The ubiquity of the mobile phone has given rise to a whole host of audio peripherals that can transform a handset into a makeshift sound system. One such company actively involved in this market is Hampshire-based electronics manufacturer, Veho, whose rechargeable 360-degree M4 Bluetooth Speaker I'm reviewing today.
Design and features
The M4 is a tiny thing. It measures just 60mm high and 60mm across, and weighs around 175g. Its diminutive scale makes it easy to carry about in its sock-like pouch, whereas its simple industrial looks do catch the eye.
Essentially, it's a cylindrical speaker chamber comprised of an aluminium meshwork surround, mounted on a roughly brushed aluminium base. On the top is a plastic cap that carries the 'volume and skip' four-way control pad and a central power/pause button.
There's some play in the cap, which doesn't fill me with a huge amount of confidence when it comes to build quality, but the M4's metal construction does give it on overall solid feel. And while the blue lights behind the buttons help you locate them in a darkened room, the blue ring of light is superfluous, bar a suspected drain on the speaker's battery life.
The M4 boasts two 2.2W speakers and features a microSD card slot for direct music playback (compatible to 16GB with support for mp3 and WMV), a 3.5mm line-in for devices without Bluetooth, and a mini-USB port for recharging the 600mAh Li-ion battery.
The Bluetooth pairing process is simple - it's just a case of selecting 'Bluetooth' using the switch on the base of the M4, choosing 'VEHO 360bt' on your Bluetooth-enabled phone, and then entering either '0000' or '1234' to complete the link. I can report that there were no issues when pairing the M4 with an iPhone 4S or a Samsung Galaxy S2, but be mindful that the Bluetooth range is limited to 10m - leave a room or walk around a corner and the signal, and thus your music, cuts out abruptly.
Remember, too, that you don't need a phone to listen to music. The built-in microSD card can effectively transform the M4 into a self-contained music player, although the rudimentary controls will make finding a single track on a memory card containing thousands problematic.
As for audio quality, it's average at best, as there's no frequency separation. In fact, the M4's sound stage fails to accentuate a track's higher notes or to punctuate bass with any sense of definition, though lower frequencies gain a little more oomph when the speaker is placed on a flat, hard surface.
Somewhat surprisingly, though, is the M4's power. It's quite impressive for such a small unit, reaching a volume level that can easily fill a modest-sized room, while keeping distortion under control. So it's certainly not a device for the audiophile, but at the 360 M4's £30 price, it might be worth considering for short holidays.
However, for those short breaks away you'll need access to a USB socket if you want to use Bluetooth - arguably the device's main draw - as I only got a paltry two hours of playback before the battery died. The M4 can last up to five hours when using line-in audio and four hours when you play tracks via microSD. Judicious use of the volume can also earn you an additional 30 minutes of playback time.
The M4 is a mixed bag. It acts as reasonable mobile speaker that can, surprisingly, drive music loudly and relatively clearly; but it's Bluetooth range and battery life leave a little to be desired. Its price tag, though affordable, does not account for these shortcomings in my opinion.