As a portable Bluetooth speaker, it’s pretty hard to stand out and get noticed these days. But when you’re (practically) the only vibration speaker in town (or CES 2014), you get attention. And draw some crowds it did.
With the amount of people stopping by the Bass Egg booth at CES 2014, you’d never think the team had missed their original Kickstarter goal. But that didn’t stop them. So many faces lit up in amazement from hearing the Bass Egg in action; it was more than I had seen at any other booth featuring audio products.
The speaker calls out to people with boom. And answer the call I did.
Design & Connectivity
Right out of the box, the Bass Egg visually appeals to the primal part of my male brain. Hourglass curves. Healthy satin glow. Nothing frail or flimsy. Whether or not the design was planned as such from the beginning, it totally works for me.
There is only a single switch for the speaker, which toggles for wired, off, or wireless operation. Bluetooth connectivity works flawlessly, and the Bass Egg beeps when the Bluetooth is on and then again when it connects to a device.
There is a hybrid Mini (can’t use Nomad ChargeKey) USB audio cable for both charging and a wired connection. Don’t lose it.
The base of the Bass Egg has a tacky pad, which helps to keep it from slipping. It collects dust easily, but a lick of the thumb and quick wipe takes care of it and brings the sticky back. Cleaning the base is pretty much mandatory, since the speaker can and will jump and hop at higher volume levels, creating a sound not unlike someone drooling giant metal marbles onto the table.
There is no volume control on the Bass Egg itself. Sound levels are determined by surfaces and the volume setting of the connected device. But more on that in a bit.
The Bluetooth wireless range can reach a solid 18 feet before it starts to break and cut out. It also doesn’t like bodies crossing through the signal, and it likes to travel through walls and floors even less.
This shouldn’t be an issue, since the Bass Egg performs better as a personal, close-range speaker.
For an added protection and a splash of color, you can get a Bass Egg Shell from BassEgg.com. It helps to keep the speaker scratch-free from those occasional tumbles.
The Bass Egg is a vibration speaker, which means it creates sound through the surface it’s sitting on. When you’re holding it in your hand, you can hear tiny music coming out. But as soon as you set it down, you’re greeted with a full, 360 degree performance emanating from the entire surface.
How loud can it go? The short, technical answer is that it’s all based on physics. Volume (cubic measurement, not sound) and surface areas play a significant role, as well as the physical properties of the material itself.
Shapes of surfaces and speaker placement/location also matter. Setting the Bass Egg on the corner of a wood table won’t sound as good as putting it in the middle. But, typically, larger surfaces produce greater sounds.
Brick and stone make terrible surface choices for the Bass Egg, since they’ll absorb most of the speaker’s energy attempting to pass through. Pillows and balloons are even worse, since there is too little material to create any sound from. Wood, plastic, glass, and similar are much more ideal. However, not all wood (for example) is the same, so different types and how they’re constructed also make a difference. These are the kinds of examples to keep in mind.
The sound that comes from the Bass Egg doesn’t project and carry like a standard speaker, making it more suitable for smaller or more intimate listening spaces. Too much of the audio detail dissipates quickly with distance, so you’d be left hearing faint upper registers over the thrum of lows. But keep in mind that this changes based on the speaker’s surface too.
When it comes to the audio quality in general, the Bass Egg, at best, delivers highs and mids that are on par with similarly-priced speakers. Parts of the highs can turn brittle and tinny rather easily, depending on the connected device’s volume setting versus the surface material. Notes aren’t always so sharp, and can sometimes run into each other to create a light blur above the music.
The mids perform better. They get a good push from the speaker’s energy, which greatly helps to develop the vocals and maintain a distinction from the instruments.
There is a touch of warmth that comes through the mids, making guitars and midrange drums more enjoyable. Too much volume/power (also dependent on the surface properties) can lead to a blending of sounds with each other, eroding some image distinction.
Sure, there are many other speakers that outperform the Bass Egg in the upper frequencies. But we’re also talking about a Bass Egg. Not a Highs Egg or Mids Egg (I’m coining those two terms right now), but a lovely lovely Bass Egg.
The lows is where all the action is at. It’s the reason why one gets a Bass Egg in the first place. This little speaker humbles the low-end performance of others, which can be multiple times the size and price. The Bass Egg brings the boom: full, moderately tight, and oh so deep. Even on surfaces that don’t cater to the best bass reproduction, you can tell that very few (if any?) speakers under $400 are even close to competing whatsoever.
