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Tree Labs Astro Bluetooth Speaker Review: Lightweight, stylish, and sounds good too

Theo Nicolakis | Jan. 29, 2016
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.

Unlike most speakers, you can give the Astro a tattoo... sort of. Tree Labs has partnered with Tattoo Temple in Hong Kong to create customized editions of the Astro called the x Tattoo Temple. There are six x Tattoo Temple Art edition speakers, each of which has unique tattoo deigns gracing the front speaker grille. The x Tattoo Temple Art editions carry a $20 premium over the standard edition. 

Where form and function meet

Tattoos aside, another of the Astro’s distinctive design elements is its large silicone ring. The ring has a single purpose—to carry the Astro. Initially, I thought the loop was bizarre, but the more I used it, the more I liked it. Unlike other portable speakers, picking up and toting the Astro along was easy—even with one finger.

To be clear, not everyone I showed the speaker to liked the loop feature as much as I did. My wife, for example, hated the loop. I found that there won’t be a middle ground. You’ll either like it or hate it.

Carrying around the Astro also got me thinking about potential uses and contexts for such a speaker. Two that came to mind are presentations and desktops. Pop the Astro into a briefcase or backpack with a projector and you have a superb solution for small presentations where you need basic sound for multimedia, though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for movies as you'll understand in my listening tests below.

One Button to Rule them All

The Astro has  a single physical button on the top of the unit that serves a few purposes. First and foremost, it is the on/off button. Holding the button down for about three seconds will turn the unit on or off. However, a single press of the button when the speaker is on will pause the audio. Pressing the button a second time starts things playing again.

The on/off button also solves one of my biggest problems with Bluetooth speakers: Switching wireless sources. Pressing the on/off button quickly two times will put the Astro back into Bluetooth pairing mode. From there, just select the Astro from your Bluetooth source and you’ll be good to go. Cryptic, “unable to connect” errors will be a thing of the past.    

This is a full-range speaker? Not quite.

Aside from the much larger Mohu BeBox I recently reviewed, most portable Bluetooth speakers haven’t really impressed me with their sound. They are just too small. They sound thin and tinny with no bass. That’s where things get interesting with the Astro.

Tree Labs describes the Astro as “full range” and that it is designed to “reproduce with fidelity the full audio range spectrum…” While those are nice marketing phrases, after taking the Astro for an extended spin, I’ll tell you that you certainly won’t mistake the Astro for a subwoofer and you’ll be hard-pressed to get any substantive output below 60Hz. No, you won’t get the full impact of Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 "Organ Symphony.”

 

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