• Price: $999/£774/€899 (each)
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Soundboks 3 Bluetooth Speaker Review

Phil Morse
Last updated 6 June, 2021

3264

The Lowdown

The Soundboks 3 speakers are constructed and behave like PA speakers, but have the smarts of the best Bluetooth speakers, and then some. Powered by either mains electricity or switchable batteries, with low-latency wireless when linking a pair up, they can be your home studio practice speakers as well as a truly “play anywhere” solution for parties. Oh, and they’re loud! Now, where’s the subwoofer, Soundboks?

Video Review

First Impressions / Setting up

These are beasts of speakers, sized 66x43x32cm. However, they’re not overly heavy, and easy enough for one person to carry, at 15kg each.

There’s no getting around it, though: These are large, black boxes, with heavy duty grills on the front – we’re in classic PA speaker territory here. The cabinets are wooden, finished in black, with aluminium edging and silicone “golf ball”-style corners, and a big silver Soundboks logo on the front. Clearly visible behind the grills are the two 10″ woofers and a 1″ tweeter with a dispersion cone.

That said, if you want to jazz yours up a bit, you can order with either orange or white grills, which definitely make them look less nondescript.

If colourful speakers are more your style, Soundboks offers both orange and white options.

Around the sides are carry handles, and there’s a bass reflex port that goes right through the middle of the speaker connecting the left side to the right side.

On the left-hand side is a slot for the battery pack to be inserted, and the battery pack is held in by its own cable’s plug. This seems a bit weird at first but it is a design that seems to work – and of course the fact that the battery packs are switchable is great because it means you can carry spares.

On the right-hand side is the power button, a large volume knob, and a function button that lets you choose whether your speaker will be “solo”, or paired with another (and if so, whether it is to “host” an additional speaker or speakers, or “join” with another host). Up to five speakers can be “ganged” together using a technology called Skaa, without wires – but if you need ultra low latency (eg for DJing), it’s only two that can be ganged together wirelessly in a “pro” mode.

Each side of the Soundboks speakers, with handles for easy portability. The right side includes the power button, a large volume knob, and a function button, while the left contains a slot for the battery pack.

Towards the bottom of the back panel of the unit is what Soundboks calls the “Pro Panel”, which contains an 1/8″ minijack stereo input, and 1/8″ minijack stereo output, and 2 x combo mic/instrument sockets (1/4″ jack and XLR). This is something that previous models didn’t have, and is why this brand of speaker is suddenly of interest to DJs.

Soundboks says that the speakers can handle rain, snow, sand, and spilled beer on their surfaces, and that the internal and external components can handle temperatures from -10 to +40 °C (+14 to +104 °F).

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You can buy a “Performer Pack” (comes with a dynamic mic and lead), an “Elevation Pack” (comes with a soft-cased tripod stand), and an “Explorer Pack” (complete with customised pack carrying strap/frame), all of which cost $100 more than the basic $999 asking price for the basic speaker with one battery and charger.

Compared to the previous Soundboks 2, as well as the obvious addition of the wired inputs (pretty important for DJs, of course) here you’re also getting the new bass reflex port, lighter wood used in the construction, a better pole mount, better ball corners, simpler user interface panel, and improved wireless connectivity.

In Use

When you start using the Soundboks, it’s worth downloading the app immediately for your phone, as this lets you easily do things like turn Bluetooth discoverability on and off, configure how the wired inputs behave, set the “Skaa” wireless mode for ganging more than one speaker together, play with the EQ, and many other things.

Crucially, this is where you can select the “Skaa Pro” mode, to allow virtually latency-free wireless audio for DJing (it comes at a cost of 30% range, and only two rather thank five speakers connected). Of course, it is also possible to hard-wire speakers together, but either way, your DJ gear will still only be connected to the host speaker. Skaa, by the way, is a pro wireless technology that Soundboks has licensed for its devices.

Linking the speakers wirelessly is easy – it’s a simple button press to put the main speaker into “host” mode and the same on the other or others to put them into “join” mode, and this is all visible in the app too.

Also in the app, you can adjust the gain for the inputs, which is useful, for instance, if using XLR inputs for DJ gear. This is because the gain will be very different to using the same inputs for microphones.

Finally in the app, you can also lock your speakers, so nobody else can use them, and stop Bluetooth hijacks, too – very useful.

Download the app to have control over Bluetooth, linking multiple speakers, gain, EQ, and more.

Once you’re set up, it’s time to party! We used a pair of Soundboks, partnered together in Skaa Pro mode, with our DJ gear plugged into the host speaker. We used a pair of stands to raise them, and had fun playing with the different preset EQ settings in the app, that let you trade off volume/bass response with battery life. Bass+ is best for outdoors, but runs your batteries down fastest.

We got about 10 hours out of a battery playing at a reasonable small party volume, which is amazing. (The company claims 40 hour at mid-volume, five hours at full volume.) If you were to buy a spare battery, you could switch them over easily enough, and let’s say you were using one in the garden or somewhere similar, you could always have the spare battery charging in the house while the unit was drawing from the main battery.

The company also sent us the stands and microphone to test, and a host of cables. The stands are sturdy, and come in their own carrying cases which is nice, and the mic is a pretty decent Shure SM58-style dynamic model, with an on/off switch. The cables you can get from Soundboks for your various connections are all high quality.

Conclusion

This does feel like what it is – a combo of an app-controlled Bluetooth wireless portable speaker, and a PA speaker.

On the PA side of things, it sounds great, is plenty loud enough, and… well, it looks like a PA speaker too. You’ll either love this or not.

On the portable speaker side, it has long battery life (we particularly liked the interchangeable battery design), “classic” Bluetooth for when you typically just want to stream music to it from your phone, and the obligatory app, which in this case is reasonably useful, especially for EQing.

Despite their hefty appearance, Soundboks are fairly portable speakers, easy enough for one person to carry at 15kg each.

But it goes beyond most (all?) consumer Bluetooth portable speakers with the inclusion of the Skaa multi-speaker wireless feature. The ability to gang five of these together for playing music is pretty cool (trust us, five of these would be VERY loud), but of more interest to DJs and musicians is the Skaa Pro setting, where you can wirelessly pair two of them, with practically zero latency – an important thing for performers.

There are just a couple of areas where, for us, the marriage between “serious” PA speaker and consumer wireless portable speaker could be better.

We’d like to have seen RCA sockets on the back as well as 1/8″ minijack sockets – minijacks are OK, and Soundboks sells some nice adaptor cables for them, but they’re hardly a pro way of connecting gear up, and most pro PA gear has the RCA option alongside the XLR/TRS choices.

And despite the clever battery arrangement, whereby the same lead can either charge the battery or power the speaker (or both), we think having an external transformer/power brick is a weakness – we’d like to have seen the designers somehow weave in a standard IEC-type socket for powering the Soundboks 3 should you wish to do so directly from the wall.

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On balance, though, the Soundboks 3 is a great choice for DJs who want to be able to use the same speakers for playing on at home (as long as you can cope with the aesthetic in your living room, or wherever), and for taking out to gigs, whether those gigs are powered or outdoors in a field somewhere, using the wireless, battery set-up. The design is flexible and modern, the app is useful, and the units are very loud.

There are actually two more items we’d like to see Soundboks add to the line up. One is a subwoofer (imagine a wireless, battery-powered subwoofer to add to a pair of these, for volume!), and the other is a “Soundboks Mini” – same thing, half the size. We think the latter would be a sweet spot for many DJs wanting something loud and durable, but more portable.

So to conclude: They’re not cheap, but they’re unique, and Soundboks is to be applauded for what it’s done here. We really like them!

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