As a site that gets to review a lot of smartphone accessories, we often find ourselves getting our hands, and ears, on Bluetooth speakers. And, more often than not, we find that size is not always indicative of quality. Big things come in small packages, right? In most cases, yes. Not always.
We’ve spent some time reviewing the 808 XS, a recently launched portable Bluetooth speaker from 808 Audio. Tapped with an affordable price tag of about $50, we didn’t expect much from them. Considering these sort of things can fetch hundreds of dollars in some cases, we also knew to be forgiving. What we found, as it turns out, is something that came in just under our expectations.
The first thing you’ll note about the 808 XS is its small and thin profile. In fact, given the shape of the box, it’s about half as thick as we figured it would be. For a reference point, picture the wooden handle on your chalkboard erasers in school. Yep, that’s about it. Exact measurements figure to be 5.5″ x 6.023″ x 1.062″.
Wrapped in black (also available in blue), the 808 XS has a honeycomb grille on both the front and back. The edge of the unit has a soft, silicon coating which feels just sticky enough to stay put on a table.
Looking straight on, the top left of the speaker has a power button that stays lit the entire time it’s powered on. To the left side edge of the speaker is the auxiliary input, and charging input with an indicator light. That’s it. No other buttons; not even volume.
Powering on the speaker the first time you’ll see the power indicator flashing with an audible tone. In short, your speaker will try to make itself available to any devices looking to pair. Once done, you’re good to do.
As for the build quality, we are impressed with this speaker. It’s tightly packaged and compact with no weak spots; We have seen much cheaper looking and lesser-built speakers in this size.
If there’s one feature that we noticed about this speaker it’s that the 808 XS does not include power or mute buttons. Indeed, all of your controls are done through the phone. In most cases this isn’t so bad. But, there are instances where you wanna quickly mute the speaker or back the volume down. Taking the phone out to do so is a pain in the butt when you’re physically closer to the speaker.
The 808XS is touted as a stereo speaker but it’s not as if the device is big enough to discern the space between speakers. The bass and lows, for their part, come from the rear, which is packed tightly in the center. There’s not a lot of real estate to spread out the sound — and that shows from time to time.
Keeping in mind that the speakers are only $50, we still found that the 808 XS comes up a little short. Volume levels, which are controlled via the phone, should be kept around 50 percent or lower if you are looking for an optimal balance. Go much higher and the sound starts to blow out or come across distorted. Even in a 12’x12′ office we didn’t feel comfortable going beyond 75 percent lest we end up with a tin or “broken” sound.
Another feature we’ve come to appreciate in a lot of Bluetooth speakers is the ability to take calls. That, too, is absent in the 808 XS. Mileage may vary depending on whether you care about this option or not. To us, we at least like to have it in the event of a random call. Again, remembering the speaker’s price, we may a small allowance for its omission.
Battery life is rated at an impressive 12 hours of playback. This was pretty accurate in our testing as we’ve only had to charge it a few times in the last couple of weeks. Results will depend on how loud you like your music, but we’re willing to bet you’ll be happy with charging up less often than you do with your phone.
We’re not trying to hate on this one. After playing with so many portable speakers over the years it’s hard for us to pick the 808 XS above others. Mainly this is because we’d rather spend more money and add in the physical buttons. But, let’s face it, we’re not you. Your use case is different from the next guy.
We can see a lot of places where this speaker would be handy to have around. A quiet night on the deck, reading a book. Listening to podcasts in the study. Background music while doing homework in the commons at school. There’s probably three reasons that have already come up in your head. If you’re cool with not having the buttons and don’t want to take calls through your speaker, the 808 XS is a fine choice.