In the pursuit of ever smaller and more portable wireless speakers, we’ve lost something important: stereo sound. Since most music is mixed with two speakers in mind, a single driver can leave out the important spatial element to the sound. The Soundfreaq Pocket Kick ($99 on Amazon) goes for it all: it packs stereo sound into a Bluetooth speaker that still fits in your pocket. Add in good battery life and speakerphone function, and the Pocket Kick makes a strong case for a place in your jeans or bag.
The Pocket Kick balances design and durability in a package that's easy to carry around. It comes in three colors: black, gold and platinum. I tested a black unit.
At 5.9 x 2.5 x 1.2 inches, the Pocket Kick isn't as small as the JBL Clip (4.2 x 3.5 x 1.7 inches), but is about the same size as the 6 x 2.3 x 1-inch Jawbone Mini Jambox. It did fit in my front jeans pocket, if a bit snugly.
Inside its svelte form, Soundfreaq sandwiched two 1-inch drivers and a passive radiator for bass between two open metal grilles. Having both sides open allows you to share the sound in all directions. The metal grilles add toughness to the speaker, though it isn't waterproof like the similarly sized NudeAudio Super-M.
The controls are located on the sides of the speaker. To the left, you'll find the on/off switch, which also includes a light. The light blinks when in Bluetooth pairing mode and is solid when it is actively connected to a Bluetooth device. Below the power switch, a Bluetooth button puts the speaker in pairing mode; that's also where you find the microUSB port for charging and the 3.5mm auxiliary port for a wired connection to a sound source.
On the right, you can increase or lower the volume, and play or pause music on your device. The play button also answers incoming calls.
The speaker doesn't include a battery indicator, but on an iOS device it shows the level in the upper right of the screen, next to your device's power indicator.
Setup and Use
I connected to the Pocket Kick via Bluetooth without a problem. To put it into pairing mode, you press the Bluetooth button on left side of the speaker and then find "Pocket Kick" on your mobile device's list of Bluetooth devices. After the initial setup, it reconnects with an existing device if nearby. The Pocket Kick doesn't support NFC for quick pairing with Android devices.
I found the Bluetooth range to be strong; the signal maintained quality from more than 25 feet away and even withstood a few walls between me and the speaker.
You can adjust the volume on your device or on the Pocket Kick. To get max volume, you need to turn up both your phone and the speaker.
The Pocket Kick peaks in the midrange tones, where most vocals reside. Robert Plant's singing on Led Zeppelin's "What Is and What Should Never Be" rang clearly, and the two drivers provided excellent left-right separation during the swirling guitar break — something a single driver wouldn't allow for. Similarly, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' vocals on "Uptown Funk" rose above the rhythm section.
But "Uptown Funk" also exposed a weakness of the speaker: it lacks any oomph in the bass. As a result, most songs sound thin. This is especially evident on acoustic works such as Charles Mingus' jazz classic "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," in which the string bass is mostly missing from the mix. While many ultraportable speakers suffer from this problem, Jawbone's Mini Jambox pushes enough bass to make you feel it.
The Pocket Kick's two-sided design works well in spreading the sound out; you can easily share your music with people around a table, something a single-side speaker such as the Harman Kardon Esquire Mini precludes. While it isn't quite powerful enough to fill a large room, I measured a max output of about 85 decibels — impressive for its size, though it sounded less distorted at 70 decibels.
The Pocket Kick includes a microphone on the top for speakerphone function — a nice benefit in a speaker this portable. In test calls I found the Pocket Kick made it easier to hear the people I was talking to compared with the speakerphone in the iPhone. Callers said the microphone on the Pocket Kick sounded on a par with the iPhone; however, I needed to turn up the volume on the Pocket Kick for the people on the other end of the line to hear me loudly enough.
Battery Life and Charging
The Pocket Kick charges via an easily accessible microUSB port on the left side of the speaker. The company claims 10 hours of use on a full charge; after more than 7 hours of listening at low and moderate volume, the battery indicator on my iPhone still showed about half full.
The Soundfreaq Pocket Kick adds an element of style to the convenience of ultraportable Bluetooth speakers. It's small enough to take everywhere with you, and the speakerphone is a handy option when you're out of the office. Among sub-$100 Bluetooth speakers, the JBL Clip is smaller, cheaper and produces excellent sound for its size, and the Jawbone Mini Jambox offers even better audio -- especially bass -- but the Pocket Kick delivers where most songs need it most -- in the vocals.