When it comes to Bluetooth speakers, it’s not an easy thing to stand apart from the rest. As you should know by now, they come in all colors, shapes, and sizes by all sorts of different manufacturers. But while I was roaming around at CES 2014 earlier this year, one in particular caught my eye at the iLuv booth.
I had not seen anything like the iLuv SyrenPro then, and still haven’t since then. Of course, I was curious to see if the performance was as bold as its appearance. It’s not easy to listen with the noise and bustle of CES all around you. So the good people at iLuv sent one for me to check out.
Design & Connectivity
When it comes to a unique speaker design that’s unmatched by anything else out there on the market, the iLuv SyrenPro takes the cake. It’s like a tapered tower, with an open mouth at the bottom to breathe out low-end bass. Aside from it’s smaller sibling, the iLuv Syren, nothing looks like it. You better prepare some answers, because everyone who comes over is going to ask about this speaker, for sure.
Despite the structure and size of the iLuv SyrenPro, it’s not as heavy as it looks. The construction is made mostly of plastic, with some rubber accents. The open handle area on the back of the iLuv SyrenPro provides a space for fingers and lift.
Although considered portable, it’s certainly not pocket- or backpack-friendly like other speakers in the same price range. It takes up the area of a dinner plate with the height of a 2-liter bottle of your favorite carbonated beverage.
The top of the SyrenPro features a 3” speaker, which belts out most of the music you’re going to hear. The bottom part has an opening for the down-firing bass-enhancer for the lows (everything else). This design is meant to add some fullness while spreading the sound down and out. And it actually works.
Being that this speaker is meant to withstand the perils of outdoor play, it has a couple key design elements. The iLuv SyrenPro is water resistant, and it also has a UV coating to protect it from sun damage. Tall, rubber feet prop the speaker up by about an inch. Splash it with water all you like; it’s going to take more than that to let it sit in any. The coating is smart, since it takes only a day or two (if that) of a product being left out in the sun to take on a damaged, weathered look. The iLuv SyrenPro has stayed looking as good as new, even though it’s been left out for more than a week.
The track and volume controls are located around the top speaker grille, on a rubber ring. Part of the waterproof design, these buttons are more like embossed markings. The click is more of a soft, tactile sensation rather than anything you’ll be able to hear. There is no audio indication of hitting min/max volume, which is kind of a bummer. The power and audio ports are located on the speaker’s rear, under a water-tight rubber seal. This is where you’ll find the switch to set the iLuv SyrenPro as the left or right channel when paired with another. You’ll also notice that the speaker isn’t USB-powered, but requires the included wall adapter.
Bluetooth pairing is simple. Older smartphones or other devices can always plug in with an audio cable, too. Although there is no notification that accompanies volume min/max threshold, the iLuv SyrenPro does announce device pairing. I find the voice reproduction a little scary-sounding (not really, but yes, really).
For the most part, the pairing and automatic reconnecting works fine. A bit slow, maybe, but that’s about it. It doesn’t reconnect automatically after taking a phone call, however, so that has to be done manually. I am a little surprised that the speaker doesn’t have a microphone for taking hands-free calls, but assume that it would compromise some of the water resistance.
The speaker design of the iLuv SyrenPro lends it to an almost omnidirectional delivery of sound. Almost. It’s definitely better from the front, where you can hear more of the lows through the opening. The shape helps to project music a bit further without the need for additional volume, at least compared to standard, boxy speakers. This is good, since it doesn’t have the largest volume range.
Although it does well to fill a living room and adjoining kitchen, the iLuv SyrenPro can’t really compete with noisy environments. Part of this is due to the drop in output power once you unplug the cable and play off the battery. The difference is immediately noticeable, and the volume will want to be bumped up more to compensate.
The other limiting factor is that the speaker exhibits distortion when it’s close to max volume, for both the speaker and connected device. I’ve found the ideal limit to be around 75 percent volume on the device, with the speaker itself set to max. This still makes for comfortable listening, but won’t stop screaming kids playing in a pool.
The layers of instruments sound a little close to each other, slightly nudging, almost to the point of blending. This kind of cramped soundstage gets worse as volume tops out, which is another reason to keep it in check. It differs with track recording quality and musical genre, so keep the smartphone handy.
For the most part, the highs are good. Sometimes they sound a little thin, and most times they sound fairly clear. They’re not bad for the power and price range of the iLuv SyrenPro. Cymbals and hi-hats deliver that generic tinniness, which is common for these kinds of speakers. On occasion, some elements in the highs have turned a bit sharp and piercing. The whistling in the song, “Home”, by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros is one such shrill example.
I find that the vocals in the highs are better than the instruments. This isn’t to say that the instrumentals are bad; the vocals just have some pop and a little more depth. They also remain clear and vibrant throughout the highs, no matter the volume level. This changes a bit once vocals start dipping into the mids.
