Over the past several months, portable speakers have become all the rage; whether it’s a speakerdock for your new iPhone or a new Airplay enabled sound system, people with portable gadgets want their audio to be just as accessible. Certain devices like the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air are brilliant–but may be on the wrong end of true portability, and definitely north of affordable. On the other side, you have a device like the Jawbone Jambox (which we’ll review next month); tiny, versatile and also brilliant–but a bit small to be an everyday audio option. And then, you have the Supertooth Disco; small enough to fit in your backpack, big enough sound to fill a room, and some old-school flair to pull it all together. Looking for a great portable, rechargeable Bluetooth speaker? Meet the Supertooth Disco…
In the world of Bluetooth, few companies have as much experience as the folks at Supertooth. Known for their excellent handsfree Bluetooth speaker solutions, Supertooth continues to innovate in the mobile world. I have to admit, when their rep got in touch with me regarding the Disco, I wasn’t sure what to think; as much as I’ve enjoyed their speakerphones, I had no idea what to expect when it came to the Disco. Could a company best known for making visor speakers really impress in the world of traditional audio? Umm…yeah.
At just over a foot long, 3.5″ high and weighing 2.5 lbs., the Supertooth Disco strikes the perfect balance between portability and power. Its wraparound metal grill covers both front and top, and a smooth matte black surface covers the rest. Brushed aluminum accents highlight the sides of the Disco, as well as the analog dial that houses all of controls (more on that later). As you may have gathered from previous reviews, I do tend to judge a speaker based on its weight, and the Supertooth Disco does have enough heft to pass the the lifting test; of course, heft does not always equal superior sound, but conversely, I can’t remember the last time I heard great sound coming from something with no mass. On the back of the Disco, 2 things stand out: the back cluster housing the status light, charger input and line out, and the bass pipe. The Disco is an incredibly and clean looking device…its simple exterior not letting on what great sound lies beneath. Now, about that sound…
Part of human nature is that we always have a built-in system of checks and balances: If a speaker is small, we don’t expect much volume; if it’s wireless and rechargeable, we expect a loss in quality. Supertooth is happy to prove you wrong on both counts. The Disco is not only able to push out sound at high levels–it pushes out clean sound. Spoken word? Crystal clear. Bass? Strong enough to make things in the room move. the 12 watt sub and 2 stereo drivers (each with 8 watts) do an amazing job of reproducing sound–even the “bass boost” button manages to enhance the lower end without making the overall sound come off as muddy.
Once paired with your A2DP compatible Bluetooth device, (putting the Disco in pairing mode is as simple as holding down the power button) the Disco is ready to go. Volume can be handled on your device as well as the Disco’s control knob–but we found it best to keep your device’s volume fairly high, and simply use the Disco’s knob to control the sound. While we’re on the subject, a special thanks has to go out to the designers of the Disco’s UI; along with being an incredible cool retro touch, having an analog knob to control volume is extremely satisfying. Even if the knob masks digital controls underneath, there’s no substitute for dialing in a setting with rotary control–in a world of touch-controls and rocker switches, this small touch yields great rewards.
You’ll notice that all of your typical controls (play, pause, skip, power and the previously mentioned bass boost) appear as part of the Disco’s radial menu; except for the bass boost and volume control, I didn’t seem to use the other buttons much…but it’s nice to know that they’re there. I also appreciate the fact that Supertooth included a neoprene protective case for the Disco…and this is no cheap case. The thick neoprene not only does an excellent job of protecting the Disco, it’s also designed so that you can use the Disco without ever removing the case–the velcro front flips down giving you full access to the controls, the bass pipe in the back has a mesh covering to allow for airflow, and the rear panel even has a dedicated velcro flap that allows access there as well. Again, kudos to Supertooth for a very well thought out design.
I was also quite impressed by the rechargeable battery; charging the battery took under 3 hours, and even after 10 hours of use, the Disco was still going strong. As expected, your battery life will depend on how you use it (higher volume=shorter life); but the Disco always seemed to beat the manufacturers claims (10 hours at medium volume, 3-4 hours at higher volumes).
I used the Disco in a variety a ways, including listening to music on my iPhone and gaming on my iPad; but one of my favorite uses was as a sound system for watching movies on my iPad or laptop. Having spent the majority of the last 25 years on sound stages and in recording studios, I’d like to think that I know a thing or 2 about audio; and whenever I shared the Disco with fellow industry folk, they were all amazed by how well the Disco performed as a portable sound bar…and being used in this way is where the Disco shines brightest.
Yes…the Disco makes a great portable sound system for parties. Yes…having the convenience of a truly wireless audio product makes the Disco incredible versatile. And yes…the fact that it fits in your backpack makes it that much more impressive. I’m not going to even bother the whole “Is this device for you?” question, because I think the answer is pretty clear: If you like portable, quality sound at a ridiculously reasonable price ($149 retail), the Supertooth Disco must become a part of your arsenal.