Is that a speaker in your pocket or are you just happy to hear us? Spar's $99 Zephyr 300 is small enough to fit in your jeans and still deliver plenty of volume. And when it's not streaming music from your laptop or smartphone, it doubles as a mobile device charger.
The Zephyr's only ports are USB 2.0, microUSB, and headphone jack located on one short end. At 4.7 x 2.4 x 0.8 inches and 4.8 ounces, the speaker is half as thick, and about 3 ounces lighter than the Logitech Mini Boombox. While we could fit it easily into our pocket, the device was bulky and noticeable.
Decked out in black matte soft touch plastic, the Zephyr 300 was comfortable to hold, and didn't pick up fingerprints at all. However, its design is rather drab. The front has a plain-looking speaker grille, and the back is empty save for an imprinted Spar logo. Those who want a splash of color can also purchase the Zephyr 300 in red or blue.
Along the top are four physical buttons (Battery/Bluetooth Connect, Answer Phone, and Volume Up and Down) as well as four LED status lights and a power switch. The buttons slid around in their sockets, which felt a little cheap to us. Plus, they're not well marked.
Setup and Ease of Use
After turning on the Zephyr 300, we held down the Battery/Bluetooth Connect button until we saw four flashing lights (about 5 seconds), which signaled the speaker was in pair mode. Using the Bluetooth Control Panel on our laptop, we added the Zephyr and were streaming music in no time. The speaker paired easily with our iPhone 4S and Android phone.
Adding to its on-the-go functionality, the Zephyr can recharge mobile devices via its USB port. Don't expect to get a full charge in a timely fashion. After an hour, our phone's battery only increased from 80 to 88 percent.
The Zephyr 300 is best heard at mid-volume. At maximum volume, Styles P's bass-heavy "Harsh" sounded heavily distorted, as did the synthesized instrumentals on Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger." Our jazz track, "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm," was plagued with noise that diminished Ella Fitzgerald's vocals.
At a moderate volume, Kool & The Gang's "Summer Madness" sounded little better than on an AM radio. However, on "Moves Like Jagger," Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera's vocals were crisp, clear, and playful.
Using the 300 as a speakerphone was a mixed bag. We heard loud choppy audio on our end, and our caller reported the same. According to Spar, the speaker has an operating distance of 33 feet over Bluetooth.
Spar claims that the Zephyr 300's 800-mAh battery can last for 12 hours on a single charge. Just keep in mind that using the speaker to charge a mobile device will impact battery life.
Not all good things come in small packages. While the $99 Spar Zephyr 300 is extremely portable--and we like that it can recharge gadgets--its audio quality doesn't impress. Consumers should pick up the Logitech Mini Boombox instead. It's a bit bulkier, but we'll gladly give up extra space in our bag in return for better sound.