These days, there are tons of portable Bluetooth speakers to choose from. Especially around the sub-$50 range; small compact offerings that can get the job done are bountiful. But we’d like to emphasize the “get the job done” notion. It’s fair to say that most of these solutions are quick to show their weaknesses when challenged to fill a larger space.
If you’re like us and value more power and quality from a speaker’s audio, there are these options too, but at a cost. Or so? This is where things have been getting exciting, where some manufacturers of affordable accessories are taking a big step up in quality but not necessarily in price. And we think Aukey’s SK-S1 16W Bluetooth speaker offering may just be one of these gems. This synopsis takes a close at what you get, and the details one should know.
We looked at an Aukey device before, a budget pair of Bluetooth earbuds that we found notable in several ways. However, its exterior couldn’t necessarily be deemed “premium”. The SK-S1 is a different story. We were immediately taken aback when pulling it out of the box. It looks and feels like a $100 or more speaker.
- Premium materials and quality build
- Compact size
- Easy to use
- Strong dual 8W drivers and dual passive radiators
- Great sound quality
- Battery life is average
- Bluetooth range is average
- Not as full sounding as a 360-degree speaker
What it’s like to use
- It’s noticeable that Aukey’s focus with the SK-S1 speaker was balance. It’s compact as to nicely fit in the hand but not so compact that it would limit the space for strong audio. For reference, it’s about the size of the popular UE Boom 2 (in a horizontal orientation).
- However, despite the grill curving around the entire device, we’re not talking about a 360-degree, multi-directional output like with the Boom 2. It fires from the front (though, acts more like a 180-degree spread – more on the sound impressions later).
- There’s some heft when you pick it up. Coupled with the metallic build, you get a total sense of the “premium” quality typically reserved for more costly, elite options. What we also like is that Aukey additionally put a valiant effort with styling. It’s a medley of textures, which looks attractive and refreshing to see in the midst of the common, completely black alternatives.
- Turn the speaker over and you’ll see a substantial rubber base, with slightly raised feet at each corner. It serves well to keep the speaker from sliding on a surface.
- One critical drawback of this design appears to be the lack of water resistance. We’re saying “appears to be” because there’s no mention of it in the product description, and we’re not inclined to take it for a dip to find out for sure. This is quite the knock being that most of the competition has some kind of “IP” ingress protection rating, and that these kind of speakers are often used outdoors.
- Aukey’s packaging is no frills. You’ll simply find a charging cable (the typical USB-to-microUSB) and a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm aux cable. We’re seeing more and more manufacturers drop aux support (which allows for wired output from a source), and we applaud Aukey for not being one of them (we like options).
- We also like how straightforward the speaker’s physical functions are laid out, and how easy it is to use. Every playback control is concisely lined across the top, and the power button and ports are bunched together at a corner on the rear. The only other thing to know is a small LED status indicator on a corner on the top. Very clean and simple.
- The spread of the audio, or fullness, is pretty good despite the speaker not having a 360-degree output. The strength of the drivers helps push the audio past they’re physical boundaries (i.e. despite the drivers facing forward, you can hear the audio significantly expel from the sides). Still, a 360-degree solution (like UE’s speakers) does noticeably fill a room better.
- Two important factors of a Bluetooth speaker is Bluetooth signal performance and battery life. Both are fairly average on this device, but at least they’re not bad. For a 4,000mAh capacity, we were expecting more than 8 hours of playback, so we guess that goes to show the potent output. The Bluetooth v4.0 chip gets the standard 33ft range, and we attest that it works flawlessly to that capacity.
- Aside from the 8W power assigned to each driver, Aukey does a couple of other things to boost the sound quality. The speaker utilizes a dedicated signal processor (extra processes, not just digital to analog conversion like that of a DAC). All we know about it utilizes a technology that Aukey developed dubbed “MaxxBass”, said to improve audio processing, quality, and power efficiency. We assume this tech is friendly with many formats, but don’t know how its quality would compare to a more known standard like Qualcomm’s aptX codec.
- After plentiful listening, we’re inclined to say that Aukey is doing a good job. Overall, it’s a well-rounded sound with great definition across the board.
- The passive radiators have ample potency to get a deep, audible rumble that we all want but don’t often get. You can see how much the bass is pushing the system by picking up the speaker – the chassis shakes quite a bit a higher volumes.
- Speaking of the volume, there’s also a surprising amount of headroom (making it suitable for outdoor use and parties). The frequency ranges scale nicely with the volume. At the upper limit, the mids-to-treble do push a little ahead of the bass, but in no way to a “tinny” level. It’s handled well.
- The mid-bass punch is more subtle than a basshead may like. This isn’t to say it’s not of good definition, but note that it won’t blow you away.
- We really like the sound of the main drivers (that handle the mids-to-treble regions). Notes hit with a top-notch clarity. Vocals, in particular, have a shining presence.
Aukey’s SK-S1 Bluetooth speaker isn’t the cheapest offering out there, but it excellently exemplifies why you’d want to spend a little extra. Not everyone may care for the immaculate and premium build quality, but fortunately in this case, you get as much benefit from the audio output. No, we’re not talking about a powerhouse like the beefy Braven Ready Elite, but Aukey’s configuration does punch above its weight/size.
That said, we do wish that Aukey included water resistance, like many competitors do. This feature can be critical for a “portable” speaker. Chances are that it will be used outdoors. Other than that, this is as solid as a compact Bluetooth speaker gets (not to mention its standout design). At ~ $44, you’re getting a great value here.
Also See: UE Blast Wireless Speaker Synopsis