Antec Mobile Products SPzero Bluetooth Speaker Introduction
Tinny music from your mobile phone speaker sounds awesome, doesn't it? It thumps right along, providing rich and clear sound that you can easily make out the words to songs, right? Ok, we're just kidding! Mobile phone speakers are some of the worst speakers that your ears can tune to, so many manufacturers have developed external Bluetooth solutions for your music listening needs. Antec Mobile Products (A.M.P) has a couple different products in their arsenal, and we even looked at one in the past, so today we're going to check out a very portable Bluetooth speaker called the SPzero.
The cowbell shaped SPzero is the smallest, but newest sibling to the SP line of Bluetooth speakers by AMP, which arrived to the market late 2013. Sure the shape may be goofy, but it's the sound quality that matters to us! There are so many portable Bluetooth speakers out there that exclaim the fact that the woofer pounds hard and you can see it move, but if it sounds like crap it doesn't matter how hard the woofer is pounding. This speaker being small and lightweight also makes it much more portable than the SP1, so taking it with you on-the-go will be a much easier task.
The SPzero does have a tolerance to moisture, so it could definitely be perfect to use while you're taking a hot shower; just don't take it in the shower with you – it isn't that water resistant!
You can purchase the SPzero in 7 different color combinations, with the blue/white version being looked at today. The MSRP on this speaker is a whopping $79.99, but you can currently pick this speaker up for $42.24 plus shipping on Amazon and it comes with a one year warranty.
Many lower end products will make you drop in your own batteries, but AMP has you covered in this category; one of the greatest things with this speaker is the built-in lithium-polymer rechargeable battery. Antec claims up to 8 hours of use, which should prove to plenty to get you through your day and possibly outlast your mobile phone battery.
Based on the specifications below, this speaker should have a decent amount of power behind it to crank it up and it actually has a pretty good frequency response. The only concerning item is the THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) as 10% is pretty high. I guess we'll have to see what our ears think and how acceptable this is.
- Bluetooth Standard: Bluetooth V3.0
- Wireless Range: Up to 10m
- RMS: 3W (THD 10%)
- Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20KHz
- Microphone: Built-in Omni-direction Microphone
- Battery Type: 750mAh Rechargeable lithium-polymer battery
- Support Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
- Interface: Micro USB Power Port, Audio-In, Audio-Out
- Buttons/Controls: Talk/ Play/ Pause, Volume down/up
- Size: 86(H) x 57(W) x 94(D) mm
- Weight: 218g
- Warranty: 1 year
Let's move on and see more of what this speaker looks like and how it works!
A Closer Look at the AMP SPzero Bluetooth Speaker
Our SPzero didn't come with a box or instructions when we received it from Antec, so we have to skip the details on the packaging and also had to figure out how to use this on our own. Let's first take a quick tour around the speaker and see what it has to offer.
Let's start off with the look and feel of the SPzero: It is fantastic! The outside surface, with exception to the grille portion on the front and back, is a smooth silicone finish that feels very nice and looks great. It should help avoid scratches and be fairly durable while also providing a little slip resistance when sitting on various surfaces. However in your hand it sure does feel nice, but the silicone finish does cause it to be a little slippery. The metal bars on the top are solid and seem to be build with quality in mind. Overall the look may be a little goofy for some, but I feel that it actually looks slick.
Looking at the front of the speaker, you will notice its obvious cowbell shape with white (metal) bars on the top. This particular speaker is a blue and white combo, but there are six other combinations that AMP created for this speaker. On the face is a nicely designed grille pattern made from plastic. At the very top center is a “hole” that is actually the LED. This LED will blink white when it is powered on and red when it is low on juice.
