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The Oontz speaker.

, Cambridge SoundWorks

Sound Advice: Small speaker packs a big audio punch

  • Article by: DON LINDICH
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • October 1, 2012 - 11:09 AM

Q I want speakers to play music from my iPhone in my garage while I work at my workbench. I'm looking for something under $100, preferably not much more than $50 that I can use without connecting a cable. Is there anything out there?

A Earlier this year, I mentioned that Cambridge SoundWorks had some exceptional products in the pipeline. One of them is the OontZ (www.theoontz.com), a $70 wonder that is a perfect match for the iPhone, iPad or any other Bluetooth device.

The OontZ is a portable Bluetooth stereo speaker with a USB-rechargeable battery rated at 10 hours of life. Pairing it to your Bluetooth device is simple. Despite its small size, it produces considerable volume and bass.

Many inexpensive portable and computer speakers have dramatic, unbalanced sound that initially impresses but soon grows tiring. The OontZ has smooth, even sound that never causes listener fatigue.

I was told that audiophiles now own Cambridge SoundWorks. The sound of the OontZ is evidence of that. The speaker is not especially placement-sensitive, but I did get better sound from different parts of my desk and kitchen counter, so if you get one be sure to experiment.

I found the OontZ and iPhone to be a perfectly matched pair for whole-home listening.

I carried it around the house and used it in the kitchen, the garage, the laundry room, on my hobby workbench, and in the yard with my dogs. It sounds good and is fun to use.

While music is the obvious application for the speaker, I found that iPhone games such as "RC Plane 2" and "Angry Birds Space" were even more enjoyable with the OontZ playing the soundtrack.

The sound quality, satisfying volume, long battery life, ease of use and price are enough on their own to recommend the OontZ, but here's the icing on the cake: When the phone rings, the OontZ functions as a high-quality speakerphone. Just push the answer button on the OontZ, and take the call.

No product is perfect. The only fly in the OontZ ointment is so superficial and personal that I feel conspicuous mentioning it.

I didn't care for the "OontZ" logo on top of the speaker. It has a large, cartoony font.

I mentioned this to my contact at Cambridge SoundWorks, saying that the clean, modern industrial design and luxurious feel of the plastic reminded me of a Bang & Olufsen product and that the logo looked out of place. He said that when people see the OontZ on a co-worker's desk, the company wants them to know what it is immediately.

I can see this product having that "What is that? I want one" kind of a vibe, so that reasoning is understandable. With all it has going for it for only $70, perhaps the OontZ will be a household name soon enough that the big logo won't be needed.

Send questions to donlindich@gmail.com. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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