Cambridge Audio has released a series of excellent-sounding portable speakers over the last few years and they're now making an effort to have the visual design match the audio quality. Their latest effort is the G5, which features a stunning design and all the features you'd want in a desktop speaker.
The speaker costs $250 online and comes in gold or titanium. There's fake leather trim on the case that could almost pass for the real thing.
There are 3 active speakers behind the grille and two passive radiators that help boost the bass.
This isn't a small thing: each of the buttons along the top has a dedicated function. Too many products in this price range try to have their buttons and switches do double duty, something that usually ends up being both confusing in annoying. The G5 offers excellent speakerphone capabilities. The Bluetooth pairing is easy for iPhones and the speaker remembers your device for easy reconnection. It's even easier for Androids with built-in NFC connectivity: just tap your device on the NFC logo (visible in the photo above of the two units) and you're good to go.
You can connect any audio device with the 3.5mm aux jack on the back of the unit and switch to that source with the aux button. The four lights on the top of the unit display audio volume when you're using the plus/minus controls. And it the device plays a tone when you power up and power down and another when you make a Bluetooth connection.
The G5 advertises (and delivers) 14 hours of battery life. There's a hinged door on the back that covers ports when you're not using it and stabilized the speaker on a tabletop. There's a USB out to charge your phone and an audio out that allows you to use the G5 as a Bluetooth receiver for a home audio system. If you've got a classic audio component system and want to add streaming, the G5 can handle that.
There's a switch that allows pairing with another G5 for better stereo imaging and a button that, when pressed, displays battery level on the top of the speaker.
Cambridge Audio has finally decided to retire their always-on blue light that marred their previous speakers. The G5 definitely looks snazzier than their previous Go and Go Radio models, two of the best Bluetooth speakers we've reviewed. Those models are still around for $179 and $199, respectively. The G5 sound quality is similar (with a bit more low end), so your extra $$$ gives you a look that compares to (and sounds better than) the current generation of Bose SoundLink for less money.
There's a dedicated charger cord and a travel bag for the speaker. A small caution for our readers, who tend to put their gear through the ringer: the G5's grille is incredibly striking but you're going to dent it if you stuff in a tightly packed bag or suitcase. The same is true for the Go models. This is a great purchase to use around the house, but it's not really the most travel-friendly device.
If you like the look, this speaker makes an excellent choice. The sound is up to Cambridge Audio standards and the design of the controls is outstanding.