Q: I want to upgrade my patio sound system. I have been using a pair of speakers connected to a receiver, but now I want a portable, wireless solution that can fill a large area with sound. What are your recommendations for weatherproof speakers in the $500 range?
A: The Kicker Bullfrog BF400 (kicker.com) is a great buy. Last year it sold for $329, and it is now available for $199. I recommended it at $329, and for $199, it is a tremendous bargain. It has excellent full-range sound and an FM tuner. It also can charge your devices from a built-in USB port.
If the $500 figure isn't a hard cap, I recommend the $529 AxiomAir Freedom N2 (axiomaudio.com), a front-radiating speaker, or the $599 Soundcast VG7 (gosoundcast.com), which has a 360-degree soundfield. They have different feature sets, and each approaches the task differently, but both sound great and are worth considering.
Since we are on the topic of Bluetooth speakers, I recently reviewed a small one that I am very excited about: the $49 Soundcore Flare Mini (soundcore.com). About the size of a soda can, it has a strong, tightly knit grille cloth, soft-touch plastics and fine finish that make it feel much more expensive than it is.
The sound is remarkable, too. It creates a 360-degree soundfield with excellent stereo effect. The tonality and sonic balance are spot on, and no matter how complex or detailed the music, it delivers. I cued up "The Sounds of Silence," and as the opening with the guitar and vocals played it was like Simon and Garfunkel were in the room with me. Listening to "Big Bad John" by Jimmy Dean, the hammer strikes and the humming chorus reverberated in my head, but in a good way, because they were so realistic.
I don't think there are even any $100 speakers I prefer over this. The bass will start sounding thin as you increase the room size. But listen from a few feet away, as I did in my bedroom, and you get a satisfying, full-range performance.
If this is not enough, the speaker can be paired with a second Flare Mini for stereo sound, it is completely submersible, and it can create a light show from the base. Pressing a button changes the show dynamics or turns it off completely. Granted, the light show might strike people as being a bit of a gimmick, but I enjoyed the colors and patterns.
Even without the lights, based on sound quality alone, Soundcore Flare Mini is head and shoulders above the competition. It is an excellent product, and easily the best speaker you can buy for under $50.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.