Back in June, Samsin grabbed wireless Bluetooth speaker headlines (admittedly a pretty narrow niche) with their SBS-6600 set: two vaguely-triangular nuggets of Bluetooth-packing portable music with 1.2W per channel and the honour of being the “World’s First Completely Wireless Speakers”. That’s right, no cable running either from them to your MP3 player or even between the speakers themselves. Well, the guys at AdvancedMP3Players.co.uk were kind enough to send me a set to try out so that I could decide whether all those absent wires made for an absence of quality.
First impressions are good; they’re deceptively light (just 265g) and the plastic seems high-quality. Advanced MP3 Players are currently running an offer where you get a free neoprene zip-up case to carry the speakers, and while I didn’t get that in my review pack it would certainly make the unusual shape easier to hold. In terms of buttons, the master speaker (which is the right-hand audio channel) has a dual-purpose power and Bluetooth pairing button, track skip controls and volume controls (that affect the volume of the speakers themselves, not whichever device is connected). The left-hand channel only has a power button; it will automatically connect to the master speaker on turning on and then shut-off after a short period of disconnection.
Round the back of the speakers there’s a single port for the dual-cord AC charger as well as LEDs on each unit that change colour to indicate how far charged they are when plugged in. A 3.5hr charge is supposed to take the SBS-6600s to full power, but I always found they claimed to be done much earlier than that. Samsin claim up to 8hrs total playback before the batteries drain, or 240hrs standby, and while re-pairing them with different music sources will affect that I managed to achieve roughly that figure.
Since there’s no standard 3.5mm stereo input, you’re using Bluetooth to connect the speakers or not using them at all. Inside the master speaker is a Bluetooth V.2 transceiver supporting both the A2DP (wireless stereo) and AVRCP (Audio/Video Remote Control Profile, to use the track skip buttons with your device) standards. To put them into pairing mode you hold down the power button on the right-channel speaker (from a powered-off state) until the button flashes red; you’ve then got around a minute to initiate a connection from whatever Bluetooth-enabled source you choose. Thumb in the default PIN (as ever it’s 0000, and you can’t change it) and the Samsins show up as a normal wireless stereo audio device.
On a PMP like Samsung’s marvellous T9 (of which you can see our review here) that’s all you need to do; music will start streaming out of the speakers and you can begin to dance. If you’re pairing with a computer then you might have to change the default audio playback device in the Control Panel; once I did that, however, they worked flawlessly with my Samsung Q1 UMPC, automatically reconnecting after I had resumed from standby and with the track buttons controlling Windows Media Player.
Samsin claim the typical Bluetooth range of 10m from the audio device, but at that distance I found the occasional hiss or artifact would mar the performance. Better to have them closer (where their relatively low power output isn’t so laboured) and enjoy the surprising level of detail and bass they pump out. You can part the two speakers by about a metre before the connection degrades, easily enough for decent stereo separation. The SBS-6600s are never going to replace your home HiFi, but then they were never intended to.
In my original news piece, I was a little bemused as to the exact need for totally wire-free speakers. Having lived – and travelled – with them, I’ve not exactly “seen the light” but I’ve certainly come to appreciate their strengths. Anything that reduces the number of trailing cables around my work area is appreciated, and the ability to set up an impromptu cinema viewing (albeit on the small screen of my UMPC) or spontaneous disco was surprisingly addictive.
No product is perfect, and with that in mind I wish Samsin had included a standard audio-in socket for PMPs that don’t support Bluetooth. Yes, they sell a Bluetooth adaptor for the wireless-impaired, but at around £30 that’s quite a lot more than a simple stereo cable! In the spirit of reducing wires, I’d also like to see a USB charging cable so that the SBS-6600 could be recharged from a laptop – it would mean one less AC adaptor to lug around, although given the performance from the batteries you’d only really need this if you were planning a trip away for longer than a day.
Finally, it would be good if the speakers would remember more than one paired device. Yes, re-pairing is straightforward, but given that Bluetooth is the sole way of connecting and there were at least two or three audio sources I was using the Samsins with, having it recall the last few devices would have been handy.
They’re piddling quibbles, though, and you shouldn’t let them dissuade you too much from the SBS-6600s. If you use a PMP, cellphone or computer with Bluetooth A2DP support and you’re looking for some compact speakers that manage decent quality, you could do a whole lot worse than check out these from Samsin. I’ve certainly not been disappointed.
The Samsin SBS-6600 Wireless Rechargeable Bluetooth Speakers are available now from Advanced MP3 Players, priced at £69.99