Review: Soundboks Go is smaller, more portable but less impressive

The Soundboks Go
The company's Gen. 3 speaker blew me away. Could the Go do the same? Photo credit: Newshub

Last year the Soundboks Gen. 3 speaker blew me (and my ears) away with a spectacular performance at a price that made it clear it was a luxury item for a lucky few.

The Danish company is now back with a much more portable speaker called the Soundboks Go.

It still resembles a classic rock amp but is quite a bit smaller and easier to carry than the original.

But could its performance come close to that of its bigger sibling and justify a still hefty price tag?

I've been using the Soundboks Go for a couple of weeks now and here are my thoughts.

The good

The new Soundboks Go speaker, available for pre-order now with delivery expected later this month, is a beautiful looking device that I desperately wanted to love.

Its old-school aesthetic triggers the feeling of standing at the front of gigs, trying to keep up with the bouncing and moshing as loud guitars shred onstage. That's a very good start.

It's also incredibly easy to set-up. On both Android and iOS I was quickly able to download the control app and pair the speaker with both without issue.

The app is easy to use and allows you to make quick adjustments to the sound without touching the speaker itself. You can turn it off, connect the speaker with others, adjust the volume and adjust the equaliser just by touching a few buttons. You're also able to upgrade to the latest firmware too, should that be needed.

The battery and the app
The battery housing (l) and the iOS app (r). Photo credit: Newshub

There are three preset sounds - Bass+, Power and Indoors with a custom equaliser with six bands you can adjust to get the sound you want, giving plenty of opportunity to fiddle. I'll get to the overall sound in a bit.

The case is both dent proof and splashproof, which is handy for something that's designed as a party speaker. It doesn't take a genius to work out the speaker getting bashed and having something accidentally poured on it is a likely outcome of any party - or at least any I've been to.

With the Go you can add up to another five speakers to form a chain, which could give an impressive surround sound-type experience if you have five friends with large disposable incomes. 

The speaker is designed to connect using Bluetooth, but handily there is a 3.5mm input on the side for those who like their music old school and at a higher bandwidth than wireless allows.

It also has a battery that should last around 40 hours at mid-volume and about 10 hours at full volume. 

A 10-hour party? I can't think of anything worse. By that point I'd be praying for it to end, so I think that seems like a reasonable length of time for the battery to last.

It takes around 3.5 hours to fully recharge and you can keep an eye on battery life by pressing a button on the battery itself. The five-step LED indicator will give you a heads-up if you're running low on juice.

The sound comes from two 72 Watt amplifiers, a 10-inch woofer and a one-inch silk dome tweeter.

The Soundboks Go
It goes all the way up to 11! Photo credit: Newshub

All of that gives it a theoretical maximum volume of around 115 decibels, which is easily loud enough to keep the neighbours awake.

Perhaps best of all, the volume indicator on the speaker itself goes up to 11. That's a reference that any music and movies fan should appreciate, and it certainly lets me know there's both an attention to details and a fun side to the designers.

But it's not all good.

The bad

There's no getting around the single biggest issue with the Soundboks Go, and that's the $1299 asking price.

I loathe to judge something largely on how much it costs, particularly as I have expensive tastes. But at that kind of price it's only fair you get an experience that makes it worth it, and I'm not sure the Soundboks Go offers that.

The overall playback performance is satisfactory. With the 'Power' setting I get enough bass to allow my feet to feel it through my wooden floor, if the volume is loud enough.

But the overall fidelity and cleanliness of sound that I enjoyed so much with the Gen. 3 model isn't there, and it didn't matter which of the preset equalisers I chose.

To my ears the sound is both muddier and more prone to distortions and hissing at louder volumes.

The Soundboks Go
The Soundboks Go can be used outside and inside, wherever a party exists. Photo credit: Newshub

It's hard to make direct comparisons, but to me it sounded much more akin to the JBL PartyBox 110 I reviewed last year, albeit without the annoying DJ sounds.

That is generally available for under $600 in Aotearoa, substantially less than the Go.

The lack of great sound doesn't apply to every song I played - some of the more pop-y and classical tunes were better than those with heavy guitars and drums - but I wanted so much more.

Last time I used a Soundboks speaker I cried listening to Nick Cave's 'Into My Arms' and U2's 'Running To Stand Still'. This time, those two favourites barely raised an eyebrow.

If I was at a beach party and someone was banging out the dance tunes using their Soundboks Go, I don't think I'd complain. It's going to be loud enough to satisfy a small crowd out to enjoy themselves, for sure.

But if that person told me how much they'd paid for it, I might very well offer them a beer to sympathise.

The verdict

Costing an eye-watering $1300, the Soundboks Go may be significantly cheaper than the bigger Gen. 3 model, but it's not exactly what you call a bargain.

It's definitely lighter and more portable, although I don't think there are many who would carry it over the shoulder like the website suggests you can. lt's still relatively bulky and liable to bash into you while carrying which, at nearly 10kg, isn't necessarily fun.

The Soundboks Go
It's stylish and easier to carry than the bigger Gen. 3. Photo credit: Newshub

The biggest question is: Does that cost represent the value you're going to get out of it? For me, this is a much clearer 'no' than last year.

If I'm going to spend anything north of $1000 on a single musical item I'm going to want a real statement. And a pretty massive one, too.

The Gen. 3 was that, without question. The Go, in trying to be more appealing to the masses, has ended up being something that doesn't quite satisfy.

If you want what amounts to style over substance (and I do love its look) then the Soundboks Go won't disappoint and will play your music just fine.

But fine isn't good enough at that price, and ultimately that's where I feel most let down.

If you want extravagance, then pay the extra for the Go's bigger sibling.

At least that way you know you're getting something that doesn't disappoint musically, even if it'll set you back $1899.

Newshub was supplied with a Soundboks Go for this review.