Hands-On Review: The Tunebug Vibe

The unboxing of the Tunebug Vibe

We’ve gotten our hands on Tunebug’s Vibe portable speaker, a small brushed-zinc triangle which claims its “SurfaceSound” technology turns most surfaces it sits on into a flat-panel speaker.

And, true to its word, the wee Vibe does exactly that. The included Sound Base (really nothing more than a glorified cardboard box) is a good start, and works pretty well as a speaker itself. Though, with the base sitting on the heavy wooden antique sewing machine table I use as a desk, there’s not much for bass.

But we’ll come back to that in a second.

The Vibe’s internal 450mAH LiPoly battery held out for more than six hours of play at high volume, which is better than the five hours Tunebug has written on the product’s info page. It charged back up in just a couple of hours using the USB charger plugged into the iPhone’s outlet-to-USB converter.

Over the course of the last two days, I’ve tested the Vibe on a variety of surfaces at a variety of volume levels and playing a variety of genres. I’ll start by saying that the sheer novelty of SurfaceSound is almost enough to justify the bug’s $70 price tag in itself.

On the other hand, under most circumstances this speaker is not going to cut it for heavy users of dubstep. It has little to no bass on most desks, tables, countertops, etc., even on the Sound Base. What’s more, the felt pad on the bottom is pretty slippery, which causes the bug to shake itself right off of its perch when it’s trying to pump out fat beats.  If you want more grip and bass, check out our review of Wowee One.

But there are some surfaces that do work for a fuller sound. Here’s a short list of some of the best and worst places to listen to your music with SurfaceSound.

The three worst:

The washing machine.

It sounds tinny, no bass whatsoever; the high notes are almost screechy

A tea tin
A tea tin. Tinny, rattly, kind of dusty

Newspaper

It sounds tinny, no bass whatsoever; the high notes are almost screechy

Muffled, quiet, only low-mids audible

The three best:

On the Sound Base on a djembe.

Decent bass, very full sound, good volume. Though, the vibrating skins do cause the Vibe to rattle off the base a lot faster than many other surfaces at high volume. Great surface for 40 Below Summer, Neko Case.

The Vibe sounds great on its box on the djembe.

A fibreglass TV tray.

Good low-mids, treble; sound reflects off the floor underneath giving some depth. Good for Gogol Bordello, Jefferson Airplane.

The best SurfaceSound surface is, apparently, the toilet lid.

The toilet lid.

A lot of surfaces sound like crap under the Vibe. This, ironically, is not one of them. The plastic lid’s sound reverberates through the water and porcelain, bringing a deep sound, the best bass of any tested surface and swell volume. Great for Lupe Fiasco, Apocalyptica; anything, really. It just sounds good here. If unsatisfied, try setting the speaker on the Sound Base on top of the toilet lid for a different sound.

The bottom line:

It’s very portable, charges from your USB, and requires no setup, drivers, software; just plug it into the headphones port in your media player or laptop and you’re good to go. It’s not going to replace your home setup, but it’s definitely good for a bit of music on the go. The search for the perfect surface can keep buyers entertained for days – maybe hours for those lucky enough to have been born with an attention span.

It can get a bit crackly at high volumes, but that really depends on where you put it.

It’s definitely not for everyone, but it was a solid concept that saw solid execution. That’s good for a 7/10 in our books.

TuneBug Website


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