The question of where to begin looking when considering the purchase of a Bluetooth speaker is an important one. We have reviewed an awful lot of wireless speakers, mostly Bluetooth enabled, and have a taste of the diversity across the broad pricing spectrum. But we think we've found the speaker which boldly stands out at the bottom end of the market. It's called the Cygnett SoundWave and it definitely produces noteworthy audio.
The SoundWave is conscious in its design. The entire speaker is black (a white version apparently exists too, but we haven’t seen any for sale online) and the main body is coated in a rubbery plastic which is easy to clean but can get dirty quickly. The front speaker drivers are covered by a mesh layer of fabric. All of its edges are curved and the front tapers toward its back. We think its simplistic design is effective and ideal for those who don't want to make a loud statement with their speaker choices.
On top of the SoundWave are a row of three buttons. The left triggers the resetting of Bluetooth to establish a connection with a new device and an LED indicator, which displays the state of the Bluetooth pairing, divides the button from the other two which are volume up and down buttons. If we take a look at the back of the speaker we find the power cable DC input and an auxiliary input for use with the devices that don't sport Bluetooth. The on and off switch is also found on the back, so if the speaker was to be put on a shelf or in a confined area, turning it on and off could become awkward. If left in an open area it shouldn't be a problem though.
An inclusion which was nice to see, and makes using the speaker more flexible, is the option to put batteries into the SoundWave so it can be taken outdoors; this also makes the SoundWave easier to move around a house if required. There is one downside, and that’s the requirement of eight AA batteries; a battery pack would have been preferred. Outdoors the speaker's volume and overall audio quality output is a notch down from that when it is powered by a mains input, but it still provides easily adequate audio for casual listening.
The Bluetooth setup process is quick and simple to enable. The Bluetooth button on the top of the unit requires pressing and holding down for five seconds to enter pairing mode. Once the SoundWave is in this mode any Bluetooth 2.0 enabled device should find it and pair. We tested the iPhone, iPad, various Macs and some Samsung mobile devices with the speaker and universally they all connected and rediscovered the SoundWave when it was turned on and off. Cygnett claim the maximum range between device and speaker is 10 metres and we found that claim to be valid; actually we could squeeze a few more metres over. It even carries the signal nicely through walls when a the device outputting the audio is within a different room to that of the speaker.
A dock is also bundled with the speaker. The design of this dock is on paper very clever, it even allows adjustment for thicker devices. Cygnett realise that static docks fixed to the speaker have no place on Bluetooth speakers, so they removed it and made it separate. It's compact and allows the device docked to be stood upright, which is helpful when selecting music to play from a touch screen device such as an iPhone. The dock requires a charging cable to be fed along its base and up through the unit, where the charging cables head protrudes outwards for a device to be placed upon it. The right-angle a cable is required to go is too acute and could place too much tension on the cable's outer coating, resulting in snapping and cracking. We found the Apple 30 pin cable to work the best, and iPhones, iPads and iPods all docked stably. But the Samsung charging cables and Apple Lightning cable were a little tricky to setup and any devices docked onto them were high in the air, resulting in sketchy, wobbly usability. The idea of a separate dock is definitely a good one, but this particular execution seems only really to work with Apple devices that sport the 30 pin dock connector.
Audio performance is this speaker's trump card. The high volume the SoundWave can crank out without distorting is very impressive when reflecting upon its size. Not to say distortion isn’t ever present when fully cranked, but in general high volume doesn’t distort: we’d have to put this down to its very solid construction. Listening to audio with a small gathering of people is an area where this speaker excels, and it would definitely become overpowering if volume was turned all the way up. It’s not, however, the appropriate sort of speaker to rock at a party. What we did notice from using this speaker in different environments is that it doesn't perform to its full potential when in close proximity to a wall because the sound becomes a little muffled.
We couldn’t find out how many watts the speaker is capable of outputting or any specs for that matter, but the overall package of pure audio quality is fantastic. The Bass doesn’t thump but adds firm backbone to musical tracks that lean to being bass heavy. The mid-range treble can be a bit peaky but generally this is the strongest element on the range spectrum. The mid-highs are detailed and clear too. Acoustically and vocally this is a spectacular speaker for £39.99. It's better than the more expensive non Bluetooth Edifier Sound To Go Plus Speaker which we liked a lot, and it’s actually not greatly different to the Supertooth Disco 2 Speaker which is nearly double the price; granted that the Disco 2 has a much louder volume output. Stereo separation from an all-in-one such as the SoundWave isn’t the best way to experience it, although this one doesn’t do an atrocious job; the separation is noticeable and aids the distinction of different elements on musical tracks so they're not pancaked together.
What Cygnett have managed to do here is to craft a speaker that performs tremendously well statically or on the go via the use of batteries. At £39.99 in the UK or $50.99 in the USA it’s without question one of the best value for money Bluetooth speakers on the market today.