Parrot DS3120 Review

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$249

Pros: Accepts files from multiple sources; Compact design; Displays cell phone book in call mode

Cons: No preinstalled rechargeable battery; Can't control volume from all screens

Verdict: Parrot's versatile Bluetooth speaker dock lets you listen to music from just about any device, doubles as a speakerphone, and comes with a built-in FM radio.

With the DS3120, Parrot one-ups the traditional Bluetooth speaker design. This digital media catchall has a radio and accepts music via Bluetooth, an SD Card, USB, or a 3.5mm line-in jack. It also uses its Bluetooth connection to function as a speakerphone and has a 1.8-inch color LCD for accessing these options and adjusting the audio equalizer. What the DS3120 lacks in audio fidelity, it makes up for in versatility.

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Design

At 11.7 inches wide, the DS3120 is about the same width as the ultra-slimAltec Lansing SoundBladebut packs a little more baggage in the back at 3.9 inches deep, compared with the SoundBlade's svelte 1-inch profile. Still, the DS3120 will easily fit on a small table and is an unobtrusive desk companion.

Centered on the top of the unit is a bright and clear 1.8-inch LCD. Below are nine buttons to make on-screen selections and control music playback and volume. The buttons are spaced far enough apart to use with ease but require a bit of force; we found ourselves holding onto the back of the unit to prevent it from tipping over when using the playback controls. At the very bottom is a fold-down cover that houses the SD/MMC memory card reader, the USB port, and the 3.5mm line-in jack. A gray grille hides the two 20-watt speakers on the front of the unit, giving the black unit a standard look.

The on-screen menu is easy to navigate; up and down arrows guide you through the various options, such as input and equalizer settings. When a USB key or SD Card is inserted, the LCD quickly displays only the available music files. This is great because it alleviates searching through the entire USB drive. Unfortunately, the volume controls don't work on every screen; the system requires you to go back a few menus before you can turn down the volume.

Music Performance

Overall, listening to the DS3120 gave us the feeling that we were listening to our neighbor's stereo through a wall, even though we were sitting right in front of it. Eddie Vedder's "Hard Sun" via the Bluetooth connection sounded decent, but it had a little bit of the muffled "underwater" sound that we've heard in other Bluetooth speakers.

The same song played via the line-in, SD Card, and USB port sounded much cleaner, but we weren't blown away by it, even with the Super Bass and Stereo Widening presets activated. No matter how we connected to the speakers, we found the highs and lows lacking. During LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends," the bass was buried, and the repetitive piano loop in the intro didn't sound as well rounded as it did on theMotorola EQ7. The midrange sounds were the strongest and most audible, but they were nowhere near as crisp as those on the EQ7 or the SoundBlade.

When we cranked the volume on the DS3120, we were pleasantly surprised by both its loudness and the lack of distortion. One note of caution: initially switching from any of the other modes to the FM radio was a jolt as its volume was natively much louder. Thankfully, you can alter the input volume for the radio in the settings, which we definitely recommend doing.

Speakerphone Performance

When you receive a call, the DS3120 pauses the music; pressing the green button on the device answers the call. Callers said they could hear us well but that we sounded far away, even though we were sitting right next to the unit. When we moved five feet away from the DS3120, our test caller had trouble hearing us. On our end, the speakers emitted the occasional crackle, but overall, the caller sounded clear.

We could access our phone book and call history from the DS3120's screen. While it's not necessarily quicker than using your phone, it's handy if you're sitting on the couch and the phone is across the room. On our tests, we found the DS3120 still held a Bluetooth connection at 50 feet, which is much farther than the 33-foot connection range that Parrot states.

Battery

In addition to an AC adapter, the DS3120 uses six C batteries, which reminded us of a boombox circa 1986. Parrot states that the batteries will give you 10 hours of listening time, but our unit lasted more than 18 continuous hours that consisted of switching among the Bluetooth connection, the USB port, the line-in, and the radio. While it can be used with rechargeable batteries (purchased separately), the 4.4-pound DS3120 (without batteries) doesn't give off the impression of extreme portability, unlike the 1.6-pound SoundBlade.

Verdict

If you find yourself looking at the Altec Lansing SoundBlade or the Motorola EQ7 and wishing they had a radio, accepted USB and SD Cards, or had sound-equalizing options, then the Parrot DS3120 is the one for you. You'll sacrifice some sound quality, but the DS3120's versatility makes up for it.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Accessories Type Speaker Docks
Accessories Type Bluetooth Device
Size 11.7 x 5.9 x 3.9 inches
Weight 4.4 pounds
Company Website http://www.parrot.com/