Credit: Tree Labs
There is a seemingly infinite number of portable Bluetooth speakers on the market. Do we really need one more? Tree Labs seems to think so with the Astro.
Tree Labs says what differentiates the Astro from its competitors is that it plays music unadulterated instead of using DSP software to change the music to fit the limitations of the speaker. Tree Labs goes further on to say that the Astro is “the only Bluetooth portable speaker to play music the way it was recorded.”
Now, the merits of those sweeping marketing statements are way beyond the scope of this review. Let’s just say that those are nice slogans and consumers should rarely put their stock in marketing cliches. For the purposes of our review, we wanted to see how the Astro served as a portable speaker and if it sounded good.
Under the Hood
Under the aluminum facade, the Astro relies on a pair of two inch deep cushion neodymium magnet full range drivers that the company says are customized for the Astro. There is also a stiff passive radiator that Tree Labs says is used for extra-deep bass (thought they never define what extra-deep bass is and in my listening tests the bass wasn’t very deep).
Connectivity is kept to a bare minimum. There is only wireless Bluetooth and a 3.5mm input. Plugging in a 3.5mm jack will immediately override any Bluetooth connection. There's no button you need to press to switch between the two. To re-initiate Bluetooth, you need to unplug the 3.5mm cable.
There’s a built-in polymer lithium rechargeable battery that, on paper, will give you up to 16 hours of playing time and require only 2.5 hours for a full recharge. Battery and all, Astro is super-easy to tote around at only 1.16 pounds.
I was really disappointed to see that there is no option for USB charging. You need to use the included 7.4V power adapter to charge it. That was one of the biggest misses for me. For a device that’s billed as a portable, having to carry around a special 12v charger instead of using the almost ubiquitous USB chargers in homes and cars is a bit of a head scratcher.
Personalized colors or tattoos? You decide.
When I first got the Astro I was struck by how small and light it was. The Astro is constructed with a brushed aluminum front and rear and wrapped with a thick silicone bumper, which comes in four colors. The silicone bumper should protect the Astro from small drops or moderate handling. However, if you want deck out your Astro in a different color later after purchase, there isn’t an option to swap out the silicone case with different color.
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