I awoke early this Monday to find an oddly shaped package lying on the ground in front of my door. Inside it was a little forearm-length black box with a strip of solar panels attached to the top. I smiled as soon as I saw it; my Devotec Solar Sound had arrived.
Devotec is a neat little company that seem to focus their efforts on creating portable solar chargers and high-capacity batteries. The Solar Sound is their first try at a media gadget, as well as the first product of theirs I tested. For the last three days I've been putting it through its paces and testing every aspect of performance. Here's what I found;
Sound Quality: For a device of its size, the Solar Sound has pretty good speakers. At high volume it can fill a large room with music pretty easily. In a more confined area, like a car, the speakers tend to sound a little tinny. Over the course of my testing, I found that sound quality was greatly improved when I put the device's back against a wall or large book.
The nice thing about the Solar Sound's speakers is that they don't overstress themselves. No matter how loud I turned the volume up, I heard no creaking or scratching or other signs of speaker stress.
Final Verdict: 6/10. The Solar Sound doesn't put out high definition audio, but the sound quality is impressive given the gadget's small size.
Ease Of Operation: The Solar Sound is really easy to use. Just turn it on using the button in the back, connect to it using your phone's bluetooth, and start playing some tunes. The device's Bluetooth range is really good. In my small apartment, I was never too far away for the Solar Sound to pick up the signal.
My one gripe with this gadget is the volume controls; they tend to be a little sticky, and you have to press down in rapid succession to actually turn it up. That is literally the only issue I had with the Solar Sound's controls. Final Verdict: 8/10
Solar Panels: The top-mounted solar panels are definitely the most exciting thing about the Solar Sound. With most companies, you'd expect the panels to be more of a gimmick than anything else. Thankfully, Devotec was in the solar panel business well before they made an audio device. The panels are the best thing about this little gadget.
The company rep told me that about 2 hours of charging gets you 1 hour of playback, but that doesn't paint an entirely accurate picture. When I first got my Solar Sound, I charged it up to full from an outlet and drained the battery. At high volume, that took around eight hours. Then, with the power almost drained, I stuck it to the dashboard of my car and went for a sunny Texas drive.
Right away, my Solar Sound leapt to life and started playing again. When I ran my hand over the panels, it stopped, but as long as I kept it in the sun it had enough juice to keep going. These panels basically mean that you can use your Solar Sound for quite a while without ever charging it, providing you do so outdoors. That makes this device the most portable set of speakers I've ever encountered.
Final Verdict: 10/10. Advice to Devotec: Come out with something that lets me secure my speakers to a car dashboard, or even between bike handlebars. Please!
Durability: My stress-test for this product consisted of dropping it on a carpeted floor several times, and then taking it on a long bike ride, taped to the front of my belt. Even when it got splashed with water or a little sweaty, it kept on playing with no issues.
Final Verdict: 8/10
Closing Thoughts: If you want a truly portable set of decent-quality Bluetooth speakers, you can't do much better than the Solar Sound. If you have a smartphone, just download the Pandora app and you'll be able to stream Internet radio to your speakers all day long. It's a good thing.
Overall Verdict: 8/10. Devotec makes a great product, at a pretty solid price. ($80, click here to check out their order page.) With any luck, they'll release a larger set of speakers in the future.