VAVA (which appears to be a sister company to HooToo) did a launch promotion on the VOOM 22 for $39.99, so I ordered it from Amazon the first day it was available – and as I write this, no one has reviewed it yet. The product packaging arrived a little banged up – and with a rip on top – which surprised me. Opening the box, I found a small instruction pamphlet, a power adaptor, a 3.5mm cable, and the speaker itself. The power adaptor made me frown – it’s round-plug style connector rather than something more universal such as microUSB or USB-C. That means if you want to charge this while travelling, you need to bring this special power adaptor. It’s a huge failure in my eyes when companies do that. The rather large power supply outputs 18v at 2A, so I’d guess they opted for faster charging at the expense of customer convenience, and that’s a mistake in my eyes: I’d rather have a device that might not charge very fast but can charge with the cables and external batteries I already have. The power adaptor prongs also don’t fold down, so it would be a hassle to travel with. On the plus side, the VOOM 22 plays while charging. There are only three dots showing battery level so you’re either at full, 2/3rds, or on the last 1/3rd. You can press the power button once to display the battery level.
The speaker itself is nice to look at – it’s well designed, with a fabric covering and quality materials. In person it’s a bit more grey than black as you might expect looking at the product photos here. When I picked it up, I felt a reassuring heft that made me hope it sounded as good as it looked. I turned it on, it went into Bluetooth pairing mode, and I paired it with my Android phone in a few seconds. I started listening to music from it…and was not impressed with the playback of Tonic’s classic “If You Could Only See”. I cranked it up and heard some distortion in the speaker – or maybe it was the recording quality of that ’90s song? I wanted to try it with a variety of music though, so I withheld judgement and kept testing.
Listening from three feet away – I’d consider that average “close” listening distance – at maximum volume it put out 73db from my phone. When I connected it via Bluetooth to my iMac, it put out an ear-blistering 88db. That’s very loud and certainly not a volume I’d want to listen at normally. My old Jawbone Jambox topped out at 63db. I spent some time going back and forth between the Jambox – an older, but more expensive (yet much smaller) speaker to get a sense of how they differed and how the VAVA VOOM sounded. It wasn’t a fair contest – the VAVA VOOM outclassed it in every way: it was clearer, sounded better, and of course much louder.
Still, the sound was kind of “meh” overall with the first few songs I listened to. And then I found the “Bass Mode” button and that all changed. It confusingly has the icon for an EQ slider, so at first I thought there was some kind of EQ configuration I could do. The instruction pamphlet contained no details on this seemingly magic button, but it makes a big difference with most music.
I listened to a variety of different music on it – Sam Tsui covering “Titanium”, a variety of a capella music (Pentatonix, Mike Tompkins), a lot of Ed Sheeran music, some live Sugarland, Chris Stapleton (and other country), and some rock (U2, Skillet, Nickelback, Rise Against, Foo Fighters). After a lot of experimenting, the bass mode button works well with most music – but with some songs, it just makes it a bit muddy. Any song that has the “wall of sound mix” approach tends to be delivered poorly by this speaker. A big part of why could simply be there’s no stereo separation – I’m no audio engineer, but given how people listen to music now it wouldn’t surprise me if some modern music was mixed with a single speaker in mind. Bottom line: I’m glad they added this button vs. applying the bass boost to all music – that gives it more flexibility for the customer – but in most cases leave this turned on for the best audio.
Although this isn’t a fair comparison, I did want to benchmark the VAVA VOOM 22 against the speakers I listen to day in and day out: a pair of AudioEngine A2+ powered speakers. They sell for $249 and sound superb for their size – like I said, this isn’t exactly a fair comparison – but using the 3.5mm audio cable and going back and forth between those speakers and the VOOM 22, it was easier to understand what the VOOM 22 struggled with. The simpler the music, the better the speaker sounds. The highs and mids are pretty solid (Nick Pitera’s soaring countertenor on “Like a Boy” sounds excellent), and bass is delivered with a fair bit of thump when it’s cleanly mixed as you get in modern pop/dance songs. The A2+ speakers delivered the music much more crisply and accurately, though with less bottom end, than the VOOM 22. So they should given the price! I was surprised how well the VOOM 22 acquitted itself.
Note that while many Bluetooth speakers have a built-in microphone to allow you to use it for phone calls, the VAVA VOOM 22 does not – which doesn’t bother me, but some people might miss it. A trick it does have up its sleeve though is acting as a battery bank to charge your devices. I have no idea how many mAH the battery in this has – there’s no information on the Amazon product page here, and VAVA currently (as of June 9th) don’t even list the VOOM 22 on their site. I’d guess at least 6000 mAH, which means it would charge any phone on the market at least once and partially charge a tablet. The charge outputs only at 0.96 amps though (I tested it with a Legion Meter), which means it’s a slow charge. Still, this is a nice perk to have.
I noticed that when I had this connected to my iMac over Bluetooth, there was a slight delay in the audio which made it hard to use for watching YouTube videos where people were talking – there was a subtle audio sync problem. This precludes me using it as a wireless computer speaker, which I had considered briefly.
Lastly, you can pair two of these together and use them as a single audio output source – I imagine the results would be pretty good, and in fact I’m tempted to buy another one just to see…
All in all, I am quite impressed with this speaker and reccomend it highly to others – so long as there are no audiophile ears listening. At the current price of $39.99, it’s an absolute no-brainer: buy it. If it goes up to the “regular price” of $129.99 the audio quality bar goes way up and you’d want to compare it to speakers at that price point.
UPDATE 7/15/17: I paired the first speaker with the second one I purchased and the sound quality went up *dramatically*. Being able to put them on either side of the room makes for superb stereo separation; both clarity and bass are greatly improved. 60 watts of total sound can also fill a sizeable room. These are 5/5 stars when they are a pair, but at the current price of $129.99 each, $259.98 is a hefty price to pay for this experience. I knew the $39.99 price point was too good to be true, but I’m not convinced Vava’s new price point will allow people to experience this product as a pair where it really excels. If Vava was smart, they’d make it $129.99 for a pair, or offer a huge discount on the second one.