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 need—and 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 strong—yes 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 started—I 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 Melody—this hefty little unit isn't going to be bumped off the table easily.

Sound Quality
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.

Summary
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.

/images/140102_January Update_Photo_guardhouse

COMPANY INFO
Soundcast
info@gosoundcast.com
619-591-0126
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
KG_Jag's picture

Tax deductible trip out of the cold to Burning Man Jr.

What is the annual depreciation on that bucket?

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Have to chuckle, it's thoughts like that that don't even exist at Slab City...thank goodness. No, no tax consequences from this trip. Just time to listen to tunes both from the Melody and from all the local musicians.  

Heard more live music this week than I usually would in two months.

JRT's picture

Tyll, I have liked reading your reviews of headphones, headphone amplifiers and other headphone related content, and would very much like to see more technical content related to headphones and hearing perception. You seem to have a good perspective on it, and I usually like your approach, but not with this one.

This article is degrading your signal to noise ratio.

What next? ...maybe a field trip to a crack house in search of a venue suitable for a review of a Bose Wave Bluetooth adapter and Bose Wave table radio?  

You have demonstrated that you can do much better, very much better. Please keep up the good work, and not more of this.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Appreciate your comments. I wondered whether to bother with a post about Slab City. I just found it terribly interesting and an opportunity to not let InnerFidelity go dark while I was away. But thanks, I certainly will continue the more traditional reviewing and tech comments.

Guitarist9273's picture

I appreciate content like this.

I love & learn from the technical & scientific posts (and would like to see more of them) and I always look forward to the hardware reviews & measurements. But, I'm absolutely interested in reading about (and seeing photos of) stuff like this, rather than Innerfidelity going "dark" while Tyll's doing stuff in the world. And, it's one of the reasons I like Innerfidelity & have been a habitual reader since it's inception.

Quirkyness is generally goodness. This website does quirky well. The InnerFidelity ethos would be more bland without posts like this. 

Dan S's picture

I also appreciate content like this. It's a nice change from the other material, and your trips sound really interesting! Great pics, too!

Guitarist9273's picture

How does the Soundcast Melody compare to the UE Boom that you've previously given high regards to? The price difference is great, but I'm curious as to how it compares to other Bluetooth speakers, nonetheless. Thanks!

Tyll Hertsens's picture

The Melody extends the bass significantly, and goes MUCH louder in volume.

ultrabike's picture

I enjoyed reading this quite a bit. A few years ago some friends at work and I were discussing Slab City. Before that, I never heard of it. I also have not visited, but one of my friends is serious about photography and wanted to visit. Dunno if he got around doing it. Great pics Tyll, and really enjoyed the background story.

As far as reviews, it seems clear to me that Slab City and camping trips bring a great application for a device such as the Melody BoomBox. DAP + Cans would solve the "take my music with me" problem, but they are not for sharing. Having to press the play button may be a way to ensure one wants to play music through the BoomBox if other bluetooth device is around, but it does seem a bit ackward.

The fact that this goes louder and deeper than the UE is nice. Seems a little bigger though.

norach's picture

I also liked this write up. So much I registered just to comment.

Apart from showcasing the perfect environment for this little speaker box (the sort of thing I've been interested in for a while), you have added a bit of warmth to what could have easily become a sterile list of news and reviews. I can think of no better way to truly evaluate a product like this that taking it ~in to the wild~ and using as it was intended.

Seems like it passed with flying colours.

zobel's picture

Lots of DIYers there. Enjoyed the read and the pictures Tyll! Being a DIYer myself, I was interested in the new "boombox". I just got done putting together a mobile music system with some similarities to the Melody. I used a poly ammo box, which I lined and braced with plywood on the inside (siliconed in).

Two $50, 5" Tang Band full ranges just worked perfectly for the size of box (Qtc = .75) stuffed with poly fluff that was stuffed in the top half of some panty hose (to prevent fibers from infesting the woofers).The box is air and water tight, and has a handle. I  had a pair of metal grills that worked out perfectly. Granted, this doesn't have a sound stage at all, unless you have you head right at the box. My next version will have detachable speakers that you can separate (same drivers) and a little tool caddy to carry the whole thing in. Not the first to have that idea. I am going to make a waterproof boombox with some marine two way speakers.

