The iWerkz Vibration speaker is a unique twist on the traditional standalone bluetooth speaker with a great idea, but a somewhat flawed execution.
The nitty-gritty: The speaker is reminiscent of an air hockey mallet in shape, with a smaller cylinder on top of a larger one. The majority of the casing consists of matte black metal, with a soft-touch rubberized top. The whole device is a bit larger than a large mans fist, and has a good bit of heft to it. The top of the device has four touch-activated buttons and a microphone hole. There is a play/pause button, left and right buttons for both volume and track control, and a phone button. On the back of the device you find a USB charging port, an on/off/bluetooth switch, and two 3.5mm audio jacks for line in and line out. At the bottom, you find the party piece: a small metal pedestal with a micro suction sticky pad where the sound comes from. We’ll get to that in a second.
The build quality is rather excellent. The heaviness makes the speaker feel high quality, the paint (or powder coating) seems resistant to chipping, and it generally feels as though it can take a knock or two. The backside ports don’t feel cheap when plugging cables in, which is a feeling you often get on other bluetooth speakers.
Packaging is spartan: inside the plain cardboard box, you get the speaker itself, a USB charging cable, an auxiliary cable, and a small piece of wood.
The speaker has two kinds of input: bluetooth and 3.5mm auxiliary in. Connecting via bluetooth was straightforward, put the device in bluetooth mode, and find VIBRO-26W in your phone or computer’s bluetooth discovery screen. The instruction guide informs that only one device can be connected at a time, which means this speaker doesn’t support multipoint, and to connect to a different device, you will have to disconnect from the first one.
The controls are not your traditional buttons, but capacitive buttons lit from below. There is no haptic feedback of any kind from the buttons, and you don’t immediately know whether they triggered or not. The play/pause button works as expected, the left/right arrows skip forward and back tracks when touched once, and control the volume of the unit when touched and held. The phone button is used to pick up and end calls.
Time for a bit of a lesson on how speakers work. A normal speaker like you have in your car is made up of three main components: a magnet, a wire-wrapped cylinder, and a cone made of flexible material. Electricity is applied to the wire to make the magnet move through the cylinder, which in turn moves the cone. The cone vibrates the air to make the sound you hear from the speaker (this is an incredibly simplified version, the actual process is a fair bit more complicated).
The iWerkz speaker works differently than the traditional loudspeaker that you find in most bluetooth speakers. The vibration speaker eschews the attached cone, and attaches the magnet to whatever surface the device is on to create sound via the small pedestal (iWerkz calls the “resonance plate”) on the bottom. There are some benefits and drawbacks to this method. Depending on what surface you attach it to, you can get a LOT of sound out of the thing. And since whatever you attach it to is acting as the speaker, the bigger the surface, the more bass you get. We found the best sound when the speaker was attached to an exterior window. Interior windows work less well, and we suspect that the exterior one is built rather more securely.
However, there is a reason this isn’t the way most portable speakers work. Once you detach the vibration speaker from whatever surface its on (using the sticky pad on the bottom), you get nothing but a faint whisper of whatever audio you’re playing. That means in order for the speaker to be useful at all, it has to be attached to a hard surface. The small wood block is included so that you can use less-than-smooth, dirty, or porous surfaces, but it’s less than ideal: the block is another step between the vibration-making facilities of the speaker, and whatever surface is supposed to be creating sound. This often leads to a very muted sound on surfaces like carpet or car seats. And of course you can’t throw this in your bag and rock out to tunes as you walk down the street or ride down the slopes.
While the speaker has a decidedly good bass response (more so than any other speaker this size could conceivably deliver), treble is essentially absent unless attached to a very small surface. This tradeoff means you have to decide whether you want bass or treble. A reasonably flat response can be found when used on a surface with some sort of chamber, like a shelf cubby or box. In fact, the instructions say the packaging box is meant for that purpose, although any indication of such anywhere other than the instruction sheet is missing. You can set the speaker –while attached to the wood block– on top of the box and get a decent sound from it.
Daisy chaining is possible using the auxiliary ports, and that can be used to get more meaningful treble while still achieving booming bass. Unfortunately this is not possible while also using bluetooth; you’ll have to use the aux-in for input when daisy chaining.
iWerkz pegs battery life at around ten hours (though it isn’t stated whether that’s playback time or standby), and though we haven’t run rigorous tests, with the few hours we played music through it with no drops, and the inclusion of Bluetooth 4.0 (also known as Bluetooth Low Energy), we have no reason to doubt the claim. Charging the device is done via your regular ol’ micro USB port, and should charge 0-100% in a couple hours.
Though the iWerkz Vibration Speaker is small, wireless, and battery-powered, you cannot say it’s portable. You will have to place the speaker specifically in order to achieve any modicum of sound. However, once you find the sweet spot positioning, you are in for some serious boom: this little speaker packs a punch. If you value bass above all else for wireless speakers, you might be able to find a spot for this in your home or at work…Just warn your neighbors. Combined with any method for getting decent treble, the iWerkz speaker will definitely have you grooving.
Check out the iWerkz page here.