Beacon Audio’s $100 Phoenix is a (very) portable Bluetooth speaker: It weighs less than half a pound, and is roughtly equivalent in size to a three-inch cube. It’s available in pink, yellow, red, blue, and black; my review unit was blue.
The top of the Phoenix features a black square with three backlit controls: previous/volume down, next/volume up, and play/pause/power. A simple tap skips back, skips forward, or toggles play/pause, respectively; holding down each button lets you lower volume, raise volume, or toggle the power, respectively. A few more actual buttons would have been a better approach, in my opinion, but once you understand the controls, this double-duty approach isn’t a huge obstacle.
In addition to the buttons themselves being backlit, the rim surrounding them is backlit, too. It blinks, a bit too faintly, when the speaker is in pairing mode, and the front section glows red while the speaker is charging. On the back of the Phoenix, you’ll find a Mini-USB port and a 1/8-inch (3.5mm) auxiliary-input jack.
Putting the speaker into pairing mode requires holding the power button down for ten seconds. Generally speaking, you pair a Bluetooth speaker once for each device you intend to use it with, and then rarely use pairing mode again, but a ten-second press pushed the limits of my patience, even just for the few devices I paired the Phoenix with.
For an additional $20, you can order an optional black, zippered bag for the Phoenix. The bag includes a slim pouch for storing the included Mini-USB and auxiliary-audio cables.
If you charge the Phoenix for three hours, Beacon says you should expect up to eight hours of playback time. With the volume dialed all the way up, I found that I could squeeze just seven hours of use before the Phoenix gave up the ghost. At normal volumes, though, eight hours was no problem.
What was a problem for the speaker was generating quality audio. The Phoenix’s uninspired, unimpressive audio is listenable if your standards are very low—or if, say, you plan on using the Phoenix outdoors, where you don’t expect things to sound great. But the speaker’s tinny, compressed sound, coupled with its lack of any meaningful bass presence, left me wanting.
There’s certainly a market for portable, affordable Bluetooth speakers. But I’m not convinced that the Phoenix is the right speaker to recommend in that market. Brookstone’s Big Blue Live (4 out of 5 rating) offers considerably better audio for the same $100 price tag, though it weighs way nearly a pound more. If you’re looking for compact, JBL’s Micro Wireless (4 out of 5 rating) is both smaller and lighter than the Phoenix, and it sounds better, for just $59. Either is a superior option to the Phoenix, which just isn’t capable of generating the quality of audio most buyers would expect at this price.