My new voice box(es)!
Updated: Apr 28, 2022
a review of small portable bluetooth speakers
Bluetooth speakers are my new voice box! Currently I have settled into using my phone with the SpeakUnique app with my synthesized SpeakUnique voice, when I'm on the go. At home I am currently using a Tobii Dynavox TDI-110 loaner with my SpeakUnique voice. These were my favorites after sampling several apps, custom synthesized voices, and AAC devices.
I'm still fluctuating on going with the TDI-110 versus a Microsoft Surface with the Communicator 5 software. And I am still working with another company on a more custom voice solution...if that works out it would lead me to use a Surface as well.
What i found with ALL of the AAC devices is that the speaker is just not loud enough. Sure its fine if you are in a smaller living room with a couple people. But if you are in a larger room, or outside, or someone is a bit hard of hearing, or you have a big family... you are S.O.L. (shit out of luck). The Tobii was the best of those I tried, but still not robust enough. When using a phone app and walking around outside, i definitely need a speaker in order for people to hear me.
I purchased a JBL GO3 for my 'walk around' bluetooth speaker. It is small enough that i can easily slip it into my jacket pocket, my fanny pack. or even just into the waistband of my leggings! It is clear enough and packs enough punch to work well as my on the go voicebox.
However, if I am going to go with a Surface, I wanted to look for a small flat speaker that i could velcro to the back of the tablet case. Amazon here i come! This is what i tried out:
Ranked from loudest/clearest to least:
Bose SoundLink Flex : Big sound, but its BEEFY and heavy, no way could i mount this to the back of a tablet. Nor do i want to lug this guy around with me on the daily. Relatively nice look, but not all that sexy for the price $149 @ amazon. Waterproof, stereo pairing, 12 hours playtime.
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 : I did not purchase this for the comparison - but have 2 of these bad boys at my office. They couldn't be used in the manner i want because they are cylindrical and sound is multidirectional. However, if you want to use with a phone app for an outdoor location that is noisier than the JBL GO3 can handle - this is your speaker! It is still pretty lightweight and easy to throw in a purse or bag. Cute design. NEGATIVE: auto turn off with inactivity. Waterproof, stereo pairing,13 hours playtime, $82 @ bestbuy
JBL GO3 : As mentioned, i purchased this to put in my pocket and use with my phone while walking around, but i thought hey - throw it in the lineup and see how it performs. Wow was i surprised. It really isn't far behind the Wonderboom when you compare the size and cost. It beats the built in speaker of the Tobii hands down (mind you i am using a loaner of the older model). BONUS: nice loop that you can carabiner on to whatever - i have even hung it off my lanyard with my phone (so does wonderboom and bose, but because of their size it would be awkward). NEGATIVE: 5 hours playtime, however i think this is my current forerunner because i can even carry about a second one for the additional playtime. NEGATIVE: auto turn off with inactivity. Waterproof, 5 hours playtime, $30 @ amazon
Anker Soundcore : Nice look with single sided speaker. Significant drop off in quality of sound from the JBL. Its a little thicker than the JBL also which would make it more cumbersome mounted. BONUS: 24 hour playtime. Waterproof, 24 hr playtime, $28 @ amazon.
Senso Soundbox: Wanted to like the almost retro transistor radio look - but within seconds it seems to attract every fiber and hair in the general vicinity. Flatter and lighter, but the sound and clarity just isn't there and i cant be sure if the sound is coming out of both fabric wrapped sides. Waterproof, 9 hour playtime, $39 @ amazon.
Lenova 700 Ultraportable : I wanted this to be the answer so badly! It is so thin and light and would mount perfectly. But alas, the sound was even less than the Tobii. There is no way this would do the job. Waterproof, 12 hour playtime, $119 @ amazon.
*note 1: I tried to pair both the Wonderboom and the JBL with the Tobii and while it will pair, Communicator will not speak through the external speaker. I have no idea why and if there is a workaround.
*note 2 : I use a Logitech keyboard with my Tobii so I can touch type quickly. So my Tobii is usually positioned out of my immediate reach. This make auto turn off of speakers ANNOYING.
*note 3 : some of these also act as speakerphones with a built in mic, but that was of no consequence to this application.
UPDATE JBL go3 vs Bose Soundlink MICRO
Ultimately, I decided to go with a Microsoft Surface with the Tobii Communicator 5 software for my aac. I got a tip to try the smaller Bose Soundlink Micro and its a WINNER. The sound is a bit bolder and clearer than the JBL. It is slightly larger. Shorter battery life of only 6 hours - but i figure i can just buy 2 of them for a backup if needed. It is more expensive at $120. A couple nice features are that it has an app that allows you to modify the auto turn off time and also can link it with other Bose speakers moving forward. I might get one of the larger ones for outdoor stuff and just to yell around the house (need to keep the husband on his toes). ALSO, the attachment strap on the back means that i dont need to figure out how to velcro it to the back of my Surface. I bought a Kennsington Blackbelt 2 case so the Bose strap works perfectly slipped into the handstrap on the case.
I still love my JBL go 3 for pairing on the go with my phone app because of the slightly smaller size!