Although vocals in the mids maintain similar clarity as ones in the highs, there isn’t as much separation from the instruments. Lead guitar sort of trails into the slightly warm vocals. None of it sounds bad, per se, just mixed. This is likely due to how the iLuv SyrenPro has mids that sound a little more energetic than the highs and lows.
Like the highs, the mids sound good. They’re decent, yet leave you wanting a bit more. Songs that focus more on the vocals over instruments, such as Michael Buble, fare pretty well. Johannes Linstead is also another good example of a type of music that fits well with what the iLuv SyrenPro delivers. Clean and classy works. Complex stuff can work, although the sound tends to get messier as the volume goes up.
Music that lacks a strong presence in the mids, either vocally or instrumentally, end up with an empty sound. Without mids, the iLuv SyrenPro leaves music to the highs, which are a little weak, and the lows, which can be a bit wild. Although it’s not a general rule, some songs can be a coin toss.
I really like how the lows come out of this speaker. Low-end reproduction is hard to accomplish for Bluetooth speakers around this price bracket. The reason is that they lack the size necessary for depth and fullness. The iLuv SyrenPro is different because of the down-firing bass enhancer, which helps to get around the physical limitations of its components. The trade-off is that the SyrenPro isn’t as portable or pocketable as many other speakers.
The tube design lets the lows sound bigger without trying to force it. You’ll get the sound of the lows, just not the force and thrust. Stick your hand down at the bottom and you can feel the gentle breaths of air accompanying the beats. The control is iffy, and I wouldn’t necessarily consider the lows as punchy. But with the right kind of music, drums and bass sound pretty good. They won’t be super big or deep, but they will compliment all sorts of different music. They don’t overpower the mids or highs either.
Bass guitars come on stronger than drums, which, with the exception of a kickdrum, can sound a little anemic. Synthesized low-end drums beats come out a little better than their natural counterpart, which merely tap around the top end of the lows. Despite delivering better-than-average lows, the iLuv SyrenPro lacks the chops to handle complex tunes. Too many drums, guitars, and bass going on at the same time leads to a cluttered sound that eliminates detail. Metal music, such as Dethklok, doesn’t do so well. But you can listen to Massive Attack just fine, since the lows aren’t as busy.
Wireless, Water, & Battery
The iLuv SyrenPro has a good Bluetooth range, maintaining a solid connection up to about 34 feet. But as soon as you put a wall or floor in between, the signal is lost until the connected device is about 26 feet away. For the price, this range is darn good. For the size, one might think it could push more. Either way, the SyrenPro beats out many others in overall range and strength.
The iLuv SyrenPro resists water like a champ. Aside from the top speaker, there really isn’t anywhere for liquids to pool and collect. The ports are sealed, the base is on raised feet, and water isn’t going to travel up the tube (under normal conditions).
Even giant sloshes of water aren’t a big deal. The holes in the top speaker grille tend to hold droplets in, so it’s not like water goes straight onto the membrane. The music is dampened a little bit, but all it takes is turning the speaker on it’s side and smacking it so the water shakes out.
Battery life is the iLuv SyrenPro’s biggest weakness. Although it claims to only get four hours of runtime, I’ve been able to squeeze almost five and a half. It’s likely due to lower listening volumes. Even so, five hours is not a lot of time for a speaker that one might want to bring out to a pool, beach, or park. Most other speakers in the same size and price range hit at least double digits of playback per full charge. Since the SyrenPro doesn’t charge up via USB, external battery packs are of no help.
Overall, the iLuv SyrenPro is a good speaker. Sonically, it’s in the middle of the road. It’s not bad, not excellent, but good. Although the lows are going to sound fuller than similarly-priced competition, they lack the bit of punchiness I prefer. It comes down to the composition of music, and how much emphasis a song puts on the lows, mids, and highs. But when a tune has a little of everything, this speaker is fun and enjoyable.
The best part of the iLuv SyrenPro is the physical design. This can be taken as a slight against the sound quality, but I prefer to consider it otherwise. The unique shape gives it an edge toward bigger-sounding lows as well as shedding off splashes of water. When it comes to outdoor playing, this unit is a surefire trooper.
What holds the iLuv SyrenPro back from true versatility is the lack of USB power and total uptime per a full charge. This isn’t a speaker I would consider taking camping, to the beach, or out for a day somewhere. It won’t last, and no outlets means no easy way to recharge it. Plus, it’s a bit big.
If pocket- or backpack-portability isn’t a primary factor for different, inexpensive Bluetooth speaker, then the iLuv SyrenPro is certainly a contender around the $100 mark. So long as the sound is acceptable to an individual’s ear, the decision to get one likely comes down the visual aesthetics. There are bigger, smaller, better-, and worse-sounding speakers to choose from, but none of them sports the kind of style of the SyrenPro.