Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen, but it’s still pretty important to have a good one on hand if you’re into any kind of music listening or movie watching. Phone speakers are pretty universally mediocre at best, and a decent speaker can make a world of difference. Plus, they’re great to have at parties and when you need some extra volume.
Some companies go for basic; they just want to make a solid speaker that sounds good. Sbode, on the other hand, has built a Bluetooth speaker that’s jam-packed with features that’ll make your smartphone sweat. They’re aggressive on pricing, too.
So how does an affordable Bluetooth speaker with tons of features hold up? Let’s find out.
I’ll preface the meat of this review by saying I’m a really big fan of JBL speakers. I use them in my car, in my home theater, and as my Bluetooth speakers, and they’re always the first company I look at whenever I need anything sound related. I’m not mentioning this to say that Sbode isn’t as good as JBL and I’m incredibly biased, but instead to point out that there are a ton of similarities between this Sbode speaker and the JBL Charge and JBL Flip, the latter of which I own several.
Before you flame me in the comments, I get it. Bluetooth speakers are like phones, and there are only so many designs that we can use before things start to look similar. For the most part, I agree.
But opening up the Sbode retail box, it looks strikingly like a JBL Bluetooth speaker box. Both use lots of orange and white, the icons and text are eerily similar, and the packaging opens up in the same way. The icons on the speaker itself are pretty similar, too.
Coincidence? Possibly. It’s strange that they both use almost the same stereo pairing icon when I’ve never the icon used on anything besides my JBL Flip, but hey, great minds think alike.
Anyway, the design of the speaker itself is reminiscent of JBL’s Bluetooth line. It’s slightly bigger than the Flip but slightly smaller than the Charge with the same passive bass radiators on either end of its cylinder shape. Unlike the JBL models, it’s a pretty perfect cylinder, which means it’s more likely to roll around instead of weighing down into a position where you can clearly see the logo. That’s not great considering it’s not a full 360-degree speaker.
Otherwise, though, it’s made of nice mesh material that resists water, and it’s pretty light. No complaints.
Sbode claims this speaker will last 8 hours of usage on a single charge, although I’m not sure how they rated it since the speaker has three different modes. In my experience, I could pretty typically squeeze more than 8 hours out of it, but I stuck to Bluetooth mode most of the time. I didn’t notice anything drastic on the battery indicator when playing around with FM radio or local playback, but I don’t think you’ll have to worry about beating or at least matching their 8 hour claim.
Recharging only takes about 3 hours, which isn’t particularly fast, but it’s pretty rare to see speedy charging on accessories like this.
It’s a speaker, so of course you’re interested in sound performance. Right?
Honestly, I don’t have a ton to talk about here. It’s a $50 speaker, and it sounds like a $50 speaker. It’s a massive improvement over phone speakers, but the bass leaves a little something to be desired despite the passive radiators. There’s no real thump that you normally want from speakers, but in that price range, it’s just about impossible to find, anyway.
Next to the JBL Flip 3 (which costs twice as much), it holds its own well enough, and I don’t think the Flip 3 sounds twice as good. It’s still better, obviously, but that puts the Sbode in a really good position of offering great value for its price tag.
But really, the Sbode speaker shines in its sheer variety of modes. It can work as a standalone Bluetooth speaker, but you can also pair it with a second speaker for true stereo sound. I didn’t have a chance to test it with this particular model, but from using other stereo speakers that’s almost always a huge improvement in sound quality.
It also offers a direct line in if you don’t want to fiddle with Bluetooth, and there’s a built-in FM radio, which seems to be a dying technology on most newer electronics. Most areas have access to several FM radio stations that offer free music and don’t hit your data cap, so why not take advantage of it? The only drawback is FM radio really doesn’t sound great, and since the Sbode doesn’t have a screen or anything, you have to fumble around with the buttons to try and luck into the radio station you want. Those buttons double as the volume buttons, and I’m sure you can guess that’s not the best experience ever.
If a radio station is weak, it also won’t pick it up since it only scans the airwaves for stations that pick up well. If you’re trying to pick up a station that’s more than a few miles out that can have quality issues, the Sbode might not ever find it. When it works, it’s pretty cool, and it’s basically a free feature, so I can’t complain too much.
The microSD card playback is similar and hits a lot of the same flaws. Controlling an interface with a speaker and a couple buttons is unsurprisingly kind of difficult, so if you’re the kind of person that likes to pick out specific songs or albums, I doubt you’d ever care about this feature. On the other hand, if you like to shuffle music and want something that’s totally independent of your phone, you can pop a card full of music into this little gadget and turn it on and let it keep music playing for hours with zero input. That side of it is actually pretty cool.
Should you buy the Sbode Bluetooth speaker? For non-audiophiles that want to take advantage of the plethora of playback modes, this thing is undeniably a fantastic value. It costs just enough to avoid the shortcomings of super cheap speakers, but still manages to fly under the competition of something like JBL or Bose.
For a version 2.0, it’d be nice to see some of these clunky control issues ironed out, and maybe a bit of refinement on the low-end of the sound. Full waterproofing would be nice, too, and virtual assistant integration is always a wish. But still, for the price, I think we can let some of it slide right now.
Uncanny JBL similarities aside, this is probably one of the best $50 Bluetooth speakers on the market.
Buy it now: Amazon