I need to listen to music while I write. I guess it’s a Pavlovian response that I’ve drilled into myself over the last two decades of contributing to the SoundStage! Network. So by necessity I have to bring something along with me to shows and on essentially any expedition where I’m going to have to generate copy.
There’s not much room in a suitcase, so any component I bring is gonna have to be small. For several years I used a UE Boom Bluetooth speaker, but two years ago my wife pinched it from me for use in her special-needs classroom. After far less research than you might expect, I flailed around for a short while and eventually settled on a JBL Flip 6 Bluetooth speaker that was on sale at Best Buy.
The Flip 6 is a small, unassuming cylinder with very little functionality of which to speak. And that’s fine, really. It connects instantly to my smartphone, and that’s all I need. On my Samsung S21 I have a bunch of downloaded music from Tidal, and hotel Wi-Fi is usually sufficient to stream music, so I’m off to the races.
As I type this, I’ve just returned from PGE Narodowy stadium, home of some of the larger exhibits at Audio Video Show 2022. I’ve just come out from rooms where there are systems costing upwards of one million US dollars, and now I’m sitting in my little hotel room listening to music through a $100 speaker.
And you know what? I can still enjoy it. There’s always some kind of suspension of disbelief required when I listen to a stereo system, no matter what the cost. For the most part, it’s always clear that reproduced sound is not live music, so you’ve got to accept that and listen past the fact that it just doesn’t sound right on some level. So listening to my cheap-ass Bluetooth speaker, I can obviously hear that it’s presented in mono, and that the bass is reproduced with trickery that makes it sound deeper than it actually is. The highs don’t shimmer, and there’s no imaging to speak of. In the grand scheme of hi-fi, this speaker is dreadful.
But I can still enjoy it, and this pleases me greatly. It reassures me. Because if I ended up unable to listen to music on the little JBL, it would mean that I’m only in this gig for the gear. And I wouldn’t be able to trust myself, to believe that I’m making the right decisions about the equipment that I review. Who knew that this little speaker would keep me grounded?
Senior Contributor, SoundStage!