Published on September 1st, 2013 | by Greg0
Soundcast Melody And OutCast BlueCast: Superior All-Weather Bluetooth Audio System
When we last checked in with Soundcast, the company had a line of custom and proprietary solutions for wireless audio, with a focus on outdoor speaker systems for pool-side, patio, and grill use. They sounded great, were portable if a bit hard to move around, and have held up very well in some nasty conditions- but you needed to use a special docking bay for your device, which was a bit awkward. The devices were ahead of their time, but definitely pricey. Fast forward to today, they’ve not only released a small dongle that instantly upgrades their older units, but also come to market with a new smaller and less expensive wireless speaker.
The Soundcast Melody takes our prize for the best-sounding portable outdoors-friendly sound system that we’ve yet tested. With eight speakers firing in 360 degrees, you can set this little guy out on your porch or in your yard, do your gardening, chores or have a pool party or BBQ and enjoy music easily. Thanks to Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity, any device that supports Bluetooth (any smartphone or tablet, most laptops) will instantly become your audio source, and the range is decent as well. Line of sight is best, as with most Bluetooth systems, but get this: they included support for both high-quality aptX protocol and lossless AAC, which means much better fidelity from your playlists. It’s one of the first devices of any kind we’ve seen that support both.
Bring the Melody to the beach and enjoy up to 20 hours of playback, way better than most any other speaker that we’ve seen. Of course, it’s bigger and heavier than most any others- but at only 9 pounds, it’s a fairly easy item for anyone to move around. The built-in handle makes it a cinch to pack or carry. It’s far smaller than it’s siblings too, less than a foot high or wide. The UV-resistant plastics mean that it won’t discolor in the sun, and the splash-proofing means it is safe to use outside. And unlike most Bluetooth speakers that we’ve been seeing recently, this one has full controls on the top, with buttons for every function so you don’t need to fumble for your device. As usual, there is an auxiliary input, and charging is handled via a micro-USB cable.
We took the Melody out and pumped up the volume, and were more than satisfied- it gets plenty loud without audible distortion, and there is no “best” listening angle. Four drivers and four bass radiators meant decent sound across the spectrum; it won’t satisfy bass users who want a true sub-woofer experience that will shake the ground but even hip-hop beats had plenty of oomph for most anyone. We wouldn’t suggest using it indoors as a main home audio system; it’s tuned for presence rather than accuracy. Though lyrics were clear and we really liked the mids, those wanting crystal highs and sharp, defined instrumentals won’t be thrilled. The build quality was excellent, sturdy and dense, with buttons and exposed areas well-sealed or covered. Soundcast’s Melody isn’t for everyone, but it’s the perfect option if you need an outdoor speaker for a big or loud group. And at $450, it’s a good deal too, offering plenty of power and excellent battery life in a portable unit with top-notch sound.
If you still have the older OutCast or OutCast Junior models, though, you aren’t left out of the group. You can still use the iCast dock, but those with incompatible devices like newer iPhones or Android devices will appreciate the ability to use Bluetooth instead thanks to the Soundcast BlueCast. Supporting the same pair of codecs- aptX and AAC- for high-quality audio, you are cut down to the standard 33 foot range or so, but for most people, it will be worth the change. You don’t lose the weatherproofing either, thankfully, and the dongle is super-simple to setup, plugging in to the auxiliary jack. It does have a separate battery, though, which is a bit of an annoyance- it needs to be charged via USB for about 8-10 hours of playback. That’s enough for a full day, of course, and we’d strongly suggest grabbing one of these if you have another Soundcast unit- it’s an instant upgrade, and worth the reasonable $80 price tag.