Even though the small Bluetooth speaker category has been oversaturated with new entries recently, there are still some somewhat innovative new designs coming out. Built with a similar twin active/one passive driver system to Jawbone's Jambox, Tylt's new Tunz ($150, aka Tūnz, pronounced Tunes) differentiates itself by including three Y-shaped rubber bands that can be swapped to change the accent color. It also contains a 2800mAh rechargeable battery that runs for 20 hours on 50% volume, and can recharge an iPod or iPhone at full speed should you supply a cable. Tunz also uses Bluetooth 3.0 for faster-than-standard pairing and re-pairing, and packs a microphone for speakerphone functionality.
Tunz is about 1.5” narrower than Jambox from side to side, but 0.5” taller and deeper; both are well-suited for portability. The material choices are similar, too: most of Tunz’ housing is soft touch rubber-coated plastic, except for the grill, which is metal with a raised diamond pattern. There’s no question that it feels well-built. The bands can easily be taken on and off, allowing a degree of personalization that doesn’t require buying a whole new speaker. Additionally, the bands angle the accessory slightly upwards, which is more aesthetic than functional: there’s no obvious difference in performance when Tunz is used without the bands.
The array of inputs and outputs on the back of the speaker is relatively high, compared to similar units. There’s the nearly-standard aux input, but there’s also aux out, allowing you to connect a 3.5mm cable to another speaker. Similarly, there’s a universal micro-USB charging port, which is next to a full-sized USB charging connector. All of the buttons are capacitive controls on the top of the unit, and include volume up and down, Bluetooth pairing, and phone functions.
In terms of audio performance, Tunz isn’t great, but it’s good for its size. The speaker gets louder than Jambox—although it distorts at its highest levels—and the sound is a bit more dynamic, thanks to mids and highs that sound noticeably better. Compared to the equally-priced boomBottle from Scosche, however, audio performance isn’t quite as strong. Beyond somewhat weaker sound quality during music playback, callers on the other end of phone tests reported that, at a normal sitting distance, voices sounded quiet and distant through Tunz, and that it wasn’t until we were directly over the microphone that they could hear us at an acceptable level.
Although the overall performance isn’t particularly noteworthy, Tunz is a relatively attractive speaker, and the bands add a nice touch that many don’t offer. As the market continues to grow, however, lower-priced and more fully-featured options continue to become available; at the same $150 price, the weatherproof boomBottle offers more bang for the buck, and many peer-performing speakers are being sold now for $100 to $130. For simple music playback, though, Tunz is a good choice, and a better pick than the Jambox. Our advice would be to consider a number of options in this price range, and go with the one that has the sonic, speakerphone, battery, and aesthetic characteristics that best suit your personal needs.