When you’re choosing a Bluetooth speaker to buy, and you look at these nice options like the $260 Bose SoundLink I, $300 SoundLink II, and the $180 Jawbone Jambox, it’s easy to overlook cheaper options. Mostly because cheaper options are so often bad. For someone like me, who values good audio quality over everything, speakers are something you can’t skimp on. Might as well shell out some extra cash for speakers that sound great and you know will last.
Even worse for perception is an unknown name, like Soundfreaq was to me. I was looking at the Bose purely because Bose is an established name and their products are fairly good. But buying from an unknown brand is a bit scary. But I gave it a chance, stopped by Target, and grabbed one. Boy was I in for a surprise…
Soundfreaq Sound Kick SFQ-04
Buy from their site here
Battery life: 7 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth and 3.5mm audio in
External device charging: Yes, USB port delivering 500 mA
What’s in the box: The Sound Kick, a charging cable, and a super short 3.5mm aux cable
The front is unadorned, it is simply a grille with a square Soundfreaq logo in the center. It looks good and is nice and simple. I am one to appreciate understated design, so I really liked how this speaker looked on my desk.
The back is fairly simple too. There is nothing visibly interesting aside from the ports (more on that later). However, there is a not so obvious feature: The XKICK.
The XKICK, as Soundfreaq calls it, is basically a resonance chamber that doubles as a kickstand for the speaker. When it’s closed, the speaker will not turn on. You grab the two indentations and pull, and the chamber pops out with a reassuring click. When open, the speaker will be angled upwards. I love the angle, as it shoots sound at your face instead of your stomach. It’s truly a great feature many speakers lack!
This is something the other docks I’ve reviewed didn’t have, despite the much higher prices: a charging port. Yes, this dock has a full USB port outputting 500 mA of power to charge your device. To keep the battery from draining, it is disabled when the speaker is on battery power and you turn the volume up too loud, but it works at quieter volumes or when the speaker itself is charging. That’s a fantastic feature, considering that music and Bluetooth aren’t the most energy efficient tasks for your phone. It compliments the 3.5mm jack, the charging port, and the small LED to give you the battery state.
At the top, you’ll find 8 buttons. On the left are previous, play/pause, next, and pair. The first 3 are not available on many smaller speakers, so it’s nice to have them. The pair button works as advertised, and it’s dead easy to pair this device to your phone. It’s the most self explanatory pairing system I’ve ever seen, better than the others. On the right are the UQ3 button (more on that in the audio section), volume buttons, and power.
The power button is the only physical button on here. The rest are touch sensitive. If that makes you worry, rest easy knowing that these buttons are sensitive, responsive, and overall fantastic to use. As someone who owns a Samsung computer monitor with touch controls, I know the pain of bad implementation. I can safely say these buttons have no downside: they’re just great.
For only $100, you’d expect there to be big compromises with build quality. This is not so. Though it is made of plastic, it is very well built. The plastic is solid and has no bend or creak to it, while its portability is enhanced by a very light weight. It’s really easy to carry because of that weight, and that makes it incredible for portability, despite being a bit large.
The XKICK chamber looked fragile to me at first. How can it not? People tend to view plastic as fragile, despite the opposite being true. Oftentimes, plastic can be a lot better than materials people view as sturdier. I can reassure you that the chamber pops out very easily, and holds very well. Surprisingly, this speaker is built so solidly I couldn’t imagine it breaking. I do have to warn you though, that due to its light weight, keeping it vertically without the XKICK open is a bit unsafe, as it has a tendency to fall over when nudged even a little. I don’t view that as a design flaw though, as it is meant to be propped up with the XKICK when on a surface.
This is the section that’s definitely most important in a speaker. While build quality and features might be great, the speaker would be useless if it sounded bad. And considering how well thought out and solidly designed everything so far has been, it seems that sound quality would suffer for such a cheap price. Shockingly, not at all. Not only does this speaker sound good, it sounds fantastic.
Yes, I could not believe my ears. This thing blew away my expectations, along with more expensive speakers in its class. It’s really that good.
The sound is very clean, there is no distortion even at full volume. The bass is very strong, and while it does not shake the actual speaker very much, you can feel the bass coming at you. No other small speaker I’ve heard can claim that. Highs were also very good, and you could hear the file details in every song I played, be it rap, electronic, metal, or blues. I am extremely impressed.
There is one minor issue. It isn’t the loudest speaker there is. Yes, it is louder than a lot of the competition, and no, it is not at all quiet. It’ll fill up a medium sized room fairly well, and even filled up a big living room, but did not end up being so loud. For casual or just mid volume listening in a big room, it will be more than enough. But for rocking out at parties, it will not do. And it is not expected to. But some have expectations that are a little too high, and I thought I’d throw that out there. It’s quite loud in a small room though, so no complaints for a bedroom.
The UQ3 button is interesting, as it has very little effect on the music. Essentially, it is just a preset equalizer. It does make the mids/highs clearer and the bass slightly punchier, while removing a bit of unnecessary noise. It’s not the flat sound some people may love, but for average people, it’s definitely nice. I’m very thankful that the effect is very small, as I despise any strong equalization. It makes the sound ever so slightly quieter, but it’s generally worth it for the improved clarity.
If you’re in the market for a Bluetooth speaker, and you don’t want to go high end, this is what you’re looking for. I would not hesitate to recommend this product to anyone. But when going into this purchase, keep in mind its limitations of course. The same limitations that constrict most of its competition, even in the much higher end market. For $100, you really can’t go wrong, and I don’t think you could do any better.