Two Affordable and Stylish Bluetooth Speakers from I-Venstar
When I first opened the pair of I-Venstar bluetooth speakers I was sent to review, I was impressed. I had previously looked at the speakers on Amazon, and for Bluetooth speakers in the under $50 range, these looked well made and stylishly packaged. I was also pleased to see that both speakers came with a carabiner–I am a sucker for carabiners!
I-Venstar Bluetooth Speakers: Venstar Taco and I-Venstar Waterproof Sport
I-Venstar sent me two speakers–the colorful red and black “Taco” (also available in silver and black), and the rugged, waterproof I-Venstar Waterproof Sport model S406.
I’m no audiophile–just an everyday music lover. I don’t obsess over sound quality, but I do know when audio sounds bad. A while back, I wrote about my experience with the Cambridge Soundworks Oontz Bluetooth speaker, and perhaps that is why I-Venstar asked me to review these competing speakers. So in many ways, I will be approaching my review as a comparison with the Oontz. Although I paid about twice as much for the Oontz speaker when I purchased it a couple of years ago, the current Oontz models are priced in the same range as these.
Venstar Taco, A Stylish Bluetooth Speaker
The Venstar Taco has a distinctive style–with its tubular body shape and angled sides, it resembles a taco. I-Venstar states that the taco shape “maximizes the sound quality and energy efficiency.” The front and back sides are a soft touch rubberized finish with sound perforations, and the bottom is flat for a stable base. The top and side ends have a red grill, and there is a black brushed aluminum panel centered on the top for the controls. The controls are clearly marked and well laid out. The top panel also has the “Venstar” brand name in small white text.
A rubber flap covers a panel on the base with the 3.5 mm auxiliary jack, and a mini-USB charging jack. The flexible flap is secure, but it can be difficult to open, and it does not allow the speaker to stand up when charging. The speaker comes with a nice red and silver zippered case with a carabiner attachment for you to clip it somewhere. A USB charging cable, 3.5mm audio cable, carabiner clip, and small instruction booklet was included, but you will need to supply the power adapter. You can expect to receive up to 12 hours of playback on a single charge, although this varies with the volume level.
Here are the tech specs for the Venstar Taco as copied from Amazon. I have made noted where they differ from my packaging:
- Mode Number: VENSTAR Taco
- Chipset: ISSC1681
- Speakers: 3W x 2pcs
- Frequency:150Hz ~ 20000Hz (Packaging states 80Hz ~ 20000Hz)
- S/N ratio: 80dB
- Sensitivity: 80 2dB /mW
- Microphone: Built-in Microphone
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth 3.0 (Packaging states Bluetooth 4.0)
- NFC: Yes
- Wireless range: Up to 10 metres
- Audio input: 3.5mm Aux line-in
- Battery life: 8+ hours
- Power source : Micro USB charging slot
- Battery : 3.7V/1400mAh rechargeable
- Dimension: 63x210x63mm(HxWxD)
- Weight: 12.3 Oz.
The four control buttons across the top of the Taco are for skip back (long press for volume down), pause/play/answer phone (also used for pairing), skip ahead (long press for volume up), and power. A very small LED blinks blue when the speaker is in use and red for charging. A not-unpleasant beep tone sounds to indicate when the speaker is turned off and on.
I-Venstar Waterproof Sport S406, An Inexpensive Rugged Bluetooth Speaker
The I-Venstar S406 (which I’ll call the “Sport” speaker) is an all-black rugged waterproof speaker in a rectangular block shape. It has a cushioned silicone protective sleeve all around which is broken up by oblong hexagonal shaped spaces with a black metal grill behind the rugged rubber exterior. The outer protective sleeve is not a rubberized coating; you could pull it away on the edges and slide it down to reveal the metal grill all-around, though I don’t know why you would want to.
The speaker is waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof with a IPX4 grade rating. That does not mean the speaker is immersible, but it may be used in locations where it may get wet. The speaker is also equipped with a 3600 mAh power bank that can be used to charge another device through its USB charging port.
The top of the speaker bears its name in small, unobtrusive gray text. There is also a loop where you can attach the carabiner clip. The base doesn’t have the hex shaped openings, but the front and back sides look identical. Once you learn that the controls are on the right side, it is easy to orient the speaker correctly for listening. It can also be stood up on one end.
