Soundcast Melody Bluetooth Boombox at Slab City
Soundcast Melody BoomBox ($449)
If you're coming to Slab City for vacation you better bring everything you needand that means everything from a way to play some music to an outhouse bucket. No need to go into the latter, but the the job of the former was given to a Soundcast Melody boombox. I've been using this dandy music maker in my downtown Bozeman motorcycle garage for the last few months, and I figured this trip to Slab City would be a perfect time to run it through its paces in a more caustic environment.
The Soundcast Melody has four side-firing 3" drivers radiating alternate left and right channels every ninety degrees, and four passive radiators handle the bass duties. Soundcast's proprietary "Dynamic Power Amplification Technology" power amp (likely some kind of class-D amplifier) drives the speakers for a reported 20 hours on a full charge of its high-capacity Lithium Ion internal battery. I haven't been keeping careful track, but the Melody is still on its first charge a full week into our time here and it's still running strongyes sir, this thing plays for a long, long time on one charge.
Controls on the Melody are minimal including only: volume control; FF,RW, pause, and play; power; and Bluetooth enable. The back of the Melody has a small panel for USB micro-B power input for charging only, and 3.5mm line-input. When Bluetooth tethered the Melody uses Apt-X and AAC lossless codecs for high quality streaming. FF, RW, play, and pause all worked properly with both iOS and Android devices, and the player device and Melody both continue to have separate volume controls. The only oddity I found was that when initially tethered you have to push the "Play" button on the Melody to get the music startedI had expected it to automatically start playing when the phone started to play.
I like the clean and simple gloss white look of the Melody. Its truncated cone shape stands about 9.5" high, and is 9" in diameter at its base. Three soft touch panels atop contain the controls and leave space for a cut-out for the half-circular carry handle. A large rubber ring around the bottom provides sure footing for the Melodythis hefty little unit isn't going to be bumped off the table easily.
The Melody has been a marvelous partner around the campsite this week. No, you don't get much of the very top and bottom octave, but everything in between was clear and composed. Though the bottom octave or so was pretty rolled-off, from the mid-bass up the low notes were well articulated and nicely in balance. Vocals in the mid-range were nicely rendered and organic; I always felt I heard the voices characteristically reproduced as I remembered them from previous listening.
There are no tone controls, but I get the theory: Make it sound good, then don't let the user muck it up. The Melody can play quite loud, and I can easily see someone ramping up the bass too high and overdriving the sub. Though I would have liked a "Loudness" button for low-level listening, I felt the Melody did a fine job of playing all the tunes popping up in random play in balanced tone.
We've not been playing our music too loudly at the campsite, but I have had to ramp the volume up a few times while listening in the garage. Again, the Melody remains composed even at very high volume levels delivering dynamic and well balanced tunes. One unusual feature of the Melody is a four steps of over-drive volume. Once the normal max volume is reached by pushing the volume up repeatedly, you can continue to toggle the volume up four additional steps, which are accompanied by extra blinking of the LED power indicator. Soundcast warns the user in the manual that using this excessively high volume may allow the unit to be driven into distortion in some cases. Bottom line: the Melody can play quite loud with good audio quality.
The Soundcast Melody strikes me as one of those "cry once" products. At $449 your wallet will take a bit of a hit, but in return you get a terrifically competent music maker. Set-up and Bluetooth tethering is a breeze; its clean, white look will complement kitchen and patio decor nicely; and the long-lived battery will let you play your tunes all day long....and then some. Definitely recommended.
And now...what's all this about Slab City? Turn the page and I'll show you some pictures and tell you about this amazing place.