What: Acemile Theatre Box portable Bluetooth speaker.
The Good: Well-built, long battery life, big sound.
Not So Good: Expensive, strong competition from better-known brands.
Today's career-counseling advice in 140 characters or less: Take your self-driving lawnmower prototype to Kickstarter, open a craft brewery or develop a couponing app. Do not make Bluetooth speakers.
Too much competition. The new Theatre Box, the first portable Bluetooth speaker from Acemile, arrives via Kickstarter (160 backers pledged almost $50,000 last year) immediately surrounded by the Killer B's, Bose and Beats. Then there's Ultimate Ears, Jawbone, Sony and the bang-for-the-buck specialist Fluance.
Each owns some Bluetooth turf. UE loves the outdoors. Beats blows hard on the bass notes. Bose has been perfecting brand awareness for decades. Jawbone can't possibly wimp out without betraying its name.
So what's your angle, Acemile, with this stately, touch-controlled $299 speaker that measures 10.3 inches long, 4.3 high and 3.3 deep? (Slightly deeper than the Bose SoundLink and, at 3.6 pounds, about half a pound heavier.) The company says it's taking Bluetooth speakers to another dimension with three-dimensional sound called Q3D Holophony, using a digital signal processing chip built around sound wave field synthesis.
Got something to say? Start the conversation and be the first to comment.
Add a comment
"It parses the three-dimensional effects of sound tracks," says Acemile CEO Richard Yan, "and reproduces the sound by synthesizing new sound waves with expression of such 3D effects adapted for diffraction."
Did Yan just take us into the fourth dimension, an audio world of unspeakable complexity?
Acemile has Chinese origins but calls Sunnyvale, Calif., home. The 3D Theatre Box is the company's first United States product. Even the best virtual surround technology I've heard fails to get the finishing touch – the sensation that the listener actually hears fully enveloping sound. It's always 2-plus dimensions. The Theatre Box is no different, yet it sounds different from almost every other Bluetooth portable I've auditioned.
The sound is big, wide and diffuse, almost better for video soundtracks than two-channel music. The processing matters, but it means nothing without Acemile's strategic speaker-driver placement. Designers placed a pair of 2-inch drivers behind the front grille and a 3-inch driver for lower frequencies firing out the back end, a fairly conventional alignment. The Theatre Box actually gets its kick from an additional 2-inch driver on either side of the black box (also available in blue). The indirect sound adds space and dimension.
The Theatre Box does not need an app to operate, only a Bluetooth-compatible smartphone or tablet. This speaker receives audio data through energy-efficient Bluetooth 4.0, but look for aptX compression technology in any larger Bluetooth speaker claiming to produce CD quality. Beats uses aptX streaming, but Bose remains a holdout. Acemile has both aptX and one-touch NFC pairing — tap a compatible Android device on the NFC logo on the Theatre Box's top and it pairs automatically. (Bose is also an NFC holdout.)
The Theater Box, like some other new Bluetooth speakers, has addressed one of the major complaints about wireless life, batteries that don't last. The Theatre Box promises up to 20 hours on a charge of its lithium-ion battery. It reached 17 at moderate to loud volumes in my testing before the Theatre Box's female voice announced it was running low. This same voice announces when the speaker has paired with your device. I wish she announced when the Theatre Box was playing 3D, too.
The Theatre Box is a solid brick, with touch controls that include phone/talk, backed by Class D amplification rated at 56 watts with peaks to 125 watts. Because of its heft, and elegance, I'd probably leave this Bluetooth speaker at home. Maybe that's why Acemile does not include a carry bag, though it says it will soon offer one.
On first listen, the Theatre Box alarmed with its exaggerated, overpowering bass. After about 50 hours at moderate volumes, it settled down to reveal an easygoing, midrange-rich speaker that distorted only at ridiculous (for a portable speaker) volume.
I actually tried the Theatre Box as a theater box, attached directly to my cable receiver, beneath a 60-inch HDTV. Most portables would be miscast, but the undersize Theatre Box does a nice soundbar impression.
It caught Amazon.com's attention: It's available at the new Amazon Exclusives, where the online retailer places "innovative and unique" new products. Will this theatrical portable catch yours?