Home Icon

Hands-on with the wireless Bluetooth-less speaker from Kaiser Baas

By Leigh D. Stark | 3:54 pm 08/02/2013

There’s a new wireless speaker technology coming to town, and rather than require Bluetooth or WiFi, it works by just resting your phone on top and letting the music come out. And it’s so easy, anyone can use it.

One of the surprising stands from our trip to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year was that of RCA, a company that doesn’t exactly have a presence in Australia (not anymore, anyway).

There, it was presenting devices with “SoundFlow,” a technology that an RCA representative told us ran off of Near-Field Audio, a new wireless audio concept that “just worked”.

What do they mean by that?

Well, you take your phone, play some music using the speaker, sit the phone on top of the speaker, and the sound is amplified. There are no drivers to install and nothing special to synchronise, nor does it rely on Near-Field Communication technology, despite the obviously similar name.

It just works.

In Australia, Kaiser Baas has grabbed the first products with this tech for release on what appears to be a rebadging of the first one released in America – the iFrogz Boost – and calling it the “Contact.”

This is a speaker about the size of a small brick, powered by three AA batteries, and featuring a microUSB charge port (if you don’t want to use batteries) and a 3.5mm line-in port (though no 3.5mm stereo cable is included). Two rubbery bumpers are included in the box, allowing you to colour your device in either red or green, and there’s a little pouch included too, which should protect it when in transit.

Like any speaker, you can plug in a device with the audio in port (the 3.5mm jack), but there’s also another way to get the speaker to amplify your music.

The Kaiser Baas Contact playing audio from a recorded video. The downside of this is that because you have to lie the camera on the speaker, you can't watch the video.

With Near-Field Audio technology on board, the Kaiser Baas Contact can amplify the sound already coming out of your speaker when it comes in contact with the surface of the speaker.

One of the chief questions concerning Near Field Audio is, curiously, how it works, and no one seems to have any definitive answers.

At CES, one representative for RCA told us it had to do with magnets and capturing the audio being emitted from the speakers, with the speaker basically acting as an amplifier for the audio coming from the magnet in the speaker itself, which corroborates with a review of the iFrogz product at Sound & Vision magazine.

Other ideas suggest that the technology works from a hidden microphone in the lid or something that amplifies the vibrations, but while we have yet to have an official explanation shown to us, the magnetic amplification seems to make the most sense.

Regardless of how it’s working – like “magic” they say – using it is quite simple.

Smartphones work well with the Contact.

Just make sure your phone or media player is playing music out loud through its speakers, turn the Contact speaker on, and lay your device on top, with the back facing down. From there, the Contact takes over, amplifying the sound.

You can increase the volume considerably, though we wouldn’t say it’s a very high quality of sound. Volume is controlled from the device itself – your phone, for instance – so if your music is a little low, it might be because the volume on your operating device is low, too.

There are some catches to how the Contact works, however.

Devices larger than the overall footprint of the speaker’s surface may not work. For example, the iPad wouldn’t work and only made the Contact produce static for us. Gadgets without a speaker – say an iPod Nano or Shuffle – may have a different problem, since there are no speakers on those units.

Meanwhile, we had no problems getting sound out of mobile phones and cameras, with the speaker amplifying audio out of them. It even worked with a Livescribe pen, making the audio louder.

For anything that doesn’t work with the contact-based method on top, just use the 3.5mm jack on the side.

We don't know why you'd ever have to amplify a Livescribe smartpen, but it does seem to work.

The included rubber cases block the light on the side telling you when the device is switched on, which is a little annoying. You can move it out of the way quickly, but about the only thing these do is offer light protection for the speakers on the side, since they merely wrap the edges of the speaker, not the top or bottom.

You also can’t move your device, either, nor is there any charging provided, so if you need to watch the screen or are in desperate need of some power, the Contact won’t really accomodate you.

Ultimately, if you don’t need quality, but desire a speaker that just works with your smartphone and provides some loud sound, you’ll be satisfied here, especially with the $60 price tag.

It's quite clear from the size that iPads and other large tablets were not made for the Kaiser Baas Contact, which is a good thing to know, since they won't work without the 3.5mm plug.


Latest reviews

  • Review: Jawbone Up Move

    Summer's nearly here, and if you need a gadget to help kickstart the whole fitness thing, we're looking at Jawbone's $69 Up Move.
  • Review: LG G Watch R

    Smartwatches started off square, but now they're finally taking on a more watch-like design, with circles back in. Motorola got their first, but LG's is totally circular with no…
  • One of the best phones around: Sony's Xperia Z3 reviewed

    Sony has been improving its smartphones so much that it’s impossible not to see the electronics superpower as a serious competitor to Apple and Samsung, and here we are…
  • Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 reviewed

    Now that we've seen Apple do its first take on the whole big phone thing, it's time to see Samsung make its Note phablet better than ever.
  • Review: Pendo Pad 8

    You’ve seen cheap Android tablets, now brace yourself for the onslaught of cheap Windows tablets, starting with the Pendo Pad 8, a Windows 8.1 computer in an 8 inch…
  • Review: Sonos Boost

    As more players enter the multi-room audio market, Player One -- Sonos -- is ready with a fix for people suffering from buffer and WiFi problems. If this is…
  • Review: Marshall Monitor headphones

    If you’ve ever played in a rock band in your teens, or even if you do now, you know the “Marshall” name. It’s a brand that practically screams rock,…
  • Thinking thin: Apple’s iPad Air 2 reviewed

    A new year means a new iPad, and here we are with another model ready for consumers to take home. Is the latest iteration Apple's best, and does it…
  • Aldi's $279 Bauhn Sphere smartphone reviewed

    Remember when you had to go to a phone store to buy a phone? No more, with phones available everywhere, and Aldi is getting on that with the Sphere,…
  • Review: HP ElitePad 1000 G2

    When you talk about business grade tablets, there aren't a lot of choices, but HP's ElitePad 1000 G2 looks to provide a dose of shiny silver aluminium professionalism to…

“How do you stop yourself from being caught out by these scam artists?”

Read More

Tell us…

Which smartwatch are you interested in buying?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

“There’s certainly no doubt that you can find a bargain, but like always, you get what you pay for.”

Read More