Better than an iPod dock, Bluetooth speakers are quickly proving themselves a must have for those wanting to get more sound from their smartphone, tablet, or notebook, as anyone can connect and amp up the volume with ease.
Samsung’s F61 is slightly bigger than most Bluetooth speakers, and it’s also in a class of its own in other ways too, offering a sense of style and design that makes it feel more like a piece of home theatre tech than just another wireless speaker.
With measurements larger than that of a paperback book, Samsung’s F61 speaker is one of the bigger portable designs we’ve seen. It’s not just bigger, but thicker too, with the weight of the F61 coming in close to 1.1 kilograms by itself, making it not the easiest carry-on item.
Charge time comes close to three hours, but Samsung expects you can get close to 12 hours out of the F61.
Design of the speaker includes metal across the casing and grill, with a piece of fabric attached to the edges held in place by a magnet, and then folding back to provide a place for the speaker to stand on.
Technically, the speaker is rated for 20W over two channels, but you’ll find a bass enhancement mode to push even more sound out.
Connectivity options include the standard 3.5mm headset jack, but wireless audio is really what this has been designed for, with Bluetooth and AptX support, paired automatically to devices which support Near-Field Communication.
Samsung TVs can enhance their sound by connecting wirelessly to the speaker’s use of Sound Share.
Credit to Samsung where it’s due: this is one beautifully designed speaker.
More than just another brick with grill holes, Samsung’s F61 looks like it could fit anywhere in your home. The living room, a book shelf, the bed side table, and your desk; it’s a speaker that carries a simple design of a massive silver grill a slightly retro speaker system.
When not in use, a piece of cloth covers the front, protecting the speaker from harm and snapping into place courtesy of magnets. When you do need to use it, however, the cloth becomes a place to rest the rear fold-out stand and stop it from moving when placed on a surface. It’s a nice touch, and one that goes a long way to make this product feel premium.
Controls are all located on the side, with touch buttons for mute, bass enhancement, and a function button to switch between how the speaker is connecting to the device, whether it’s through Bluetooth, wired cable, or syncing directly with a Samsung TV for expansion of the television sound.
Volume is also there, and it will pop out when you push its large circle in, allowing you to control the levels with a simple turn.
All of these buttons are quick to respond, and like the cloth cover, help to make this speaker ooze quality design.
Anyone with Near-Field Communication in their device will have the easiest setup, with the technology literally allowing you to bump the NFC-equipped product with the side of the F61 and have it make the handshake automatically, pairing with no problem to send that audio straight away.
We tested it here with a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and were able to start streaming music immediately, which was also the same result when tested with the HTC One, the latter adding the smartphone’s use of Beats Audio and clearing up any sound we streamed over Bluetooth.
Those of you without NFC – and that includes any Apple products released to date – will have to connect by looking for the Bluetooth speaker manually, or by plugging in via a 3.5mm cable, which this speaker supports. Both are easy to do, though not necessarily as quick and painless as the NFC connection.
Over in the audio department, Samsung is definitely getting kudos from us, as this is one stand-out Bluetooth speaker.
Electronic and pop comes off insanely clean, as noted in Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” and Laura Mvula’s “Green Garden,” the latter of which is strong and bright, with an obvious separation between the lows, mids, and highs.
The Samsung F61 really shines in music that hasn’t been overly worked on, such as is the case with jazz and classical.
Dave Brubeck’s “Maria” sounded just as clear and bright as our favourite headphones, and made us yearn for a copy on vinyl, while Chano Dominguez’s take on the Miles Davis classic “Flamenco Sketches” had loud strong piano strokes come in just as vibrant as if he were playing in front of us. That same separation was noted on a recording of Chopin’s “Fantaisie Impromptu,” as well as on Yo-Yo Ma’s rendition of Bach’s Cello Suites.
Not all music is perfect through this speaker, though.
In rock, the music is often good, but the lower notes can often be muddled together. Other times, we found it just came out flat. Thankfully, Samsung has provided an extended bass mode, helping songs that need the extra punch that isn’t appearing.
Regardless of it being switched on, the speaker can struggle, gelling the sounds together, something we noticed on Fun’s “Some Nights” during the massive drum lines and on Dashboard Confessional’s “Hey Girl” where the bass just failed to really punch through.
For the softer music – jazz and classical – this won’t be a huge problem, and you can run the speaker without the extra bass mode, but if you pump some rock, soul, or modern pop through, that extended bass mode will really help drive the heavier sounds.
One obvious downside appears to be in the charge mechanism which can’t seem to receive a charge and play music at the same time.
If you find yourself running out of charge while jamming to some tracks, don’t assume you can just plug it in and keep going like we did. Instead, switch it off, plug it in, and go do something else, because the F61 doesn’t like to be used while it’s juicing up.
Also, due to the size and one kilogram weight, this isn’t a speaker you’ll want to take with you. Rather, this is one to keep at home.
With a lovely design and solid audio through most music types, it’s easy to see the F61 as a contender for the best Bluetooth speaker this year.
If you’re in the market for a better than decent Bluetooth speaker that you plan to leave at home, it’s worth taking a look at Samsung’s excellent speaker.