BY NATHAN WERTZ - THISANDTHATTECH.COM
The VisionTek Sound Tube Pro is touted as an elegant and portable wireless speaker solution that delivers premium sound at a reasonable price (MSRP $99.99). It shall be reviewed.
Build Quality/Initial ImpressionsThere's something about attention to detail and solid presentation in gadget packaging. Perhaps it's getting the little things right during first impressions that makes one confident that the big macro ideas of a product will come together more seamlessly. Then again, I may take too much pleasure in unboxing...
The most noticeable thing right out of the box is the Sound Tube Pro's sturdiness. At just over one pound and 7 1/2 inches tall, it has just enough heft that you feel like it would be safe for more rugged activities. It can sit upright or on its side, depending on your listening preferences. The bottom has two rubber stands to prevent the Sound Tube Pro from rolling and to deal with shock absorption, with the DC and Auxiliary In panel stealthily placed between them.
A slick looking, gray fabric panel covers the left/right channel stereo speakers, which also happen to be swappable with other fabric panels (sold separately for $19.99). There's an active bass resonator on the bottom with the volume control rotary dial, touch track selector, and notifications panel at the top, with all other buttons being flush with the device or covered by a removable panel.
It should also be noted that there is a microphone built in to answer phone calls and the notifications panel at the top allows you to swipe left to right to quickly navigate through songs without touching your mobile device.
Included in the box is a micro USB cable for charging, a 3.5mm auxiliary cable as an alternative to a Bluetooth connection, and a user manual. The Sound Tube Pro features a 1 year warranty as long as the product is registered with 30 days of purchase.
Some of the other relevant specs:
- Connections: Wireless Bluetooth 4, 3.5mm AUX-In, Micro USB for charging
- Water Resistance Rating: IPx4
- Speaker Power: 12Wx2, with active bass radiator.
- Battery: 4000mAh Lithium
- Play Time: 8 hours+
- Max Sound Level: ≥ 80db
- Dimensions: 77.8 x 74.7 x 190.8mm
- SoundTube Pro IPx4 Replacement Fabric Covers available in red, silver, & black.
UsePowering on/off your SoundTube Pro greets you with a pleasant, albeit loud, guitar solo as well as an intermittent tone and notification light when a Bluetooth connection has been lost or not been made. The tone itself is based on your current volume level, but I was unable to control the on/off guitar solo volume, so it can be a bit loud and jarring. However, I had no problems charging and then syncing my mobile device to the SoundTube Pro. It was quick and easy.
The volume rotary dial is a bit of a mixed bag and/or nitpick for me. I love the idea of it and think it has great aesthetics, but it doesn't rotate smoothly enough to allow for one finger use. In other words, you have to grab it with your finger and thumb in order to make adjustments. That then leads me to think that perhaps dedicated volume buttons would work better. To be fair, one could easily crank up the volume rotary dial one time and then do the rest of their volume control from the mobile device, so YMMV here.
The Next/Previous track slide was an unexpected gem at the top. All you have to do is touch the middle icon and then drag your finger in correspondence with what track you want to hear next. Works well and feels fluid.
SoundThere's a stark difference in sound quality with higher end Bluetooth speakers and that is replicated here with the SoundTube Pro. Usually, what sets apart lower end Bluetooth speakers and higher end, in my view, is how well it handles the bass. The cheaper models typically struggle with lows and therefore can sound a bit tinny at times. That's not so with the SoundTube Pro thanks to the active bass resonator. The highs, mids, and lows are warm and inviting, and the speakers really pack a punch when you crank it up. In fact, I found myself not even using the full capacity of the volume because it puts out so much oomph.
Sound is clean, crisp, and the audio quality difference is instantaneously noticeable when comparing it to lower end models. This was the same for a Bluetooth connection as well as the 3.5mm audio-in connector, with my preference surprisingly leaning towards the Bluetooth connection. NOTE: Using the 3.5mm auxiliary cable will prevent you from being able to use the touch Next/Previous track selector at the top.
The indoor/outdoor mode button on the side is essentially an equalizer and good for varied usage scenarios. The outdoor mode appears to have less bass and focus more on vocals, but nice to have an additional option. I think most will find the indoor mode to be the better of the two options, though.
Built-in MicrophoneProbably one of the most intriguing features is the built-in microphone for taking phone calls. I can't tell you how many times I've been rockin' out in my kitchen with a Bluetooth speaker and an incoming call forces me to jump through all kind of hoops in order to answer it properly. If I just answer it outright and attempt to use my phone's microphone in conjunction with the Bluetooth speaker, the caller will inevitably hear their own voice and say, "Why am I hearing all of that echo?!? It's irritating. Turn it off." The only other option is to then totally disconnect from Bluetooth and use my phone, thereby requiring me to reconnect again once the call is finished.
Thankfully, that is a thing of the past with the ability to answer calls from the speaker itself! Simply press the power button, your audio pauses, and the call connects (or one can double-tap the power button to refuse the call). The only drawback is that the Bluetooth speaker user will sound slightly distant to the caller. Still solves a huge problem and is functionally competent, so yet another win for the SoundTube Pro.