One of my favorite albums to listen with the Bass Egg is The Fat of the Land, by The Prodigy. The Bass Egg brings every one of those songs to life, enunciating low-end drum and bass details that other speakers simply can’t capture. I can feel everything too. So long as I have a great surface and proper positioning, the lows deliver with a thunderous might.
Fun with Surfaces
There is another aspect of the Bass Egg that other speakers can’t emulate – the fun factor. It’s just plain fun to try the Bass Egg out on every possible surface you can think of. To my kids (and myself), any other speaker is just a box that music comes out of. The Bass Egg creates an adventure, an experience with music and sound.
It doesn’t take much experimentation to find out that wood tends to deliver some great, rich tones. My large sliding glass door adds more emphasis to the highs, though not necessarily much more clarity. Metal adds – you guessed it – a metallic transformation to the music, which is fun with electronic genres.
Walls, windows, furniture, floors, counter tops, appliances, etc. You’ll try it all and be surprised and delighted with the results. While a window (yes, you have to hold it there) may sound good, it doesn’t mean that the glass top of the end table does.
Objects that are hollow in the middle tend to give a better, larger, and more open sound. One of my favorite surfaces has been a cardboard box. What can I say, except that it sounds pretty darn good (again, physics!). It’s better than our coffee table, which is too thick and dense to produce music well.
Washing machines (at least mine) have too many rattling parts to sound decent. The (closed) toilet lid does pretty well, except that it ships all the highs straight to brittle island. The Bass Egg sounds ok on the roof of my car. But it sounds way better when I’m sitting inside the vehicle instead of standing outside.
Want some bass straight to your brain? Stick it on your temple and let the vibes jitter your vision and massage your mind. You can place it up against your sternum too, but it’s pretty stingy since no one else will be able to hear.
The Bass Egg is powerful enough to vibrate through multiple surfaces, so you can double up to discover or fine-tune different sound profiles. Another one of my favorite spots to set the Bass Egg on is this antique glass mirror, which sits atop our Ikea dinner table. The glass brings out some of the highs better, and because of the additional surface the lows are balanced just a tad. The table’s size allows the music to fill the room easier.
Cranking the volume to the max doesn’t always work the best. When the Bass Egg goes past the intensity a surface can handle, it introduces distortion, echoes, and other unwanted noise. Loose objects sharing the same surface can add a buzzing due to the bass power. Shoddy construction or loose parts will perform similarly too.
Parts of my kitchen cabinets are not flush with each other at connection points. How can I tell? Because of the horrible wood and metal rattling I hear (feel, and see) when I put the Bass Egg on one of the emptied shelves. This is an aspect that negatively affects music coming from the speaker.
The Bass Egg makes for an interesting choice for watching movies, since it adds big atmosphere. However, the power of the bass sometimes steps on voices or other sound elements. I’ve found that while ocean waves and sharp explosions sound good, the rumble of car or jet engines break up and stutter. Sound reproduction for movies seems slightly different than plain music. But the right surface(s) let the Bass Egg shine.
What’s the best and fastest way to ruin one’s perception of their favorite speaker’s low-end performance? It’s to have a “bass-off” with the Bass Egg. The look I’ve seen on people’s faces has been a combination of awe and aww, with the former in favor of the Bass Egg. Those looks oftentimes morph into that of a freedom fighter, ready to “liberate” a certain Egg from my clutches.
Not everyone has been immediately impressed or ready to give up on their beloved speaker. When they comment on how the highs and mids of the Bass Egg don’t sound nearly as good, my reply is, “who says that this is zero-sum?” as I pull out an audio cable and splitter. While the music is good with either speaker alone, they quickly realize how much better it gets when both speakers combine powers.
The Bass Egg is almost like a pocket woofer, because of how small and compact it is. Speakers costing up to four times as much and eight times the size of the Bass Egg can only dream of having a similar low-end output.
If you crave the Bass and need a personal speaker, this Egg is for you. If you already own an excellent (or any) speaker, then I dare you to try it with the Bass Egg and be disappointed. Because you won’t be. As soon as you hear what you’ve been missing out on all this time, you’re going to have real fun with the Bass Egg and love every single moment.