For those of you who own an Echo Dot, like myself, you have certainly run into the issue of being tied down to a specific space with your Dot. You’ve probably also fought with a near mono, with a little bass, speaker built into that inexpensive Amazon beauty. While you can certainly connect via bluetooth into a speaker system or sound bar, you’re still stuck in the same place with that poor Dot in your kitchen, on your bar or on some inconspicuous place that no one can see it. There is no arguing how great and inexpensive the Dot is compared to its tall brethren, it still can’t compete with the Echo for a lot of reasons, including quality of sound.
So, what is a Dot to do to improve itself?
Welcome Ninety7’s VAUX speaker system that promises to not only place the Echo Dot in an entirely new realm of usefulness and portability, but also promises to do it with a low price tag.
Let’s talk about this thing.
The design of the VAUX has simplicity in mind.
You put the Dot in the giant hole on the top of the device, pull down the rubbery back and plug in the audio cable (stereo mini) and a micro USB cable (to keep the Dot alive and kicking), then hit the power button and enjoy the sound — and that’s all. No assembly is required, which garnishes a huge ‘thank you’ from the majority of Echo Dot users (https://intelligence.slice.com/amazon-echo-officially-mainstream/), which are the the Baby Boomers and Generation X’s of the world. Having seen my mom and myself fiddle around with technology over the years, the easier the device is to set up, the better. Ninety7’s design is meant to be easy and the tech company delivers on that promise of simplicity.
Once you have the device out of the box, charged and ready to go, then it just simply works as advertised through talking with your Dot as usual. I was optimistic that this would be the case, but skeptical when we received it at the office. There are hardly moments where the design meets expectations when it comes to tech. Generally, low-priced items don’t meet reviewer expectations. We are a cynical bunch of goobers, so generally we assume the worst when low-priced tech arrives at our desk. In addition, there is usually a cheap feeling with such devices. Thankfully, expectations were met and the VAUX felt like it was one of the more expensive devices that you could get for your poor little Dot to get a bolster. The design was dead-on what was marketed.
For that, I say bravo to Ninety7. Their design exceeded expectations and the price tag on the device.
It functions exactly like your Dot hooked up to speakers would function. You may not get the 7.1 surround system out of it, but you’re going to get more bass and bang for your sound out of the little speaker that could. It magnifies and improves the sound of the Echo Dot. It does a great job of playing strong sounds through an almost 360 speaker design. It’s akin to placing your iPhone in a plastic cup to get more volume out of it, but doing so in a quality-driven way that makes you feel like you have a nice speaker in the household.
The portability of this device is the big selling point and another great function for the VAUX. It’s quite portable, quite light and it works uninterrupted with the Echo Dot firmly in place. I moved the device with me around my office, room and kitchen without a hitch. It worked well and was small enough to fit in most spaces without much trouble. It worked in nearly all environments (kitchen, bedroom and office) and it sounded absolutely beautiful.
So, what’s the rub here? Well, it comes down to one compromise.
The compromise is the battery life, which isn’t exactly shocking. It takes about 3-5 hours to fully charge the device and in return you get an almost total of six hours out of it. That doesn’t seem like much, but its not too bad considering that the charge is powering the speaker and the Dot at the same time. If you see it that way, especially the wireless-ness of the device, then six hours isn’t that bad. It gives you punch and volume in exchange for mid-to-high power consumption. For me, personally, I didn’t mind the battery limitations a bit. I mean, what is the chance that I’m going to play my Echo Dot for six straight hours? Little to none…outside of this review. Typically, I play music while I’m cleaning, prepping dinner or trying to audibly block out my kids when they’re rowdy. That’s not six hours worth of stuff. In addition, if I’m not using the device, then it’s plugged up. There’s no reason not to have it plugged up during the downtime, which means I won’t feel the power ‘issues’.
I do understand the power gripe, but what you get in return and how you use it will dictate whether that is truly a factor or not. For me, it isn’t. I use my Dot in small intervals, so I will never run into such a situation in my day-to-day ‘actual’ life.
The functionality is as advertised, just like the design. It does what it is marketed to do and it does it well.
I know that there are varying opinions out there about the VAUX’s value. For a good bluetooth speaker these days you’re looking at $20-60, depending on your expectations. The $49 asking price of the VAUX is not outrageous, not by a long shot. While the battery life of the device is certainly a thorny point of contention, and might be a huge one for technology geeks out there, the portability and sound quality alone should be worth the asking price of the system. In my opinion, $49 is not a bad price at all for what you get. It certainly feels worth it.