The right side features the auxiliary and charging ports. The charging port is a standard Micro USB port, so finding a charger should be easy, should you forget to grab the included cable. Aux In and Aux Out are the other ports, with the Aux In port being the obvious input for your device, should you choose to not use Bluetooth. Is the Aux Out port confusing you? Well, that is actually to allow you to daisy chain the SPzero with another SPzero. So that means the Aux In port will also serve as the connecting port between the speakers. Antec tells us that you can go wild and connect as many SPzeros as you wish, so go nuts… if you have the budget!
The rear of the speaker is another plastic speaker grille, but there is nothing additional on this side.
The left side of the speaker also doesn't show you much other than a nice looking SPzero logo.
Jumping up top we see the obvious white metal bars again. The purpose behind these, from what I understand, is your option to hook up the button strap with the hook on it, so you can attach or hang the speaker from other objects. Up here you will find 3 buttons, which serve as volume down, power on/off, answer calls, pairing, and volume up. These buttons are completely covered by the silicone and have a nice firm actuation, so you know that you're pressing them. Also note the small hole between the minus (volume down) button and the power button. This is the microphone location, should you decide to use this as a speakerphone when paired with your mobile phone.
Finally, on the bottom is basically the certifications (like FCC, Bluetooth, etc.) and the A.M.P logo.
The accessories that AMP includes with the SPzero include a no tangle USB to Micro USB cable (for charging) and a no tangle 3.5mm cord for connecting your device directly to the speaker or to another SPzero. Also included is a strap with a hook to connect to one of the metal bars. This strap features two snap buttons to hold it in place. For me, I'd be a little wary of the buttons coming undone since they don't feel extremely tight.
When you hook up the strap, this is effectively what it'll look like.
Let's move on and check out how the SPzero operates and how easy it is to learn, as we received no instructions.
Using the AMP SPzero
Without instructions, it took very little thinking on how to power on and pair a device, since the minus and plus buttons were obviously volume buttons, so that left the center for power. You will hold the center button for approximately 5 seconds and it will power on with a voice that says “Power On.” To pair your device, continue hold the power button down for another 3-5 seconds and it will go into pairing mode, again with an audible voice that says “Pairing.” The LED on the face will blink white rapidly, as well. Should you want to cancel pairing because you accidentally held the power button down too long, not paying attention, you will just have the power the device off. This again is achieved by holding the power button for approximately 5 seconds and you'll get a voice that says “Power Off.” Quite the nice touch, I must say!
Adjusting volume could be easier, but it is still easy enough. You have to continually press the volume down or up buttons to adjust the volume, so there is no holding it to quickly adjust the volume. When you hit the maximum or minimum level, you will get a loud double beep informing you of such. The volume can only be adjusted on the speaker when in Bluetooth mode and not when connected via the Aux port.
When a device that you previously paired with the speaker connects, the speaker will make a noise (sort of low pitch to high pitch – but not obnoxious!) letting you know that a paired device connected. Additionally, when you power off the speaker and a device was paired, you'll basically get a tone that is reverse of the power on sound just to let you know that your device is now disconnected.
Stepping back to pairing quickly, when the SPzero is in pairing mode, you just simply need to turn on Bluetooth on your device and look for “SPzero.” There are no codes to enter, so as soon as you tap that device it will connect.
Answering calls is easy enough, as you just hit the middle button. The speaker will also make a tone to let you know that a call is coming in, but unfortunately this tone cannot be muted whatsoever, so you will be annoyed the entire time your phone is ringing (unless you reject the call). When testing the voice quality, the person speaking through the speaker did not sound that great and was slightly muffled. Even the audio from the speaker got a bit quiet, so it became more difficult to hear the other end.
Finally you might be wondering about run time on the SPzero. Antec claims up to 8 hours of use, but I feel like I consistently got more than that. There are no meters that tell you how full the battery is, so you're left to guess. I used it an entire weekend while remodeling my bathroom and the SPzero didn't give up on me. Simply put, it outlasted my Galaxy S3's 2100mAh battery by a long shot.
