Audio - Aqua Sounder & Schooner Speakers
Review by: Jason Kessel
Make a splash with your music this summer!
With summer already in full swing, many people are having parties and family gatherings. Many times this means pool parties, and a mainstay of any good pool party (other than barbecuing) is music. However, bringing your music out by the pool is not an easy undertaking and you have to be careful to keep your music devices and speakers away from the water to avoid damage or injury to your guests.
Grace Digital Audio has solved this dilemma with a variety of outdoor water-proof speakers designed with pool parties in mind. I had the opportunity to review their Schooners (SCN300W) and the revolutionary Aqua Sounder Floating Speaker (AQSTR40W-A). The Schooners came with a 900Mhz wireless transmitter that can also be linked to the Aqua Sounder or other Grace wireless weather-proof speakers.
I'll talk about the Schooners first. My first impression was that they look nice and feel very solid in construction. They have nice glossy white enclosures with grey/silver metal grills on the front. I was pleasantly surprised to see they could be wall-mounted, which is exactly how I used them. I mounted them under the patio facing the swimming pool. While the Schooners can run off batteries (8x C each,) I opted to plug them into a nearby power outlet, as they come with a nice long power cord. As I mentioned before, the Schooner bundle we reviewed came with a wireless transmitter which can be used with any audio device having a mini-headphone jack, such as an iPod or and iPhone. You simply plug in the audio device, start playing some music, then turn on the transmitter. Once the light on the front of the transmitter turns blue, turn on the Schooner speakers. They usually link to the transmitter almost instantly, but also have a "scan button" in case you need to manually find the transmitter. Both the speakers and the transmitter have a channel selector if you have interference from other 900Mhz devices. I left them on the default channel and never really had any interference issues. So... the big question... how do they sound? Honestly, I was not expecting to be blown away by sound quality, especially for speakers in this price range. However, I was actually quite impressed. They have really clear highs, good mid-range and enough bass to be noticeable, especially when you press Bass Boost. They have plenty of volume to get the party rockin' and also work well as ambient background music during dinner conversation.
Now... the Aqua Sounder. This is a truly unique water-proof speaker because it actually floats in water! And, not only does it float, it can actually be submerged for brief periods of time. Not that you can hear the music under water. While it may be submersible, it's not meant to be held under water and it's not a toy to be thrown around the pool. Just because it looks like a ball, doesn't mean it should be treated like one. That being said, it's still pretty rugged. In fact, it has a rubber bumper around the edge for protection when it bumps into the sides of the pool. I'll be honest, when Grace Digital first released the Aqua Sounder, I thought of it more as a novelty item. Why would anyone need or want a floating speaker? Well... after five minutes of use, my opinion quickly changed. I found the Aqua Sounder to be extremely useful in the Jacuzzi. I could listen to music from my iPod without having to crank a boom box so loud that the neighbors could hear it. It's so nice to be able to relax in the hot tub with my music right there floating next to me. Very cool! I also tested the Aqua Sounder along with the Schooners at a recent pool party. It was a real hit with our guests. We had great sounding music beside the pool and IN the pool. I should also mention the Aqua Sounder includes cool blue lights for those nighttime pool parties. I was very impressed with the sound quality from the Aqua Sounder. For being a single speaker, it sounded really good. My only gripe would be the total volume was lacking. It would be nice to be able to get the volume a little louder when needed. The solid construction and good sound quality make up for that shortcoming though.
I really like both the Schooners and the Aqua Sounder. They are sold separately, but I highly recommend getting both. They make great companions for the ultimate pool party. At $300 for everything, it's a real bargain. Also, the Schooners come with an IR remote control, but it is not water-proof and has to be pointed to each Schooner speaker individually for volume control - a minor down-side. Overall, I am really impressed with these speakers and I highly recommend them as a pool party staple.
4.5 out of 5