Bluetooth Speakers Back-Country Tested - Infinity One

BackcountryBluetooth_Photo_InfinityOne

Infinity One ($299)
Substantially larger, heavier, and $100 more expensive than the other speakers in this review, the yet-to-be released Infinity One is just on the edge of being small enough to consider for a motorcycle adventure...except for one little thing: This speaker ROCKS!!! Yeah, I'll make room in my bag for this thing every time.

As I was looking for product for this review and Googling stuff like "ruggedized weather-resistant water-proof Bluetooth speakers" I happened to stumble upon some of the early press from CES this year and the initial Harman press release for the Infinity One. Much is made of Harman naming Linkin Park as brand ambassadors in their effort to invigorate the brand, but actual technical details are scant as yet—the Infinity One is slated for availability later this month. Here's a few things I can offer:

BackcountryBluetooth_Photo_InfinityOneExploded

  • Four 45mm (1.77") drivers (two front-facing, two rear-facing), and two passive radiators (~60mm, ~2.3") mounted at either end.
  • 25 Watt output power.
  • Up to 10 hours play time.
  • Frequency Response 70Hz-20kHz
  • Max SPL 80dBspl
  • 5000mAh 7.4V Lithium polymer battery.
  • Dimensions 98.5mm X 242mm, 1.3kg; 3.87" x 9.52", 2.8lbs.
  • Has NFC pairing.
  • Has USB port for charging external devices.
  • Has large power supply for faster charge, but can charge from micro USB connector.

Durability, of course, is a difficult thing to judge in a short period of time, but the Infinity One is confidence inspiring. It's ceramic coated aluminum body appears very well built; I just wrapped it in a t-shirt and threw it in my duffle bag. Never skipped a beat.

The sound quality of the Infinity One was astonishing, primarily in terms of how much bass extension and sense of power it had in open spaces like around the campfire. Even at relatively low volumes, the Infinity One delivers a satisfying sense of thump. Mids and treble were also nicely articulated, but possibly a bit recessed relative to the bass—which is really odd for a small speaker. The treble also seemed a little artificial at time, drawing a bit too much attention to itself. The unit has four drivers all of the same size, and no tweeters; I'm wondering if this may be why it has a bit of difficulty up top. The treble oddness and bass emphasis were most apparent when listening to the Infinity One at close quarters, but when filling a room or around the campfire and listening at a distance, the problems significantly diminished.

Most small Bluetooth speakers end up seeming a bit mid-forward due to lack of bass; the Infinity One seemed slightly "U" shaped relative to the other speakers due to the bump in the bass and slightly odd treble. Despite the slightly uneven response ('cuz they all do that to some extent) the Infinity One delivered a terrific listening experience outdoor and when filling a room with its lively sound. I did have the chance to exchange a few emails with the engineers responsible for the product. Like the Fugoo on the previous page, the Infinity One also makes significant use of digital signal processing (DSP) techniques for improving the listening experience. Again, there are no doubt a whole lot of proprietary details left out, but I was informed the bass performance of the Infinity One is aided by DSP algorythms. I'd also guess we'll be seeing firmware updates on the Infinity One (pretty certain the unit I have is from the very first production run) to improve sound quality over time.

For more information see the Infinity One product page.

Summary
Just on the verge of being too big and heavy to consider it a viable portable speaker for a motorcycle trip (space is very limited when moto-camping), the extraordinarily potent sound of the Infinity One tip the scales in its favor—this speaker sounds terrific outdoors. Mids and treble are good, but the sense of thump in the bass is unique in my experience for a speaker this size.

Add to that the apparent durability of an anvil; 10 hour battery life; analog input; speakerphone operation; water resistance; and the ability to act as a storage battery to charge other devices, and you've got a very nicely functional and all-around good sounding portable speaker. If we had a "Wall of Fame" for Bluetooth speakers, the Infinity One would be on it. Chances are, when I do start that WoF category, it will be. Love it!

