Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis
As with all the audio products we review here at APH Networks, it takes quite a bit of experience and training of the ears before we can begin making a fair judgment. Even for the best of audiophiles, it can be hard to produce an exact and accurate evaluation of a product, without a thoroughly familiar product to use as simultaneous reference. While I will not claim to be the reviewer of all reviewers for audio devices, I can say quite a few other computer review sites have editors lacking in training for reviewing anything audio related. Give them anything and all you will get is some vague description of “decent bass, average midrange, awesome treble, clean sound, 10/10”. Do not get me wrong though; there are knowledgeable audio reviewers out there on respected online media outlets, but they are far and few.
As with the Turcom AcoustoShock HR-903, I will put this speaker through a series of subjective tests, and try to come up with the most objective rating as possible (As ironic as it sounds). The tests were conducted over Bluetooth 4.0 on my computer, with an Inateck Bluetooth USB adapter streaming audio directly running Windows 10 Professional 64-bit. I have also used my LG G3 D852, running Android Marshmallow 6.0 over Bluetooth 4.0 with all audio enhancements disabled. Since this is a wireless digital transmission, the source generally does not affect sound quality, and so their results have been combined together. As this is also a wired capable device, I plugged my Creative Zen 4GB into the AcoustoShock HR-903 for a brief while. After over sufficient break-in time, we put the Turcom AcoustoShock HR-903 to the test. All tracks are FLAC or LAME encoded MP3s at 192kbps or higher.
Before continuing however, I should put these results into context. Despite its larger size, in comparison with smaller Bluetooth speakers we have reviewed before, the Turcom AcoustoShock HR-903 is still a small battery powered Bluetooth speaker. To even assume they would compare to other speakers we have received, such as the Audioengine A2+ or the B2 would be ridiculous, and frankly, out of line. Rather, you would be looking at similar products such as the Inateck BTSP-10 Plus for comparison. The real market for the HR-903 is not for the audiophiles, or the fine music listening, but for those who look to provide some oomph to their tablet or smartphones. These smart devices, for the most part, do not give a lot of sound output. Using the Turcom speakers will allow people to dance out to their jam in the living room, lounge by the poolside, or make a phone call while cooking in the kitchen. Thus, keep these in mind as I give my perspective for the AcoustoShock HR-903.
As always, starting at the bottom of the frequencies, there was some good bass, but with a large asterisk. Usually, with portable Bluetooth speakers, bass is quite lacking due to its small size of the drivers and compact construction of the enclosure. However, with the Turcom AcoustoShock HR-903, the relative amount of bass was quite good, albeit there were a few undesirable qualities. I took this AcoustoShock HR-903 on a road trip with my friends to Seattle, and one of my friends named Andrew commented the bass was "hollow". I tested it out again with my own equipment, and I agreed with his assessment. While the bass was quite loud, it was lacking in oomph, and sounded boomy at times. There was no rounded, defined, and supportive bass I would have liked, but reminded me of dull thuds. In addition, the bass was quite a bit more emphasized compared to the midrange and the treble, which made me wish there was a way to turn it down on the speaker itself. The smaller size of the drivers and the case probably played a role in this, especially with the 2.2 channel solution crammed into a single box.
Speakers aimed at the party crowd can be generally defined with loud bass and clear trebles, while seemingly forgetting about the middle child of the big three. The Turcom AcoustoShock HR-903 lines up with this definition, particularly with the midrange frequencies. In music, this range is covered by human voices, and a whole range of instruments including pianos and guitars. Unfortunately, with the AcoustoShock HR-903, these midrange voices seemed quite recessed, since the bass overpowered it. Again, it would have been nice to see a bit more neutral equalization on this. The lower midrange had a bit more substance to the sound, but it still followed similar characteristics to the low frequencies. The higher midrange frequencies were a bit more prominent, and had a slightly more pleasant sound. Overall though, the midrange still felt like the neglected child.
As for the treble, the Turcom AcoustoShock HR-903 produced high frequencies with a bit of difficulty. Again, like the shy child in the midrange, we had the awkward treble sibling who was going through puberty. Thus there was a quieter, dry overall sound. This was made even harder to listen to with the overbearing bass and reduced midrange. However, this child does not suffer from the same neglect the midrange does, and so it was definitely better heard. In addition, there were some redeeming qualities about this child, as the sound produced was still tight enough, even if it was overwhelmed by the bass. If we turn our attention to balance, the AcoustoShock HR-903 painted a picture of a family of frequencies with a sharing issue. The bass brother took up too much of the spotlight, while the midrange was too shy to speak up. The treble child had the right volume, but it was not supported enough by the midrange. This being said, the Turcom AcoustoShock HR-903 fit the bill for a party V-shaped frequency. This may not be preferred by all listeners, but I think this was the target, and it was still a fun sounding tune.
When it came to soundstaging and imaging, it was really hard to hear a realistic sound, just based purely on the balancing issues. In addition, the Turcom AcoustoShock HR-903 was quite the directional speaker, in terms of only clearly hearing the speaker when it was directly facing you. Under ideal positioning, the Turcom AcoustoShock HR-903 still had a narrow soundscape, but this was attributed to the small enclosure, as well as the proximity between the two drivers. For a speaker of this size, soundscaping was not terrible. I do think a better balance of sound would have made for a more natural image.
Without blaming the overpowering bass for everything, I think the AcoustoShock HR-903 was capable of delivering average layering, frequency separation, and cohesiveness qualities. There was an adequate amount of detail overall, with everything still coming through distinctly. Frequency separation was called into question a few times, especially as I found frequencies meshed a bit too much together. However, there was still enough divisions within the spectrum. I would say the Turcom AcoustoShock HR-903 still sounded cohesive with adequate transitions between layers.
The other issue I had with Turcom's water resistant speaker was the lack of clarity. During the car ride, and more notably, during my sitting tests, I found the Turcom AcoustoShock HR-903 sounded like it was just a bit muffled from all directions other than immediately in front of it. I am not too sure what is the culprit for this, but if I were to blame anything, it might be the material keeping the HR-903 water resistant. Obviously, something has to seal water out, and unfortunately it also covered up a bit of the output. This trade off was an understandable one, but the muffle was noticeable.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis