(Pocket-lint) - Portable Bluetooth speakers have widened their appeal over recent years, with high-end brands also muscling in on the space to deliver affordable, transportable and great-sounding products.
V-Moda is well established in the headphones market — it makes some of the best over-ears you can buy right now, with its Crossfade 2 Wireless cans — but has taken until 2017 to produce a portable speaker, the V-Moda Remix.
The name owes itself to the customisation that's possible at the order stage, allowing you to "remix" the design as you please. In addition to that quirk, the Remix is the first portable speaker with an integrated headphone amplifier.
For us, however, it's how it sounds as a speaker that's most critical. And with the Remix having donned our desk side for the last six months, we've had hundreds of hours worth of time with this quality little speaker to assess its highs and lows.
V-Moda Remix review: Design and features
- 205 x 65 x 68mm
- Aluminium (850g) or Vegan Leather (710g)
- Built-in battery (10hrs), USB-C recharging
- Built-in headphone amplifier
V-Moda is well known for its industrial aesthetic. And the Remix doesn't shy away from that design language. The oblong design isn't vying for unnecessary attention, though, in that it's not loud or excessive in its looks.
It needn't look inconspicuous, though. The Customizer stage at purchase offers all kinds of materials, finishes and colours — from custom sides and top, to custom grille — but it can crank up the price to inordinate amounts. We'd just stick with the off-the-shelf option, really, as it looks fine.
The black model we have for review is finished with "vegan leather", a textured outer shell (which actually smells almost leathery), while a metal grille, complete with hexagonal openings, finishes the front.
Up top the vegan leather recesses to reveal the buttons, comprising on/off, multi-function pause/skip, separate volume up and down, and Bluetooth pairing. The multi-function button is a nice idea — one press pauses, two presses skips a track, three presses skips back a track — but it won't work with all syncs; with Amazon Music from our laptop, for example, the speaker can't take the reigns of command (but the shortcut buttons on our laptop work just fine, so it's never mattered).
To the rear is the "vamp" port — that's the headphone amp socket — alongside a USB Type-C charging port for the on-board battery, and a 3.5mm input jack.
It's a well made product that's built to last. The Remix has been slung into bags and transported from desk to hotel rooms and friends' houses over the course of a few months. The only tell-tale signs of wear? A few nicks in that faux-leather finish. Otherwise it looks just as clean and when first unboxed.
V-Moda Remix review: Sound
- Glass-fibre dual driver and passive bass reflector
- 20 - 20,000Hz frequency response;
- Daisychain multiple Remix speakers together
Because of the oblong design, the Remix is rather directional with its sound output. It's plenty loud enough to fill a room, but with a single panel facing forwards the sound streams in a linear format, rather than the more immersive 360-degree options that many competitors — from UE Boom to Libratone Zipp — can offer. That's not a huge problem if it's correctly positioned, of course, while the flat side panels also mean the Remix can be stood up long ways.
The sound profile — driven by glass-fibre drivers — is loud, punchy and convincing throughout. The only problem, so to speak, is its claim of 20Hz low-end doesn't feel entirely reflective of its performance. Sure, kick drums kick hard, but when it comes that the low, wobbly bass the Remix isn't a patch on the (actually cheaper) B&O BeoPlay A1.
Now part of the Remix's price point inevitably comes down to its inclusion of a headphone amplifier. But we can't help wonder why that's really needed. If you're going to listen using high-impedance headphones then, well, you've probably already got a dedicated amp for them, no? And if you don't, why would you want a 20cm-long speaker to power them? We think this should be an option, because we'd uncheck that box and save money on what's otherwise a decent speaker — and it should be focused on being just that first and foremost.
The Remix's battery life we've found to be solid, lasting for the 10 hours per charge, as claimed. If you're listening loud and the battery level begins to get low the Remix will automatically step volume down to try and extend its life. When life gets really low it emits this painfully irritating — and really loud — beeping sound for about half a second. It's so annoying that it will essentially force you to plug the device back in via its USB-C port (when the volume level immediately then rises, as it bypasses the battery).
One of the best things we've found about the Remix is just how strong its Bluetooth connection is. Having used dozens of connected speakers over recent years, we've often found them to stutter with connection to our MacBook, but this V-Moda has been almost 100 per cent perfect in its connection performance and quick to re-connect after rebooting any connected devices too. Good job.
The V-Moda Remix brings some high-end elements to the Bluetooth speaker party. Its got big sound for its small scale, although the low-end can't rival the better-priced B&O BeoPlay A1, which pulls the rug out from under V-Moda's speaker somewhat.
We also can't help but think that by including a high-end headphone amplifier the costs have gotten too high. If the Remix was £50+ cheaper then it would appeal to a much wider audience. And for good reason: because it sounds great.
After many months of listening we can confirm the V-Moda Remix is a quality portable Bluetooth speaker. Its customisation and amp quirks don't elevate it to the same almost-unrivalled level as V-Moda's over-ear headphones, however, plus its high-end competition is considerable.
Alternatives to consider
B&O BeoPlay A1
The A1 is the best £200 Bluetooth speaker we've heard to date. Huge sound, including bass, is what really elevates this circular speaker to greatness.
Read the full article: Bang & Olufsen A1 review
It's just as expensive, but the Ultimate Ears device is a winner on account of its 360-degree sound output, plus it's waterproof, which makes it ultra versatile for holidays, camping, festivals and such like.
Read the full article: UE MegaBoom review