Sometimes the most unlikely pairings can make the most beautiful music. Mohu's BeBox ($449) pairs a massive speaker with an integrated Android KitKat tablet, creating a hybrid device that offers several modes of use with 8 hours of battery life. That's all well and good, but Mohu's making a play for the bass junkies, stuffing a 6.5-inch subwoofer into the case for lows so deep you can literally feel the vibrations. Throw in a built-in handle and you've got a (fairly) portable party starter.
If the BeBox is the proverbial "party in a box," then this is one large party. Weighing in at 14.5 pounds, it's hard to miss the 13.3 x 19 x 5-inch speaker. It towers over your typical Bluetooth speaker, delivering a well-earned dose of size-envy. Even the $599 Mass Fidelity Core, which is powerful enough to double as a soundbar for your TV, weighs 7.9 pounds and measures a relatively dainty 6 x 6 x 4 inches.
The BeBox's exterior is comprised of black plastic that wraps around its ovular frame. The front of the device is made of a large black aluminum speaker grille whose semicircular holes combine to form a futuristic beehive of sorts. The rear of the speaker is smooth to the touch with a rather large notable feature ─ a hole that acts as a handle, making transporting the behemoth easier.
You'll also find a power button and USB 2.0 port, HDMI and a microSD slot lurking toward the top of the panel. At the bottom are jacks for the AC adapter and a 3.5mm audio input, which could transform the speaker into a soundbar for your television ─ albeit a rather large one. Although it hasn't undergone MIL-spec testing for ruggedness, Mohu claims the speaker can handle dust or sand and a spritz or two of water.
Despite the BeBox's massive size, your eyes will ultimately be drawn to the glossy black plastic panel adorning the top of the speaker. Backlit buttons for volume and a power button for the display are front and center, along with markers for Auxiliary, Bluetooth and Tablet ─ the trio of sources the speaker can access to play music.
With the speaker powered on, a section of the seemingly solid black surface lights up to reveal a 7-inch, 1024 x 600 capacitive display ready to put you in touch with your music. The screen is a veritable fingerprint magnet, becoming a smudged mess in a matter of seconds. Good thing the BeBox ships with a cleaning cloth to maintain that new gadget shine.
So Many Modes, So Little Time
There are several ways to listen to music on the BeBox, such as popping in a microSD card or USB stick, pairing with a Bluetooth device or plugging it in via the 3.5mm jack. However, my favorite mode is Tablet, which let me use the speaker as a standalone music box. After downloading the Spotify app, I enjoyed using my Samsung Galaxy S6 to scroll through my playlists or search for a song from the leisure of my couch.
That brings us to a key issue ─ the lack of a remote. You can use the paired device to control your music in Bluetooth mode, but with the other modes, you actually have to physically interact with the speaker (barring apps like Spotify). It would be nice if Mohu would cobble together an app that would allow you to access the speaker regardless of which mode was enabled.
Powered by a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor, the BeBox runs Android 4.4.2 (KitKat). That means once the speaker is powered up, you'll encounter the same setup experience that you'd have on an Android smartphone or tablet. Once the setup is complete, the BeBox has the familiar home screen, widgets and app page that you'd find on a mobile device.
The BeBox was fairly quick to launch apps and when switching between them, often taking less than a second to respond.
FYI ─ if you set up the BeBox with your normal Google credentials, it will tap into your Gmail, Hangouts and G+ accounts, so you'll want to disable those apps' syncing abilities in Settings.
The speaker comes pre-installed with several apps, including Apollo, which helps listeners transfer their favorite jams onto the BeBox via USB stick. From there, you can access your music by album, artist or playlist. You can also download your favorite apps from the Google Play store, including Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio.
Here Comes the Boom
Bigger box, bigger sound. Mohu didn't let the BeBox's massive space go to waste, placing a 6.5-inch active subwoofer in the case with two midrange drivers and a pair of tweeters. In layman's terms, this speaker has some serious lows with clear highs and mids. The powerful bass radiated along the floor into my feet as I listened to Ghostface Killa's "Chezchez LaGhost."
While I enjoyed my musical foot massage, there is a thing as having too much bass ─ something I quickly learned during Janelle Monae's "Can't Live Without Your Love." The boomy lows overpowered the otherwise sweet violin and guitar as well as the artist's bell-like soprano, submerging them. The same track on the Mass Fidelity Core was more balanced, although the bass could have been a bit more defined.
The BeBox fared much better when I switched to Adele's certified tear-jerker "Hello." The powerful mezzo-soprano's voice was crisp and distinct from the melancholy piano, gentle bass guitar and rich keyboard. The percussion was a tad sharper on the Core and the vocal was a hair warmer.
In terms of volume, the BeBox wins hands down. At maximum levels, you'll have no problem filling a large room with full, defined sound. Just be mindful of the throbbing bass and its potential to dominate a track.
Battery Life: All-Day Strong
Mohu claims that the BeBox's 16,000-mAh battery can last about 8 hours on a charge at medium volume. I used the device during a Saturday house-cleaning session.
Six hours later, after switching between medium and nearly full volume, the speaker was going strong with 25 percent left in the tank. That's long enough to fuel one hell of a party. The Core, however, promises 12 hours of battery life depending on the volume.
Thanks to its big, booming bass and long battery life, there's no denying that the Mohu BeBox is a soiree starter. The $449 speaker can deliver floor-rattling lows and crystal-clear highs and mids that can easily fill a large space. The integrated Android tablet ensures that you can access music from all your apps, adding another layer of versatility to a speaker that can double as a soundbar or a portable party magnet.
However, you'll want to watch the volume on songs with heavy bass, as the speaker's greatest strength can quickly transform into a weakness, overshadowing the rest of some tracks. The lack of a remote is a minor quibble, but listeners are going to want a way to interact with the speaker when it's not streaming music.
Overall, the BeBox is an ideal match for music lovers looking for a speaker that's fairly portable with deep lows and enough battery to keep the party going until the cows come home.