Rapoo A600 Bluetooth speaker review

Rapoo, maker of countless computer, mobile, and smart home accessories, is attempting to leave its mark on the Bluetooth speaker market. Rapoo already offers a variety of Bluetooth speakers from small to large, but one of their latest models, the A600, falls somewhere in the middle. Rapoo graciously sent over a review unit of the A600, and I’ve had some time to put it through its paces. Overall, it’s a fantastic little speaker. It isn’t perfect, but it gets the job done for most use cases. Let’s get started with some basic specs, to give you an idea of what the A600 is bringing to the party.

Specs

  • Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity (up to 33 ft.)
  • NFC
  • Aluminum alloy body
  • 900 mAh battery (claimed up to 10 hours of usage on a charge)
  • Companion app

Design

Screenshot 2014-12-10 at 6.58.24 PMRapoo clearly put some major time and effort into the design of the A600. It is without a doubt one of the most minimalist speakers I’ve ever used. Rapoo claims on the product page that they were going for a “stylish design with a retro-touch,” and I’d say they nailed it. The aluminum alloy body wraps all the way around the speaker itself. It appears to be one solid piece of aluminum, with no lines or seams to be found. If you’ve ever used a unibody phone like the HTC One, the experience here is very similar. There’s something about metal that, when done right, just looks beautiful.

On the top of the metal body you’ll find three buttons: volume up and down and a single center button that serves multiple purposes. The most common use for the middle button is for play/pause functionality, but once I discovered the companion app (more on that later), I found myself barely using any of the three hardware buttons. Still, they are very subtle and appear to be made of a shinier aluminum, which just makes the A600 feel all the more premium.

The speaker grille basically takes up the entire front of the device, although there is a small gap between the top of the speaker and the top of the body itself. This is a simple design choice that also serves a purpose, according to Rapoo. They’ve implemented what they call Radiation Airflow Invert Technology, which supposedly creates more crisp and pure-sounding audio. There is actually a small opening at the top of the speaker, hidden away under the aluminum body, meant to assist in creating the proper airflow for the best sound experience. I can’t speak to the science of speaker airflow, but I can say that Rapoo did something right, as the A600 sounds fantastic. But we’ll get to that soon.

Rapoo mastered subtlety with this speaker, including an indicator light behind the speaker grille itself. The light turns blue when connected to a device, and flashes between red and purple when charging. Again, this is a very simple concept. Plenty of Bluetooth speakers have indicator lights for connections and charging, but Rapoo pulled it off in a subtle and visually pleasing way.

Original-Mini-Rapoo-A600-Bluetooth-Multimedia-NFC-Speakers-Free-ShippingAround the back of the speaker, Rapoo kept it simple with an On/Off switch, MicroUSB port for charging, a small microphone, and a standard 3.5mm audio jack. Toward the top left corner on the back of the speaker, we can also find an NFC logo. On the bottom of the aluminum body, Rapoo cleverly hid away all the unsightly FCC and warning labels (that will soon be a thing of the past). The bottom also sports a nice rubberized foam pad that keeps the aluminum bottom from scratching on tables and other surfaces.

Obviously the A600 is hefty because it’s made of solid aluminum. At 14.4 ounces, it weighs more than most speakers of this size. That being said, the weight is evenly balanced and is not very noticeable. It’s also worth pointing out that most users won’t be carrying around the A600 while listening to the Bee Gees. It’s a device that is meant to be placed somewhere and left to play music, so a little extra weight isn’t as big of a deal as it would be with a phone or tablet or other mobile device.

The speaker is sold in five different color choices, although the aluminum body is the same flat silver in all of them. The various choices change the color of the speaker grille itself.

Sound

Rapoo-A600Given the size of the A600, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by its sound. Typically smaller Bluetooth speakers don’t project very well and certainly don’t have much bass (if any). The A600 is somewhat bigger than many of the smaller speakers, but I still didn’t expect much out of it. I haven’t been more wrong in quite some time.

Rapoo not only built a beautiful speaker, they built one that sounds great. I mentioned the Radiation Airflow Inverted Technology that was worked into the A600, and it clearly makes a difference. For a mid-sized speaker, this thing can put out more bass than I ever expected. It won’t rattle many wine glasses or cause your neighbors to submit noise complaints to the police any time soon, but it’s still significantly better than any other speaker in the same size range.

The A600 manages to put out crisp highs and lows that have just enough bass to complete the listening experience. I was surprised by how loud it could actually get. It can fill a room with sound without any major issues. This leads me to believe that Rapoo designed the A600 for small parties and social gatherings, rather than for the audiophile or music enthusiast. For the purposes of entertaining or even just listening to music while I roam around my apartment, the A600 gets the job done without breaking a sweat.

Usage/Companion App

Using the A600 could not be a simpler experience. It isn’t a perfect experience, but Rapoo made sure that it was as simple as possible. Setup is barely even a process. After receiving the speaker, I had it turned on, paired to my phone by using the NFC option, and playing my favorite tunes within seconds. There were no annoying hoops to jump through or extra buttons to push. It just connects and plays, and that’s exactly what a Bluetooth speaker should do.

app2Rapoo went the extra mile and created a companion app for the A600. At the moment, it serves as a sort of remote for the speaker, as well as a music player. Once I started using the companion app, I saw no reason to even bother with the buttons on the speaker itself. The app allows for volume control, play/pause, track selection, and anything else you’d expect a standard music player to do. Sadly, that’s where the fun ends.

While the companion app is a great tool, I found it to be buggy and inconsistent at times. One moment I’d be jamming to the Lion King soundtrack (judge me!) and the next, the app would just stop working in tandem with the speaker. Frequent disconnects, pauses, and just complete audio dropouts led me to have a love/hate relationship with the app.

After struggling with the app for some time, I threw in the towel and switched back to Google Play Music as my default audio player. The bright side to the app not being completely functional is that the speaker doesn’t require the app to work. Users can still connect the old fashioned way via Bluetooth and play their music or audio through whatever player they deem acceptable. In the end, the companion app is great idea that I don’t quite think is ready for primetime just yet. But props to Rapoo for trying to make the user experience that much better.

Conclusion

After using the A600 for a few weeks, I’m genuinely impressed. It looks fantastic, sounds fantastic, and just works (minus the buggy companion app). It holds its own at parties and normal social gatherings, although I wouldn’t expect it to break any windows or wine glasses. The bass is above average, which is nice to see in a speaker size that’s usually left completely devoid of bass altogether.

But here’s the real question: is it worth the $64 price tag? In my experience with Bluetooth speakers, cheap is not the way to go. I’m not suggesting that you drop hundreds of dollars on a high-end speaker, but I’ve never found success with a speaker under $40. The lower the price tag, the more likely the speaker is to crackle and just fall apart after moderate usage. Rapoo built the A600 to last and to sound great for as long as possible, and that is evident in the design and the quality of the audio it produces. I would be more than comfortable spending my money on this speaker, and I would feel confident that I was getting a product that would last.

With that being said, for some reason Rapoo doesn’t seem to have the A600 up for sale on their official site. It has a product page, but no buying options. You can pick one up from Amazon, which currently only sells the blue, green, and white versions, or from Walmart, which has the white and red options. It’s worth noting that Walmart’s price is $60.71 (although that’s a rollback price that may not last long), but an A600 from Amazon will cost you about $140. I’m not sure why the prices vary by such a large amount, but if you’re not set on a certain color you might as well save a few (dozen) bucks.