The Good: Nice range of colours, decent sound, impressive battery life
The Bad: Poor build quality, confused remote, no music sync
The Bottom Line: The colours are pretty and the sound is decent, but it looks and feels seriously cheap
When we review speakers, sound is often studied and contrasted as a standalone medium. But vision can play a significant role in the way we perceive audio waves. Whether through the emotive images of a film, or the lights of a disco that attract us like moths, what we see can have a significant impact on what we hear.
The colourfully illuminated Kitsound Glow is well placed to take advantage of any visual bonus points that may be on offer. Apart from its metal speaker grille, the entire unit is a translucent box, ready to show off its many colours. An appealing gamut alone is not enough, however — is the Kitsound as spectacular in the sound department?
Out of the Box
The Glow is something you might have expected to find in Habitat, before that populist interior design store faded away. Its plastic surfaces do not exude a feeling of high quality. It is light enough to be brushed off a table, and it has a hollow tap to it, despite there being a 3-inch driver and an internal battery of some considerable capacity somewhere inside. Perhaps this is what I should be expecting from a £100 speaker. One hundred shiny pounds still feels like a lot when I look at the Glow.
The lights are pretty, but the build quality is underwhelming.
It comes with a small, plasticky remote with a strange layout, and a USB cable for charging, together with a mains adaptor. The cable plugs into the Glow’s underbelly, with the initial charging process taking around 12 hours. It seems like a long time, but the fill-up is for a long play-time — an impressive 18 hours, in Kitsound’s estimation. Once charged, the Glow goes straight into Bluetooth pairing, a process which is swiftly dealt with.
The supplied remote feels unpleasantly plasticky.
The majority of the remote control’s buttons are for adjusting the Glow’s light output. The visuals are non-essential, but switching them on turns an otherwise featureless white box into something genuinely attractive. There are eight colours in the Glow’s repertoire, each of which may be manually selected from the handset. Alternatively, the Glow can be set to cycle through its palette by flashing, switching abruptly, or transitioning gently. This light can be magnified or dimmed from the handset, with the colours showing up well even in daylight, and the illumination is surprisingly even. It is a pleasing display, albeit not one synced with the music.
You can choose from eight colours, and several different display modes.
The handset also offers the basics of playback control, with a play/pause button, along with volume adjustment and the option to skip forwards, and backwards. Amusingly, these controls come with a spacetime delay of epic proportions, presumably while the remote first passes its instructions to the speaker, before the speaker forwards them on to iTunes via Bluetooth. If you’re planning on nipping out of the room to make a cuppa, you might as well go ahead — the music will just be stopping when you get back. Still, at least these controls do seem to be compatible with most systems.
The Glow sounds better than it looks.
Considering the wildly varying quality of the Glow’s other assets, the sound it produces is surprisingly decent. The aforementioned 3-inch driver sends its audio produce outwards via a single porthole-like metal grille. The sound is quite multi-directional, however, and unlike many speakers with such a design, harshness does not figure as a major feature of the output. Trebles are bitingly clear, while bass tones come with a considerable kick — drums are noticeably punchy with the speaker on the table next to me. It suffers from the inevitable small-speaker enclosed sound, but again, this is not anywhere near as pronounced as one might expect. Overall, it really isn’t a bad listen.
I know what Kitsound was trying to do with the Glow. Every music-enthused 13-year-old in the land would want one of these. But then, they would be just as happy with a lava-lamp with an earphone speaker attached to the base. The Glow is nowhere near that bad, but it isn’t the pinnacle of design-conscious sound.
It does have its positives. The lights are genuinely attractive, and the fact they can be played about with is nice. The battery life is also impressive, and Kitsound says that the cube is splash-proof. The sound itself is okay, too.
The build quality isn’t anything special, though, and when combined with the bizarre, cheap remote control, it makes the price tag seem extortionate. If you’re a parent who’s feeling rich in advance of a birthday, this might be the speaker for you. Otherwise, I’d recommend passing this particular Kitsound.