Soundboks Gen 3

Soundboks Gen 3 BT party speaker – breaks through the noise (review)

9.2

Soundboks Gen 3 BT party speaker is a loud beast, but in saying that, it is a refined one playing some of the finest music at very loud levels.

We review many party speakers, but there is a special place for the Soundboks Gen 3 BT party speaker – it is a ‘refined’ brute of a speaker that frankly has no peer. That is not to take away from the great JBL PartyBox range but to acknowledge that you need the right tool for the job.

Soundboks Gen 3 is a sledgehammer to crack a nut, a Rolls Royce to do the shopping – you get my drift. It is not for subtle audiophile snobs that want music perfection, although our tests show it is near perfect.

Instead, it is loud with heart-thumping bass (you can feel the bass), substantial mid and treble and acceptable total harmonic distortion. It is a sharp tool to amplify whatever music you throw at it.

Soundboks Gen 3 SKU SB3-1BB

WebsiteAU site
Price$1599
FromSoundboks online (free freight) and JB Hi-Fi
WarrantyTwo year ACL
Elevator PitchYou ain’t heard nothin’ yet – and probably never will from its competitors
CompanyThree great Danes developed a speaker that would outlast the wildest nights and take anything our favourite week-long, outdoor festival could throw at it. Now LA-based and with over 50,000 speakers in 40 countries.
SupportLocal [email protected] 02 6639 555

First impression

  • Big (66 × 43 × 32 cm), rugged, tough, industrial design, handmade (with genuine screws holding it together), black speaker enclosure.
  • Eight silicon corner protection balls and can be pole mounted (tripod option $249) – it is even IP65 rated for outdoor use.
  • It uses renewable laminated Poplar cottonwood timber panels with metal powder-coated frames and handles, accounting for its 15.4kg weight (plus battery).
  • It is ‘fundamental’ in a good way. No frills and no airs and graces – what you see is what you get
  • The battery is removable (thank goodness and probably unique here), and it charges via a 14.5V/3.3A/49W pass-through plug pack – an excellent Occam’s razor solution.
  • The front has an alloy honeycomb speaker grill, and the sides have lifting handles that are part of the passive bass pass-through radiator.
  • It is a mono unit but can stereo pair and wirelessly link up to five other nearby Soundboks.

Setup – easy

It is primarily a BT 5.0 speaker with 2 x 6.5mm AUX-in and 1 x 3.5mm stereo input, and 1 x 3.5mm stereo output.

Press power on, BT pair via SBC codec, and it is a loud BT speaker. Most BT host devices are limited to 80dB, yet this speaker can produce 126dB SPL via AUX-IN (over 100dB at 1m).

BT 5.0

It is single-point, meaning it only connects to one device. Change the device, and you must reset BT and pair again. The maximum transmission distance is 30m, but we recommend no more than 20m.

The App – basic but does what it needs to

The App requires registration to set up an account. After that, it handles power on/off, volume, EQ and other Soundbok speaker pairing options.

The EQ defaults to flat (good) and has a +/-10dB adjustment from 60Hz to 15kHz. When you have two stereo paired speakers, it allows individual EQ settings for each. We left the EQ alone – you will see why later.

There is a Pro panel to control the two AUX-IN inputs – Channel 1 and 2. These have pre-sets for Mixer, Mic, Guitar, Active Instrument and +/- 12dB adjustments.

SKAA Pro Mode essentially addresses BT latency and reduces the number of Soundboks from five to two by reducing the BT range by approx 30%.

Speakers

It has 2 x 10” woofers and a 1” high-efficiency compression driver tweeter that sits in what looks like a sizable horn speaker for tighter directional control. In addition, it has a passive bass radiator – called a pulse reflex port – running through the middle and exiting out from each side handle.

The speakers use individual Merus Audio eximo 72W RMS Class D amps (total 216W).

Merus is another great Dane, and its eximo uses a patented multilevel audio amplification technique that provides a higher resolution output with high efficiency. It uses advanced switching amplifier technology, enabling the smallest possible amplifier solutions for compact audio products. The DAC (digital to analogue converter) handles 44.1 to 192kHz sample rates. It is capable of 1% THD at full power output.

The frequency response (claimed and verified) is 40Hz to 20kHz.

Removable battery – killer feature

We could not set up an anechoic chamber to test battery life at full volume. And apart from 5 x 20% LED indicators; there is no battery level indication in the App or BT.

Sounbbok claims (and we believe this)

  • 40 hours at mid-volume
  • 5 hours at full volume
  • 3.5 hours full recharge

The Lithium-ion battery is 12.8V/7.8A/99.84W, and the charger is 14.5V/3.3A/49W. What that means, in theory, is that it will charge in over 2 hours (plus the time lost due to battery charging efficiency), so 3.5 hours seems right. If the unit is in use, battery charging will be slower. You can charge the battery out of the unit or buy a spare battery ($279) and charger ($89) for uninterrupted play.

How does it sound?

I hate the term awesome so let’s use a few synonyms – breathtaking, ground-shaking bass, full and rich mid and crisp treble – splendid.

On BT, you get 80dB volume (after we disabled the smartphone limiter, we got near 90dB) and via AUX-In (no limiter) just over 105dB. I am sure it can do a little more, but my ears can’t take that.

The sound stage is mono, so it is more about quality sound filling a space. We tested in an outdoor 400m2 (20 x 20m) space, and mid-level volume was all it needed. It has a significant volume increase over the JBL PartyBox 310 with 240W RMS (140W on battery), which is also enough to fill the same space.

What is impressive is the bass – it is heart-and-ground shaking in a way that I have never heard a BT speaker before.

Sound signature wise (you can read more here), it has terrific bass (accentuated and forward), solid mid (that means bass does not overpower the music) and flat treble (that adds definition). It is perfect for what it is.

The graph below is using a sound generator to test frequency response (gold line). It shows bass from 40Hz building to about 80Hz the exceptionally strong to 200Hz where it then dips slightly (as it should) and is remarkably flat to 8kHz where it slowly dips to 20kHz. Take it from me – this is quite special for an outdoor, IP65 sealed enclosure.

The graph below is my favourite Blues Brothers Peter Gunn Theme that is incredibly bass heavy but also has trombones, trumpets and vocals. When played on this speaker it comes alive. Note how it handles the bass as well as the mid and treble. 10/10!

GadgetGuy’s take

Sounbboks said that no review does it justice, so that is my challenge.

First, bass – there is heaps, and it is well controlled. There is a BASS+ setting in the EQ – use it outside as it vibrates windows inside.

Second, as an amateur audiophile, I know good quality sound. The Soundboks Gen 3 gives better sound and volume than you have any right to expect especially from a sealed IP65 rated enclosure.

Third, outdoor audio quality is superb, and while you may want to be within 10-20m to get the best out of it, you can still hear it a hundred metres away. I wish I could listen to two in stereo, two using its SKAA or up to five at a party – awesome – there is that word again.

I love the formula – rugged industrial – and I can see scope for an indoors version (perhaps more refined) and even larger outdoors versions.

Rating

I rated the JBL PartyBox 310 as 9/10. It has more features and provided its loud enough for your needs then its probably more versatile for indoor use. The Soundboks Gen 3 is raw, brute strength and earn extra points for the bass, removable battery and being an indie brand that does not have JBL or Sony’s deep pockets and marketing budgets/prowess.

Would I buy it? Well apart from really pissing off the neighbours I would need to have a need for it. At the price and for its specs it is prosumer use at outdoor events or as a PA and guitar amp.

Soundboks Gebn 3 BT transportable speaker
Simple the best outdoors transportable BT speaker
Features
8
Value for money
9
Performance
10
Ease of use
10
Design
9
Positives
Very well made – industrial quality with protection
Excellent emotive sound signature from 40Hz to 20kHz
Bass to burn (but well controlled)
Swappable huge capacity battery
Most parts, including the speakers, are replaceable
Negatives
Needs a battery indicator in the App
Single point BT connection
Love to see a more refined indoor version and stereo pair
It is not 126dB – that is SPL (sound pressure level) – more like 100-105dB
9.2