Published on March 16th, 2013 | by Greg
BassNation BlackBox: Dark And Stormy
We’re always thrilled when entrepreneurs take a risk and create new products. And some great gear has come from collaboration with musicians, even if it’s now often become more of a marketing tool than a real cooperative effort. Today, we take a closer look at an audio system designed from the ground up by musicians and acoustic engineers who have been working on the system for over a year. Like classic gear meant for serious use on the road (think Marshall amps), we were happy to see that attention had been paid to the details: protective metal corners, steel speaker grills and clamps, and a sturdy carry handle on top for portability. Plus, the unit is handcrafted in wood, with no cheap plastic parts!
The Bass Nation BlackBox fills a fairly unique niche. We’ve seen lots of audio gear, everything from DACs and headphones to AirPlay docks and wireless speaker systems. But few manufacturers aim straight for professional musicians who need a portable-ready speaker that looks great on a stage but can also rock a car. The latter is particularly unusual- included in the box is a 12 volt power adapter, meaning you can sit this thing in your trunk (though the cable is a bit short) and rock the neighborhood or block party. We’ve included a video above which does a pretty good job of covering the engineering.
Ultimately, it’s an interesting product with serious audio chops, though we’re not without reservations. The Kickstarter project wasn’t successful, but we’re happy to see that they went ahead with production anyway. The retro looks are a great touch, and you can easily stack the units for more power. A front headphone (mini-jack) audio-in is for your typical sources like MP3 players or smartphones, but there is also a pair of RCA stereo L/R audio inputs on the rear. We really liked the analog volume knob, even if it was a built small.
With most units in this class (50 watts total output), you’d expect a pair of tweeters and a single bass woofer. But they went ahead and included dual 6.5” woofers, meaning that you’re able to feel and appreciate those lower frequencies. You don’t have to turn them up to enjoy the extra depth, and while we didn’t feel that the BlackBox was excessively bass-heavy, it’s definitely built for those who want a little boom in their music. The higher end felt a bit tight, clean and crisply detailed but not as warm as the retro look might lead you to believe, and there wasn’t quite the soundstage we expected in a speaker this size. Volume appeared prioritized over some other considerations. They do brag about the fact that it can hit 104dB; we didn’t quite get it to that level but there is no doubt that it’s among the single loudest speakers of this size that we’ve seen that manage to push that volume without almost any audible distortion. It’s an impressive feat.
That said, it’s hard to see it as a home system- it doesn’t fit nicely with most home components, and it isn’t quite right as a soundbar thanks partially to the handle. It worked well with a computer, but the same issue holds true (it won’t fit nicely on your desk). For events or parties where you have power available, it’s a great box to haul out and get the dance floor rocking, and we can certainly approve of it for tailgating. Serious audiophiles will want something with a few more options and inputs/outputs, but it’s perfect for college kids who want a sound system they can be proud of (though their RAs might not be so happy). Available now, for $300.