Soundots Bluetooth Speaker Review: Awesome Modularity, High Price

When I first saw and heard Sound Dimension's Soundots back at CES 2018, I was impressed. The company has created a modular speaker system that can be made of as many (or as few) of the Bluetooth speakers as you like just by lining or stacking them up. And while one sounds good, the Soundots' audio quality increases exponentially as another speaker is added to the mix. But considering that each Soundots speaker is $290, this cool but costly functionality might be out of a lot of consumers' reach.

Design

Talk about heavy metal. The majority of the Soundot is made of aluminum and steel, which helps the 7.2 x 2.6 x 2.5-inch speaker weigh in at a hardy 1.7 pounds. It's chunky but not as hefty as the 1.9-pound, 8.1 x 2.5 x 2.5-inch V-Moda Remix.

The Soundots has an industrial-chic design that will look good on a coffee table or at the beach. A dark-gray, anodized-aluminum case wraps around the top, bottom and sides of the speaker. The front is made of a silver steel grate that resembles a chain-link fence, providing a nice peek at the front-firing tweeters. A seemingly thin black bar lining the steel is actually a mood light made up of customizable LEDs. There's a smaller steel grille on the back of the Soundots for the bass radiator, surrounded by matte black plastic held in place with black and silver screws.

You'll find several buttons on the Soundots' rear, such as the Power, Source and Lighting. As far as ports, there are AC and AUX jacks. There's also an magnetic indentation where the AiFi coin resides (more on that later). You'll find a similar indentation on each side of the device.

Along the top, bottom and sides of the speaker, you'll find a row of black, glossy dots. These are the eponymous Soundots that facilitate the speakers' ability to pair with other devices with a simple touch. The top of each speaker also sports a pair of vertical indentations for easier stacking.

The Soundots has an industrial-chic aesthetic that will look good on a coffee table or at the beach.

Controls

In an ingenious way to maximize space, Sound Dimension has placed hidden touch controls along the speaker's rear. Swiping upward starting from the bottom Lighting control button increases the volume, while a downward swipe beginning at the Power button lowers it. A quick downward double swipe enables mute, while two upward swipes bring back the jams.

But the multifunctionality doesn't stop there. Double-tapping the Power button will display the speaker's current battery level via the mood lighting. You can also adjust the mood lighting by holding the mood-lighting button down for a few seconds and swiping up to change the color. Changing the intensity of the lighting involves holding the Lighting button again for a few seconds and then swiping up or down to change the brightness.

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Strength in Numbers

What's better than one speaker? How about two, three or even 20? The Soundots' claim to fame is its ability to sync with another Soundots speaker just by lining up the dots. That means you can either connect the devices end to end by placing the speakers side by side, or stack them on top of each other.

Each speaker has a 100-MHz processor, which powers the company's proprietary AiFi artificial-intelligence technology. AiFi allows Soundots to always be aware of the speakers' configuration and optimize the audio output accordingly. That means that, while a single speaker will play in stereo, adding additional Soundots will cause the AiFi to distribute the audio to left and right channels when you have an even number of speakers placed side by side. If you have an odd number of Soundots, they will go into soundbar mode, which is ideal for people looking for an impromptu TV speaker.

Placing the speakers horizontally creates a wider soundstage and produces louder volume. However, Sound Dimension claims that you'll get better clarity and deeper bass with a vertical placement. I saw a 66-speaker stack at CES 2018, but you can stack only nine Soundots in any direction as a single stereo system. That means that if you have incredibly deep pockets, you can build a wall of 81 speakers for a grand total of $23,490. Add any more than that, and the Soundots will act as two stereo systems.

No matter how you choose to configure the Soundots, it takes about 2 seconds for the speakers to pair up. The speakers blink during the pairing process and switch to the color of the primary Soundots speaker. The speakers can be connected via Bluetooth or via line-in connections, or a combination of the two. As long as the speakers are synced, they'll operate as one unit. But if you want to take one on the road or into another room, just take it off the stack, and it will act as an individual unit again.

What's better than one speaker? How about two, three or even 20?

For comparison, the V-Moda Remix speakers can also work in tandem, in a daisy-chain scenario. However, the speakers must be tethered via an audio cable. That means, similar to the Soundots, the Remix isn't a multiroom solution.

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App

Like most gadgets nowadays, the Soundots has a companion app. Available for Android and iOS, the free app lets you control the volume, lighting color and intensity if you don't feel like physically interacting with the speaker. You can also switch the audio source, skip tracks, check the battery status, adjust when the power-save mode kicks in and rename the device.

Audio Performance

For such a relatively small speaker, the Soundots can get pretty loud. And thanks to Qualcomm's aptX technology, the Soundots can play high-resolution audio — like FLAC, AIFF and WAV files — just like the V-Moda Remix. The Soundots is not as loud as the Remix, but it definitely blanketed our small test space in clear highs and mids. In a sound-off between the Soundots and the Remix, the latter consistently delivered deep bass, but at the cost of clarity.

Anita Baker's powerful alto soared on the Soundots as I listened to "Body And Soul." The quality was clear enough that I could almost hear the hammers hitting the strings of the piano, along with the crisp cymbals and percussion. However, the lows weren't as pronounced as I would have liked. Conversely, the Remix led with the bass, to the detriment of the rest of the track. The bass was so heavy, it muddied the rest of the song, submerging the finer details of the songs.

When playing Chizzy Stephens "Catching Villains," the Soundots did a great job of giving the synth and bass line enough room to breathe on the track. Stephens' monotone rap-sing cruised along the instrumentals, but the bass was a little weak, which robbed one of my favorite low-key bops of some dimension. Once again, the Remix had a rather heavy-handed approach to the bass, which clogged the soundstage and weighed down the normally light synths.

For such a relatively small speaker, the Soundots can get pretty loud.

For my last test song, I chose Pat Benatar's "Love Is a Battlefield," where the artist's throaty vocals wafted over the aggressive guitar and lively percussion. However, the Remix delivered a warmer performance despite its rather crowded soundstage.

Battery Life

Sound Dimension claims that the Soundots lasts up to 8 hours on a charge. That number was pretty close to the mark, as my Soundots lasted 7 hours and 48 minutes at medium volume before it tapped out. The Remix is estimated to last up to 10 hours.

Bottom Line

With Soundots, you can literally build a modular sound system based on the number of speakers you have, just by stacking them or placing them side by side. Made from steel and aluminum, the Soundots speakers are made to take a beating, as well as deliver some solid high-resolution tuneage. However, the Soundots speakers sound best when there are at least two of them. But at $290 a pop, owning multiple Soundots quickly becomes an expensive proposition.

At $299, the V-Moda Remix also delivers a solidly built piece of tech that can support high-resolution audio and has a built-in amplifier for headphones. And if that stunning aluminum body doesn't suit your fancy, you can always trick it out with one of V-Moda's many customization options. Just keep in mind that the price will increase significantly. Overall, if you're looking for a premium Bluetooth speaker that can transform into a soundbar or massive sound system at will, with or without wires, look no further than the Soundots.

Credit: Tom's Guide