Vacation Photo Interlude
BackcountryBluetooth_Photo_TreeReflection

Spend nine days on a motorcycle and relaxing in cabins in the wilds of Montana and you'll start seeing things a little differently.

COMMENTS
Seth195208's picture

..for a couple of Montana boys. I got one for you. Try Gustavo Santaolalla. Just kidding!

veggieboy2001's picture

Thanks for sharing your motorcycle getaway (again).

As far as those paddle boards,it's supposed to be easier on your back than a kayak, and good for promoting balance. My wife & I will probably give it a try soon.

Impulse's picture

I remember reading the previous article but I don't remember if you ever shared what kinda headphone you take on a trip like that... Are you just enjoying the company too much for anything besides IEM (for riding?) or do you pack a rugged pair of small on ears or something like that?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Didn't take any headphones. Generally I don't listen to music while riding...just like to enjoy the scenery and moving through it. I do sometimes listen when road riding long distances on my FJR. In that case I'm currently using the HiFiMAN RE-400
Claritas's picture

Looks like you had a blast. "Selfie with bovines" -- love that title. Thanks for sharing.

zobel's picture

Looks the same as it did 32 years ago today when my wife and I had our wedding reception there. Yep its our anniversary today, so it was nice to see the place today. Thanks for the pics.

bronson's picture

your photos of the great outdoors, looks like you had a heap of fun :)

bronson's picture

your photos of the great outdoors, looks like you had a heap of fun :)

cel4145's picture

"In other words, really great sound is probably not in the cards for portable Bluetooth speakers; but reliably good performance with a variety of sources and in differing use environments is certainly within reach."

I did my own little test of <$150 range bluetooth speakers last fall, listening to half a dozen at home, and another dozen in stores in the where I could either pair the device with my phone or use the line in.

About half the way through the process, I realized was going about it wrong, trying to evaluate each speaker critically by standing right inf front of them. As you point out, they are meant to be used in a variety of environments, and in poor placement locations. Portable bluetooth speakers are meant for background music when the listener(s) are doing something else, not critical listening. We have headphones for that :)

oluv's picture

Interesting allegations about sound improvement of the Fugoo after the firmware update.

I also got a review unit recently with an older firmware. I did audio recordings as well as measurements with both the old firmware and then repeated everything with the recent firmware again.

Apart from a slight increase of overall loudness and also less distortion on top volume, I have not noticed any difference in sound. Neither from my audio recordings nor from the measurements. The Fugoo sounds still like it did before. It also measures quite well, with a bit of an upwards tilt towards treble, thus making the bass sound a bit conservatite although it reaches quite deep for a unit this size (down to 70Hz with still usable 60Hz).
Neither I noticed any loudness compensation, just bass reduction at higher levels. I did measurements at 45, 55, 65dB etc, and the curves are all parallel with bass reduction just starting to become visible in the 75dB measurement.

a comparison video which demonstrates the difference in loudness between old and new firmware:
http://youtu.be/VZZp40DtaRE

ibiza's picture

I work as a skipper at a boat charter business in Ibiza and I keep dropping expensive phones in the water. This year I've tried a couple of bluetooth devices (they also fall in the water) and they're awesome. I can even walk around the boat without fearing to drop the phone.

Downforce's picture

I purchased an open box FoxL Purist directly from Soundmatters for $119 (price is currently down to $99) based on a Stereophile review. Look for the outlet section under the "Shop" heading on their homepage, it is rather well hidden. Loved it and it sounded great for about 2 years, when it developed static and noise, even with no source plugged in via the 3.5mm input. The warranty for open box items is a brief 90 days. The battery life is claimed to be up to 12 hours, but mine never lasted that long. Also, while the power/charger and 3.5mm audio inputs are labeled, they look quite similar and are easy to confuse. Ensure you turn on the speaker (it lacks an Auto Off feature) and reduce the volume before connecting it, otherwise it will be very loud and could suffer damage.

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