Video of audio playback
Anker has a number of Bluetooth (BT) speakers as part of their SoundCore range, from the machined aluminium Nano to the 20w powerhouse A3143, also known as their premium speaker. Despite the vast range, it's not hard to understand why the SoundCore v1 (A3102) is such a popular choice with the public, with over 2000 positive reviews on Amazon alone. Available in Black, Red and Blue, 6w dual-driver speakers and packing in 24hrs of battery life to a device under 400g highlights why this is a speaker to be taken seriously.
So What's In The Box?
Micro USB cable for charging
Instructions and warranty card
The SoundCore has a rubberised matt black casing with the signature Anker logo gracing the metal front grill. Also present is a 3.5mm auxiliary port for use with non bluetooth (BT) enabled devices, micro USB port for recharging and a built-in microphone. Despite its soft feel in the hand, the rubberised case makes the unit feel rugged and robust, just like it’s bigger brother the SoundCore XL. I’ve had a number of BT speakers in the past where you can squeeze the case and instantly feel or hear it giving under pressure, no such thing with this one, solid as a rock. Even though the SoundCore is a full sized speaker, it’s still rather petite, measuring in at 165 x 45 x 55mm, small and light enough to fit in average handbags or backpacks for those on the go.
The control panel is simple and straight forward, with a collection of five embossed buttons on the top of the speaker covering power, volume, play/pause/skip and BT pairing. A nice design feature in my opinion as non sighted users will be able to determine which buttons are which, just from touch. Easy, fast pairing thanks to Bluetooth 4.0 and the speaker effortlessly reconnects to it’s last paired device at power on. Should you have the need to pair with another device, simply press the bluetooth button for 2-3 seconds until the blue power light behind the speaker grill starts to flash, then you're in pairing mode again.
Where the SoundCore A3102 really comes into it’s own is it’s audio quality and insane battery life, I do mean insane. Speaker has 6w dual-driver speakers with a patented spiral bass port, resulting in clear vocals, powerful punchy tones and balanced bass for such a small speaker. Coming part charged out of the box, I topped it up to full to see if the 24hr battery life is accurate. Well...background office use (at half volume or just under) for 8hrs a day and for an hour at home over the past 3 days (so 23hrs), has barely been able to put a dent in the battery, in fact less than 20% according to iOS notification centre. In this timeframe, I’ve had to recharge my 6th gen iPod Touch three times despite it only sending music to the speaker. To match the 24hrs use estimate, I would say that you would have to be kicking out music at a volume of 85-100%, which would be very loud even for a medium size room. In my past week of use I have rarely needed to take it above 75% volume to easily fill the room with decent sound, whether it’s playing digital radio, 256kbps AAC music or even some lossless audio.
As mentioned earlier, the A3102 contains a built-in microphone like the SoundCore XL and Nano, allowing the speaker to be used for conference calls or just to answer your phone while you're kicking back to some music. Testing in the office for a support call yielded no issues, with end users voice remaining clear (for a call centre anyhow) and with no requests for me to repeat myself.
For it’s price tag, audio quality and tremendous battery capabilities I’m finding it hard to find any negatives as it does what is says on the tin and more. There is a small amount of audio bleed at max volume when in close proximity to the speaker but when filling a medium sized room, it’s hard to notice at all. As for the battery, if you're going to be popping out lossless audio at 85% or above volume, you will likely meet the 24hr battery duration, anything below that and you're gonna be good for several days on a single charge.
I do have three suggestions for tweaks/feature improvements in a future revision of the speaker.
- The buttons can be hard to determine, especially in low light, for partially or reduced sight users who still rely on their remaining vision (based on family member). Having the buttons highlighted with a colour, such as in silver like the logo branding on the metal grill would not only make identifying the buttons easier but would not detract from the overall design of the speaker.
- Introduction of charge level LED’s similar to it’s big brother the SoundCore XL, so remaining charge can be determined from pressing the BT button.
- Finally, addition of NFC to allow quick connection / changing between devices that have NFC capabilities