Killer Concepts Rocksteady XS Review

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Pros: Superb audio quality; Compact, travel-friendly design; Very long battery life; USB port on board

Cons: No apps; Lacks speakerphone capability

Verdict: The Killer Concepts Rocksteady XS is a compact Bluetooth speaker that's low on bells and whistles but high on sound quality and performance.

Loud and proud of it, the Killer Concepts Rocksteady XS Bluetooth speaker is compact enough to tote around in a purse or backpack yet can fill a room with sound. Though its aluminum design isn't nearly as flashy as the appearance of competing models, such as the Jawbone Jambox, the XS pumps out premium audio for $99 and promises more than 10 hours of wireless listening.

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Design

The Rocksteady XS is constructed of brushed, black aluminum that feels like it can take a beating in your bag. The front panel sports the Rocksteady XS logo with six buttons directly underneath it. The buttons allow you to pause, play, stop, skip tracks, change volume settings and activate Bluetooth connectivity mode. Although its overall look isn't exactly chic, the XS certainly is sturdy.

Both the left and right sides of the Rocksteady XS store a single speaker protected by a metal grille, while the top houses a third speaker. The speakers are supplemented by a built-in passive subwoofer. On the back of the XS, you'll find three connectivity options: one USB port (for plugging in a USB drive), a 3.5-millimeter audio jack and the power port. The On/Off switch is directly to the right of the audio jack.

On the underside of the speaker, a clear plastic cover protects the lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which can be removed by lifting a flap on the cover. Doing so with our fingers proved to be difficult, but it only took us a few seconds to pry it open with the tip of a pen.

Measuring 6.4 x 1.8 x 1.8 inches and weighing 8.9 ounces, the Rocksteady XS is lighter but longer than the Jawbone Jambox Smartspeaker, which measures 5.9 x 2.2 x 1.6 inches and weighs 12.1 ounces.

Setup and Ease of Use

After switching the speaker on and pressing the Mode button to put it into Pairing mode, we switched on Bluetooth in our Droid Razr M's Settings menu and tapped Search for Devices. A few moments later, our handset detected that the Rocksteady XS was in Pairing mode. We tapped the Connect button, and the Rocksteady emitted a chirping sound several seconds later, indicating that pairing was successful.

Connecting the Rocksteady XS to a Windows 7-based ASUS Zenbook Prime notebook took a couple of extra steps. We right-clicked on the Bluetooth icon in the taskbar, clicked Show Bluetooth Devices and right-clicked on the Rocksteady XS icon in the Devices window that appeared. We then clicked Services and selected Listen to Music in the window that opened. Just as it did when we tapped Connect on our Droid Razr M, the Rocksteady XS chirped moments later, completing setup.

Performance

The Rocksteady XS is definitely one of the best-sounding speakers in its class. When we listened to "The Blue Danube" by Johann Strauss, the Rocksteady pumped out clear and powerful sound.

When we activated LiveAudio (the Jambox's highest-quality audio setting) and streamed the same song to the Jawbone Jambox, it made the classical-music epic sound flat and lifeless. When we listened to "Hot for Teacher" by Van Halen, the guitars sounded hollow and weak on the Jambox, but clear on the Rocksteady. We noticed some distortion on higher tones on the XS, but not enough for us to consider it a significant issue.

When streaming music from the Droid Razr M to the Rocksteady XS, we were able to get as far away as 55 feet before the sound cut out. However, when we switched to a Windows 7-based ASUS Zenbook Prime notebook, that number sank to a maximum distance of 18-27 feet.

Battery Life

Though Killer Concepts claims that the Rocksteady XS should get more than 10 hours of battery life, the device shattered that mark in our test, streaming talk radio at 50 percent volume for a whopping 18 hours and 5 minutes before the battery conked out.

Verdict

While it lacks the apps and the speakerphone function found in the Jawbone Jambox, the Rocksteady XS delivers excellent sound, lasts a long time on a charge, and costs $30 less. Those looking for an unobtrusive yet powerful and portable Bluetooth speaker will find a lot to like in the Rocksteady XS.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Accessories Type Speakers
Accessories Type Bluetooth Device
Battery Type/Life Lithium-ion
Size 6.4 x 1.8 x 1.8-inches
Weight 0.4-pounds
Company Website http://www.killerc.com