Sound Kick Bluetooth speaker offers affordable, acceptable sound
At a Glance
Soundfreaq’s $100 SFQ-04 Sound Kick is a decent portable Bluetooth speaker. Its sound, looks, and features all strike me as acceptable, if unremarkable.
The Sound Kick weighs just 1.6 pounds, and it measures 10.5 inches wide, 4.2 inches tall, and 1.6 inches deep when collapsed. Collapsed? One of the defining features of the unit is that, for portability purposes, it can fold in on itself to that 1.6-inch depth. When you want to listen, you exert some force on the rear of the unit to pull out the back. Once you do that, the Sound Kick sits about 2.5 inches deep. Soundfreaq refers to this extendable section as the XKICK Speaker Chamber.
This extension also acts as a stand for tilting the Sound Kick back for a better listening angle, although the position is a bit precarious—bump the Sound Kick, and it usually returns to the upright position.
The Sound Kick’s body is made of black plastic with a metal grill. On the top sit eight identically-shaped, round, touch-sensitive buttons: previous, play/pause, next, Pair, UG3, volume down, volume up, and power. The Pair button, unsurprisingly enough, puts the Sound Kick in Bluetooth-pairing mode; pairing the system was effortless when I tested it with my iPad, iPhone, and Mac.
The UG3 button triggers a proprietary audio mode of the same name. Soundfreaq says it’s meant to “enhance audio separation.” The effect, though artificial, does indeed widen the stereo image noticeably. However, it can also lead to some distortion, especially at louder volumes.
On the rear of the Sound Kick, ports sit at the left and right ends. On the right sits a 1/8-inch (3.5mm) auxiliary-audio input. On the left, there’s the power-adapter connection, a USB port, and a light that reflects the status of the internal rechargeable battery. This indicator isn’t as useful as it ought to be: It glows green when fully charged, red while charging, and blinks when you’re nearly out of juice. A line of lights indicating the amount of remaining charge would be more helpful. Soundfreaq says to expect about seven hours of battery power at moderate volume; I got six with the Sound Kick dialed up fairly loud.
The USB port isn’t for playback. Rather, it’s there to let you charge other devices via USB, even when the Sound Kick is running off its own battery. Of course, charging another device reduces the Sound Kick’s playback time, but it also limits the system’s maximum volume.
A thin status light glows from behind the speaker grill when the Sound Kick is powered on or is in pairing mode. Annoyingly, you also need to rely on that light to determine the status of UG3 mode, since the UG3 button itself doesn’t offer an indication of the current setting—the light flashes once when you turn on UG3 and twice when you turn it off. (It’s possible I got that backwards, which is exactly why it’s a poor indicator.)
Macworld’s buying advice
The Sound Kick’s audio quality isn’t bad, but that’s the highest praise I can offer it. Although the system’s dual 2.3-inch drivers offer decent performance and can get plenty loud, bass presence is negligible. I found that music too often tended to sound a bit thin, lacking the oomph and clarity you’d hear from the $150 (and larger) Logitech Wireless Boombox ( ). The Sound Kick can certainly get louder than the tinier Jawbone Jambox ( ), but I prefer the smaller speaker’s audio quality. And the Big Jambox ( ) bests the Sound Kick in both volume and quality. Of course, all these systems are also more expensive than the Sound Kick—in the case of the Big Jambox, three times as pricey—but sometimes you get what you pay for.