A year or two ago, a good portable Bluetooth speaker would cost you $150 to $200. Since then, as more companies move into the space, the price has been dropping and now you can do quite well for $100 or less.
Case in point: the Soundfreaq Sound Kick SFQ-04, which retails for an affordable $99.99 and has some nice features and good sound quality for its price level.
This is not the first Bluetooth system that relative newcomer Soundfreaq has produced. The company also sells the pricier and more substantial Sound Platform ($179) and the Sound Stack ($400), both of which include an iPhone/iPod dock. And rounding out its current lineup is the $150 Sound Step Recharge, an iPhone/iPad audio system that incorporates Bluetooth.
Like the company's other products, the Sound Kick speaker reviewed here has an attractive, clean design, and I liked how the back portion, called the Xkick chamber, retracts into the unit when not in use, making the overall footprint smaller. To turn the unit on, you have to extend the Xkick chamber, which not only forms a stand with rubberized feet but is also supposed to enhance bass performance. It's a cool design element and the speaker props up at a nice angle, tilted slightly back, though it ends up being a little unstable and if you bump it, it'll rock and may fall over.
Aside from that small gripe, there's a lot to like here. The unit itself feels fairly light, weighing in at 1.62 pounds, but substantial enough not to feel cheap. Overall construction seems good, though its corners are a little pointy and I'm not sure it would withstand a fall onto a hard surface too well.
The Sound Kick is easy to set up to wirelessly stream audio from any A2DP Bluetooth-enabled device (as with most Bluetooth devices, you must be within about 30 feet of the speaker to stream music to it). That means nearly any smartphone (including the iPhone) or tablet (iPad) will work as an audio source -- with the notable exceptions of the Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet and Nook Color, and the first-generation iPod Touch, which do not include Bluetooth compatibility.
You get an auxiliary input on the back for connecting audio devices that don't offer Bluetooth support (a 3.5mm cable is included for this purpose). On top of that, there's a USB port for charging your phone or iPod; it works when the included AC adapter is plugged in or -- if running on battery power -- when you have the volume set below 70 percent. A green light near the port tells you it's available for charging. The AC adapter is used to recharge the unit's built-in battery, which is rated at an ample 7 hours of playing time when fully charged.