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Big Blue Media Tower mostly disappoints

Lex Friedman | April 12, 2013
Brookstone's $300 Big Blue Media Tower is an unusual entrant into the world of speaker bars. It's powerful, it offers pretty good audio quality, and it includes Bluetooth connectivity, but the speaker's design seems odd. It's meant to serve as both a music speaker and an entertainment-center audio hub, but it uses a tower design that presents a placement predicament: You don't want to put the Tower smack-dab in front of your TV, but if you place it off to the side instead, won't you be listening to off-center audio?

Brookstone's $300 Big Blue Media Tower is an unusual entrant into the world of speaker bars. It's powerful, it offers pretty good audio quality, and it includes Bluetooth connectivity, but the speaker's design seems odd. It's meant to serve as both a music speaker and an entertainment-center audio hub, but it uses a tower design that presents a placement predicament: You don't want to put the Tower smack-dab in front of your TV, but if you place it off to the side instead, won't you be listening to off-center audio?

Before I get to that, some details: The Media Tower is just over 38 inches tall, eight inches wide, and eight inches deep. It requires a separate power brick, which you'll want to hide behind your entertainment center. The Tower weighs approximately 22 pounds.

The unit is mostly silver metal, with black-plastic accents near the base and at the top. On that top sits a big, recessed, blue button. You press and hold this button to turn the unit on. A ring around the button glows blue when the Tower is on, though once you power the tower up, the light fades gently so as to be less visually distracting.

Surrounding the big blue button are a number of touch-capacitive controls that are hard to see, because the labels are printed in tiny, white letters with no backlight or illumination. If you squint and get the right angle, you'll discern that there are three buttons to choose the audio source (Bluetooth, digital-in, or analog-in), along with controls for volume, bass, and treble.

A blue LED indicates which source you've selected, and a separate row of blue LEDs indicates the setting for each of the volume, bass, and treble levels. The volume of the Tower isn't synced to the Bluetooth source; though you can raise and lower volume on the source device, which affects the Tower's audible output, doing so doesn't change the Tower's own volume setting. In other words, you may end up having to use both the source's controls and the Tower's to get the right volume level.

On the back of the Tower, near the base, sit the power-cable connection, a set of stereo-RCA analog-audio inputs, an optical-digital-audio input, and a 3.5mm audio output.

Notably absent from the Tower is a remote control.

Let me repeat that, in case you sometimes gloss over single-sentence paragraphs: The Tower has no remote. It's a speaker meant for use in an entertainment center--Brookstone's own promotional photos for the speaker show it adjacent a flat-screen television, and the company describes the speaker as an "all-in-one music and TV sound system"--yet I don't see how the company can claim that the Tower is any such thing without a remote to adjust volume and/or source selection. Given this limitation, the speaker just doesn't make sense to hook up to your television.

 

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