The right side has three button controls for pause/play/answer, skip forward, and skip back. Just like the Taco, the skip buttons can be held down to adjust volume. A rather annoying, loud robotic voice announces the power state when the speaker is turned off and on. An LED blinks blue when the speaker is connected. The LED turns red when charging and solid blue when fully charged. A full charge takes about 3-4 hours and up to 10 hours of playtime is advertised.
The other end of the speaker has a rubber flap concealing an aux out 3.5 mm jack, a mini-USB charging port, and a standard USB DC out jack for charging another device. The port cover flap is more flexible than that of the Taco speaker, which makes it easier to open, but then it does take some extra care and attention to ensure it is re-positioned properly when the ports are not in use. A more protective cover would be well-received for a device that you are encouraged to use in wet environments. Like the Taco, a USB charging cord is provided, but you will need your own power adapter. A carabiner clip, small user guide, and 3.5 mm audio cable is also included in the package.
Additional I-Venstar Sport S406 tech specs from Amazon:
- Bluetooth Resolution: CSR 4.0
- Connection: 3.5mm / Bluetooth
- Water resistance: IPX4
- Output Power: 5Wx2 (Packaging states 3Wx2)
- Charging Output: 5V 1A
- Frequency Response:20Hz~20kHz
- Battery Li-ion:3.7V
- Battery Capacity:3600mAh (Packaging states 4400 mAh)
- Audio input:3.5mm Jack Cable and power connector
- On/Off/Bluetooth switch
- Power lndicator Light: Blue lights
- Range: up to 33 feet open field
- Weight: 12.6oz
Pairing both of the speakers was simple and did not require a pin code or even a glance at the user guides. (In fact, the first time I opened the user guides was when I sat down to write this review.)
I used both speakers around my home and on trips for listening to music, audio-books, and podcasts. I have been very satisfied with the sound quality for all types of audio. In most situations, I was happy with the volume level, but the waterproof sport speaker’s volume let me down a bit while showering. In order to compete with the running water I had to bring the speaker directly into the shower area with me. Thankfully, this is the very atmosphere the water-resistant I-Venstar sport speaker is made for. Positioned against a tile wall to bounce the sound, the volume was sufficient to hear over the running water in the shower. I also used the speaker poolside where the volume was sufficient. However if you use the speaker at a distance or you like loud music, you may not be satisfied with the volume. For my use–usually indoors in small rooms–both speakers were sufficient.
Battery Life, Charging, and Range
Battery life has been great with these speakers. I used the Taco for several hours a day, several days in a row, and never got a low battery indication. After the third day I went ahead and charged it but it had not yet given me the low battery caution tone. Although both speakers can be played while they are charging, the Taco can’t stand up in the proper listening position while the charging cord is connected.
The I-Venstar Sport did give me a disconnected notice at one point, but I think this was because the iPhone I was playing from was almost out of juice and not the speaker. I was able to connect the iPhone up to the charging connector on the speaker and keep the tunes going for another few hours. The phone charged slowly while connected, but by this time, the speaker itself may have been low on juice. I charged my phone off the speaker on another occasion when I knew the speaker was close to fully charged, and my phone went from 69% to 96% in about an hour.
The range for both speakers is typical for what I have experienced with Bluetooth devices. If I kept the player device in my pocket with the speaker stationary, the sound would break up occasionally, but resume by itself. This breaking up was more likely to happen outdoors while moving around a lot, than if I was indoors moving around with the phone in my pocket.
I have not yet tested the speakerphone function of these speakers. If I have an opportunity to test the speakerphone, I will update my review.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Inexpensive for a Bluetooth speaker; stylish appearance; easy pairing; speakerphone capabilities; portability; decent sound quality; rugged and waterproof (Sport speaker); handy power bank feature in Sport speaker.
Cons: Charging ports can be difficult to access behind the rubber flap; no dedicated volume buttons; maximum volume may not be sufficient for some; Sport speaker has annoying power state announcements; Sport speaker rubber flap does not seal ports well.
I-Venstar Bluetooth Speakers Summary
Overall, I am very pleased with these speakers, especially for the cost. If they had been available at the time I purchased my Oontz speaker, I likely would have bought the Taco instead of the Oontz. My only reason for preferring the Taco is because it comes in red–my favorite color. But if you need a rugged speaker that can stand up to more abuse and go more places, the I-Venstar Waterproof Sport is also a great option.
Amazon prices in US dollars at the time of this review:
Disclosure: Speakers were provided in exchange for an unbiased review. Amazon affiliate links are included in this post. All images provided courtesy of Amazon. [disclosure policy]