and bass that actually thumps. I suspect the use of three separate drivers, one of which is dedicated to bass frequencies, is what keeps the sound surprisingly clean.

IMG_4073The Blazar will more than fill small to medium size rooms, and in fact will easily get too loud for practically any bedroom or bathroom—rocking out in the shower is no problem here. In fact, this speaker should cut the mustard for many small get-togethers.

Battery time is reported at 10-12 hours of playback time, and while we haven’t put that claim completely to the test, we have run the device at 50% volume for most of the workday without any signs of stopping. Despite the longevity of battery life, we would liked to have seen some kind of battery indicator.

The Blazar by Beacon Audio includes the same functions you find in most bluetooth speakers these days. What sets it apart is the looks and the sound. You’re getting a very competent sound system from this little box, and a whole lot more sound than you might expect. Set a just over a hundred dollars, you’re getting a lot of boom for your buck.

Check out Beacon’s page for the Blazar here.