Soundcast VG7 review: portable Bluetooth speakers get loud
When a Soundcast VG7 Bluetooth speaker was first offered to me for a listen I read a couple of American reviews and they made two points; first, it goes very loud, and second, the music distorts when it's up there. But even at full volume, which wasn't all that loud, I could only get the VG7 to the cusp of distorting, so mild that only fussy buggers like me would notice.
Maybe some sort of volume limiter has been installed as a result of those early reviews. But the importer said that while there is a volume limiter in there, it's always been there. Lots of powerful speakers have them to stop the cones from tearing and the voice coils from melting, and the VG7 is certainly powerful. Maybe Americans have a different definition of loud.
It's promoted as a portable Bluetooth speaker but by portable Soundcast means it has a battery, not that it's easy to carry around, despite the generous handle on top. At 9.5 kilograms it is more lugged than carried. It's also big; 48cms high and 28cms in diameter.
There are several interesting things here. It has an equaliser built in to switch from indoor use to outdoor use. It's omni-directional, throwing sound out through 360 degrees and it doesn't do this with a disperser like Bose, but has four 8-centimetre full-range drivers, each firing to a different point of the compass. These are joined by a very generous (for Bluetooth speakers anyway) 18cm woofer firing downwards through four ports, one under each of the full-range drivers. The woofer goes down to 55Hz and it's all driven by a couple of class D amps.
And it works. No matter where you may be you'll get the full musical signal. Okay, it's monaural but it sounds good, and two of these can be set up as a stereo pair fairly painlessly. Soundcast says the internal rechargeable battery will go for between 10 and 20 hours depending on volume.
Let's talk about volume. It goes loud enough to power a small party and to fill a reasonable back yard but it won't have the neighbours calling the cops. Which I guess would suit most people over 25 just fine. It's also weather resistant so if you wake up realising you left it out there with the empty bottles and paper hats it has a sporting chance against the sprinklers.
The sound is heavily bass-oriented and this comes at the cost of some high-range detail, but overall it's entirely listenable and enjoyable. Only pedants are going to start finding fault. By the way, the track where I was hearing just a hint of distortion coming in, Lucia Micarelli's 'Samarkand' on Music from a Farther Room, starts off in seriously low bass territory and then goes lower. It's a tough test.
The Bluetooth is aptX and AAC, so as long as you have a compatible source you'll get good sound quality through Bluetooth, but if that's not good enough you can use the 3.5mm minijack input. There's also a mini USB plug for charging.
There are better sounding Bluetooth speakers around, like the Devialet Phantom at $2690 and Kef's superb LS50 active speakers ($3800), but neither of these have batteries and they're certainly not weather resistant. The VG7 is a serious speaker for people who want portables and care about sound quality, and at $1399 they're paying for it. But unlike many other cheaper portables around that are loud enough for parties, this maintains sound quality at high volumes.