With a retro-style conical shape, the Genius SP-900BT definitely has a funky design. Plus, unlike some other palm-size Bluetooth speakers, this one can be used as a speakerphone because it has a built-in microphone. But is this $49.99 device the best of the bunch?
Click to EnlargeWeighing 6.5 ounces, the SP-900BT is a bit heavier than some of the other Bluetooth speakers we've tested. However, we like The Genius SP-900BT's sleek yet retro design. It has a conical shape that tapers from the 3.2-inch speaker in the front to about 1.9 inches in the rear. The back is shiny black, while the ring around the actual speaker is matte silver. The device also comes in a white-and-lime color combo.
In the middle of the speaker is a silver circle with the Genius logo, and surrounding it is black speaker grill cloth. We worry about accidentally ripping a hole in this material. In fact, after a few days of use, we noticed slight tearing in the fabric. Fortunately, Genius includes a small drawstring pouch.
The round front slants toward the back, and features a USB port and an aux-in jack. In front of that are four silver buttons: Volume Up/Down, Power On/Off/Call/Answer and Bluetooth pairing. An indicator light lies above the buttons, and a rubber pad rests on the bottom of the speaker, so it won't slide around or damage any furniture.
After charging the Genius SP-900BT, we turned it on and held down the Bluetooth button. When the LED light started flashing quickly (which means it's in pairing mode), we went into our iPhone 4's Settings, tapped General, then Bluetooth and looked for SP-900BT under Devices. Once we saw the device, we tapped on it to pair. We knew the speaker had successfully paired with our iPhone when the blue LED light resumed its slow flashing.
We then accessed our iPhone's music library and played the track we wanted to hear. Audio instantly erupted from the Genius SP-900BT.
Click to EnlargeFor the most part, the Genius offered sound quality that was just a notch below the Satechi ST-69BTS, the DBEST London Duo and the Veho VSS-009-360BT. While it didn't have as much bass as the Satechi, or was quite as accurate as the Veho, the audio was loud and powerful. However, we did notice that sound became distorted at higher volumes.
While playing Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" the bass was a bit hollow, but the piano riffs came through beautifully, almost like we were sitting on the bench with the pianist. Adele's mezzo-soprano vocals were crisp and rich, reaching the highs and nailing the lows. But when we played other tracks such as Katy Perry's "California Girls," the sound was more muffled. Perry's strong vocals sounded a bit tinny when belting out the popular lyrics.
We appreciate the SP-900BT's speakerphone capability. When receiving calls, we had the option to answer via our smartphone, speakerphone or through the actual speaker. Calls came through clearer than with the iHome iDM11.
Genius says the SP-900BT should get 8 hours of playback time, but we got only about 3 hours and 30 minutes before it automatically cut the volume in half. After that, we got approximately another three hours of playback before the volume got even softer. The speaker lasted for another 10 hours after that before finally dying.
While this was only trumped by DBEST's PS4003BT Duo's battery life of 22 hours, we weren't fans of the automatic volume lowering. We'd prefer a device with a shorter battery life that lets us blast out our favorite tracks.
When left on and not in use, the SP-900BT beeped annoyingly until we turned it off. In fact, one night after using it, we were woken up by the random, intermittent beeping because we had forgotten to turn the speaker off.
Genius says the speaker takes 3 hours to charge, but when we charged the device, it only took 1 hour and 55 minutes.
Click to EnlargeThe $49.99 Genius SP-900BT offers pretty good audio and a sleek design. The speakerphone capability also comes in handy. However, we're not fans of the automatic volume decrease feature that saves battery life. While it doesn't double as a speakerphone, the Satechi ST-69BTS Audio Cube costs $5 less, and offers better-sounding audio and longer battery life at higher volume. But for less than $50, the SP-900BT is a versatile and long-lasting little speaker.