When you hit a low point (10% is my best guess) on the battery charge, you will receive an annoying tone (in random intervals) that tells you the battery is low. Simply put: There is no way to mute and ignore this tone. The only other item that you will notice is the LED on the face will rapidly blink red while the audible alert happens.
Let's move on and take a look at the sound quality that we experienced from the SPzero, see what sort of other issues we may have encountered, and wrap up this review.
AMP SPzero Sound Quality
SPzero Sound Quality and Any Other Issues
We don't have any high end testing equipment to see how well this speaker is actually performing, so we'll leave it to our ears to judge if this approximate $80 MSRP speaker delivers sound well.
Now the sound quality from this speaker doesn't throw off bass like a high end subwoofer would, and it was never expected of the speaker, but it also isn't completely tinny or full of treble; you can actually catch a little bass trying to push its way out. Songs were actually quite clear and definitely clearer and louder than the speaker on my Galaxy S3. Trying to listen to Skrillex or Deadmau5 wasn't the most pleasing, since that genre of music is very bass heavy, but it was also much better than what any phone I've heard can produce. Yes, it is mono sound, but in general I did not have a problem with this.
Cranking up the volume all the way on my phone and the speaker yielded distortion, and quite honestly if you're going to play at these levels it is to be expected with any speaker, especially a little 3 watt speaker. I would notice only a small amount of distortion with the speaker volume at 100% and my phone at 12 out of 15. To me this was very much acceptable.
Call quality, again, was not that great. The caller's voice on the speaker got a little quiet and the other end experienced a low or ever so slightly muffled voice. I absolutely wouldn't run out and use this as a replacement for the speakerphone on your cell phone.
So what other kinds of issues did this speaker have? I must say the absolutely most annoying flaw that this speaker had was the fact that the alert and voice tones do not scale with the volume of the speaker. Yes, I tend to use the speaker at full volume, all while controlling the final output via my phone, but even when I had the volume on the speaker at low levels the tones would be blaring loud. While in places that I had no intentions of playing loud music, I would tend to hold the speaker against my chest to muffle the sound when powering it on and off.
When it came to the low battery alert, this forced me to either discontinue use altogether, until I could charge it, or plug it in and charge while I'm using it. The alert tones all together are the most annoying part about this speaker, simply because you cannot mute or adjust the volume on them.
The alerts issue is major enough that I would tell you to not bring this speaker to a place that you're trying to be mostly quiet and just bring ear buds instead. Unfortunately there may be times that ear buds will be a bad solution because you still need to hear things around you.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
Antec Mobile Products is all about creating mobile gadgets to make your mobile experience better; I mean it's in their name. The SPzero is a fairly new and sleek cowbell shaped mono speaker. It has a fantastic aesthetic appeal and pretty darn good sound quality. It's very easy to use and the water/moisture resistance allows you to bring it to places you wouldn't bring other speakers or even your phone. You definitely don't want to bring it in the shower or swimming with you, though – it isn't that type of water resistant!
You can pick up the SPzero in up to 7 different color combinations for $42.24 plus shipping on Amazon and the speaker has a 1 year warranty. The speaker's MSRP of $79.99 feels quite high for what this speaker is, but with it being heavily discounted at retailers, it makes the speaker that much more appealing.
The alert tones were the most annoying part of this product, as you do not have a way to silence or adjust the volume of them. Bringing this speaker to a place where you're only trying to softly play quality sounding music can be risky. If your phone is on silent and a call comes through, the SPzero will still make a fairly loud tone and you cannot mute it without rejecting the call! You can circumvent these, to an extent, by holding it against your chest, jacket, or the like to muffle the sound, but it isn't by any means foolproof.
Overall I really respected the build quality and quality of sound that came from this speaker, even at higher volumes. The flaws will have to be something you will have to decide if you can live with or not.
Legit Bottom Line: Antec Mobile Products' SPzero speaker is a nice looking and great sounding speaker with some potentially annoying flaws.