I'm using a T amp, the Muse dt50 (with the tripath tk2050), powered by a craftsman 20volt rechargable tool battery that I borrowed from my drill, (19.2 volt cheapy). The amp comes with an ac adapter, which works well too. Good clean power, plenty to rock out these excellent speakers. Very efficient, a single one hour battery charge will last for a LONG time, still checking just how long, but even at high volume, it will play about as long as the Melody I think The volume control is digital and is also a switchable tone control, (one push of the same knob converts it to treble control, another push to bass control, another push, back to volume) and lights a red or blue tiny led to let you know the function. Sweet. On the back are two pairs of RCA inputs, switchable on front of the little amp, which measures about 61/2" X 41/2" X 2".Also on back are gold plated speaker terminals which are full size and spaced 3/4" for use with dual banana plugs. I have tried several other T amps and D amps, and find this one to be best for this use. The amp costs $70 at amazon, and ships from China, which takes about a month.

With a Muse Audio mini USB DAC pluged into my laptop feeding this amp and speaker combo, you get wow sound on your desk top that rivals any powered mini monitors out there. The speakers for this use are in two individual boxes of course.

There it is. Plug anything into it. I still use a portable CD player. The amp, battery ( or AC adapter), CD player (or what have you), speaker wires with dual bananas, and a pack of CDs, all fit in a fanny pack, that you can carry along with the ammo box, in one hand, if you want. I am amazed at the sound! After many years designing and building loudspeakers, and sweating over the crossovers, cabinet design, ect. it was really a great change of pace to do this fun project.

I am having a whole lot of fun right here in Montana. I don't play at the Range, but I do at the Grange  : )   And we build drums and play in drum circles monthly. But please... don't move to the Bitterroot. It is ugly, bleak, cold in the winter, and smoky from forest fires in the short, dry summers........kind of like Bozeman,  right Tyll?

Thanks again Tyll, for the fun read and great pictures! Did that gal with dual birds dislike you for some reason?

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Yo Tyll,

i LOVE this posting.   Its a wonderful combination of tech talk (nifty speaker!) and sharing of life experience.    Ive never heard of Slab City but am so grateful to be exposed to its existence by you and this story/pictures.    Sure it may not be everybodies cup of tea but that doesnt mean fans of this site wouldnt want to hear about it...i know im glad you shared!    

It seems to me that critiques of your posting or Slab City are quite hypocritical, as the entire point of being a headphone enthusiast boils down to one word....MUSIC.....the love and appreciatiation of music.  I dont think its a generalization to say that most visitors to this website share that love.   Clearly the residents and visitors of Slab City share in that appreciation of music.    Therefore it IS a perfectly appropriate and worthwile story.   Bam!

Thanks again...keep the great postings coming and safe riding!

Peace .n. Life Experience...Experience Life!

3ToF  

thelostMIDrange's picture

tical and sensibly devised item. Long live the boom box.  In my younger years, I used to lay down my fair share of cardboard for breakdancin in the middle of the street. Good 'ol days. I think it's against a law now. 

philipjohnwright's picture

So on the one hand we have Slab City, so eloquently described by Tyll. On the other we have Naim's $200k amp and Light Harmonic's $120k DAC, no doubt alongside many others, being showcased in the capital of taste, Las Vegas.

Guess which gets my vote for being more like the real world?! More please Tyll, it's good to be reminded that music doesn't need umpty dumpy squillion dollars of kit to communicate, nor that it's meant to reflect life, a means to an end rather than an end in itself. 

Nb I thought ALL America was under 60ft of snow, how come you side stepped it (says he displaying his ignorance of US geography - and we Brits call YOU insular!!) 

natal's picture

Love your periodic motorcycle adventure writeups coupled with some new gear for travelling.  Your pictures are great!  I'll tell ya Tyll, your posting warmed up a very very cold day in Calgary.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Love your periodic motorcycle adventure writeups coupled with some new gear for travelling.  Your pictures are great!  I'll tell ya Tyll, your posting warmed up a very very cold day in Calgary.

+1, in NYC.