Bitten by Bluetooth; bem Mojo II mobile speakers

When I saw these tiny black cubes with elegantly understated controls on a spin-rack at Costco, I was so smitten that I wanted to buy two for everybody for Christmas. Now I’m so glad I didn’t. Their design is sweet; they’re handy; and they sound good when they’re working. But the controls are poorly conceived. The speakers are balky to connect and keep connected. And, whether due to IPhone flaws, Bluetooth technology growing pains or glitches in the speakers themselves, they’re trouble-prone.

Unpacking my Mojo II speakers, I was intrigued to see that each speaker “system” is really two units; a battery-powered speaker and a charger base. Also included;

  • USB cord
  • 120v wall plug with a USB socket
  • 3.5mm “headphone” audio cord

You can use the units separately or together in several ways.

Base charger

The base is all about power–not music. For charging, you can connect it to a 120v outlet or to a USB power source, such as a computer.

The base can power the speaker via a magnetized ring in the base’s top; or any USB-powered device, such as a phone, via a USB socket in the base’s side. This base is also a battery; so it can charge your phone or give your speaker extra playtime without a power source.

  • The base’s on/off switch controls the USB socket, not the speaker.

Speaker

These tiny speakers sound quite nice, but they’re not astounding. If you’ve been listening to a subwoofer, you’ll miss it.

The speaker also has a battery. You can charge it either on the base or directly from a USB power source, such as the included wall-plug.

The touch volume control makes an annoying alarm sound when it reaches the top of its range.  I never use it; it’s easier to control the volume with my iPhone.  But if I accidentally touch it while holding or moving a speaker, it instantly zooms the volume all the way up or all the way down.  I so wish it wasn’t there.

The on/off switch controls the sound and initiates Bluetooth connections.  This switch is small and hard to flick, and I have to use it constantly.  I wish that instead they’d made on/off a touch-activated control like the volume ones, and labeled it “Try again.”

The speaker has a Bluetooth receiver that can input audio from a device with a Bluetooth transmitter, such as an iPhone. If you have two speakers, and your music is coming in over Bluetooth, you can set them to Left and Right channels via switches in their undersides for stereo sound. One speaker alone is still good; set its underside switch to Monaural.

Audio can also be supplied via the 3.5mm audio cord, for example from an iPod. My first disappointment; when using this arrangement, a second speaker remains silent. It won’t magically get its music via Bluetooth from the first speaker.

Connecting

Connecting the speakers to my iPhone is dodgy, especially when somebody else is watching. First I disable and enable Bluetooth on my phone. Then I switch each speaker off (if it was on) then on. If I do this in the wrong order, they’ll never “find” each other. If they still fail to connect, I have to start over.

Problems

bluetoothMojo II speakers are prone to occasional misbehavior. Whether the problem is the speakers, my phone or some flaw in how Bluetooth works is hard to say. The only cure is to turn everything off and reconnect all over again.

  • One of their tricks is to get out of sync with each other (when using two speakers for stereo). One speaker plays each note a fraction of a second after the other, creating a reverb effect like a bad PA system in a train station.
  • Another is dropping the connection, for no apparent reason–unless it’s to embarrass me because other people are listening.
  • Then there’s dropping the connection when I absent-mindedly walk out of the room with my phone in my pocket. You’d think that, when I returned, it would all start working again, but noooooo.
  • Every few minutes I notice a brief sound dropout. I suspect my phone is multiprocessing and has taken a little break from playing music in order to do something else. Terminating apps or going to Airplane Mode seem to reduce the dropouts.  Buying a faster phone might help too.

While making dinner, I set up my phone with two speakers set to L and R channels, all within six feet of each other and stationary.  The speakers took three tries to connect.  In 90 minutes, they got out of sync twice, and one of them dropped the connection twice.  I spent so much time fiddling with them that dinner was late.

In sum, I’d have been happier with a mobile stereo player with a 3.5mm jack, or even an iPod-compatible socket. There’s much to be said for a device dedicated to playing music.  I’m not looking forward to the day my iPhone 6 breaks from Touch Disease or whatever, and I have to buy an iPhone 7 and use Bluetooth all the time.


Trivia: “BEM” in sci-fi stands for “Bug-eyed Monster.”

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