Reviews: Audio

Vintage charm from Bag of Riddim 2

The Bag of Riddim 2's carrying case has a pouch to store the power adapter.
The Bag of Riddim 2's carrying case has a pouch to store the power adapter.PHOTO: HOUSE OF MARLEY

It feels a bit misleading to call the Bag of Riddim 2 portable Bluetooth speakers, even though that's what they are, technically. The speakers, from the United States-based The House of Marley, weigh and look more like boomboxes than the small, sleek and minimalist speakers popular today.

At 2.95kg, it's no issue to throw them over a shoulder and wander around with them -but not quite small enough to just throw into a bag while heading out for a party.

Thankfully, there is a carrying case, with a nifty pouch to store the included power adapter. It's all part of the Riddim's vintage charm, which feels like it was designed to invoke nostalgia for the funkadelic 1960s and 70s.

The body is the same bamboo casing like other speakers in Marley's portable line, with the sides and top wrapped in a fabric made out of hemp, cotton and recycled plastic.

The speakers' battery pack is good for up to 10hr of playback after 4hr of charging, and they also come with a USB output that lets you charge your devices through it.

The Bag of Riddim 2 is designed to be as easy to set up and use as possible, and so connectivity is done only through Bluetooth 4.1 or a 3.5mm auxiliary input.

There are only four buttons on the speaker: power, Bluetooth and a pair of volume controls. The volume controls are independent of your music player or smartphone, so you will have to adjust it on both devices respectively.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $598

    DIMENSIONS: 45.72 x 13.97 x 13.97cm

    DRIVERS: Two 25mm tweeters; two 89mm woofers

    WEIGHT: 2.95kg

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

For speakers of their size, I was surprised they didn't go as loud as I thought they would. For outdoor use, I had to max out both the speaker volume and the volume on my phone and, even then, I felt it could do with a bit more volume.

There is also noticeable audio hiss at a low speaker volume, which gets smothered the higher you turn up the volume but is still present if you keep an ear out for it.

These issues make it a little hard to justify its $598 retail price, especially since the sound quality is not exceptional enough to make up for these quirks.

The Riddim has an exaggerated bassiness and warmness to its sound signature. Its mids and treble are a bit weak, and often overpowered by the bass, which makes songs sound a bit thin.

Putting on modern party tunes - which I assume will be the most-used feature of the Bag of Riddim - was a lacklustre experience. It turns out the speakers don't play too well with modern party songs with synths and electronic music.

While Taio Cruz's Dynamite was beautifully bassy and thumping, Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You sounded flat and was lacking in body.

It was much more pleasant on vintage rock tunes, though. Velvet Revolver's Slither was punchy although a tad muffled, while AC/DC's Back In Black, with its famous distorted guitar riff, was sufficiently powerful and clear enough during playback.

• Verdict: There are no new tricks in this Bag of Riddim 2, which offers good, but not stellar, sound quality in a slightly cumbersome package.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline 'Vintage charm from Bag of Riddim 2'. Print Edition | Subscribe