Imagine a speaker that can go anywhere, play anything, and do it all without wires. Now, give it a fun shape and some wireless controls. There you go, now you have the Cyfi, which is a fantastic portable wireless speaker. This is exactly what I need for activities like camping, hiking, or even just sitting on the deck enjoying the day. Sound good? I thought it might. let’s take a closer look.
Although Cyfi will work just about anywhere, it is really designed to be used while biking (hence the name…CYfi as in cycling). Anyway, I really loved the fact that this purpose was reflected in the shape and design of the Cyfi. Take a close look, it is designed to resemble a bike helmet. Now that is pretty cool.
The buttons on the speaker are great, because they are nice and large, which makes it easy to control while flying down a hill on your bike.
On the right are the volume controls, on the left are the track controls (advance and rewind). Smack in the middle of the bottom is the play/pause/power button.
It even includes a couple of clamps, allowing you to snap the speaker right onto the handlebars of your bike. This is almost enough to make me wish I was still an avid bike rider.
The problem I had came in when I played the speaker just sitting on my desk. the surface is made from slick plastic, with a fairly sharp edge. Additionally, the whole thing is rounded to make it fit more aerodynamically with your bike. This all adds up to some real difficulty with the controls when it is sitting on a table or the floor. It is slick and wobbles, and when you try to grab it to push a button, those sharp edges just dig into your hand a little too much. It would be nice if the folks at Cyfi had made one model for bikes and one which was better designed to sit on a tabletop.
Now the real question you are probably asking (and whether you are or not, I am going to answer it) is how does this connect to your iPod? well, there are two choices here. There is a Bluetooth version and a Kleer version. I have been following Kleer, which is the latest in streaming wireless stereo audio, for several years, and opted for that. If you are interested in Bluetooth, the check out Joel’s review from last week.
Of course, the problem with Kleer is that no devices actually come with Kleer built-in. So, in order to connect your device to the speaker, you will need an adaptor (which is included). Unfortunately, there is only an adaptor for the iPod. So, I was not able to test the speaker with any of my other devices, only the iPod Touch.
One problem here was that you cannot charge the battery on your iPod while the adaptor is connected. While this may not be a problem if you are just using it for an hour or two while riding your bike. But it can be a problem if you want to use it as your primary music source during the day. i like to plug it in and let it go while I am at work. Which pretty much tears through the battery on my iPod Touch. It would be really nice if that adapter would allow your iPod to be plugged in while it was connected.
Once connected, you will almost instantly start hearing the melodious sounds of your iPod streaming wirelessly to the speaker. Now, let me tell you why I love the Kleer technology. My experience streaming music over Bluetooth has typically been an exercise in frustration. Meaning it works great as long as the device is situated next to the speaker, and remains perfectly motionless. As soon as something starts to move, however, get ready for the skipping. I never had that problem with the Kleer connection. I used this as my primary speaker system in my office for several days, and never experienced a problem with the connection or any skipping at all. I even took the speaker and walked down the hall while my iPod sat on my desk. The range was about the same as most Bluetooth connections (30 feet) but there was absolutely no skipping until I reached the limits of the range.
The speaker itself had good sounds quality. A bit tinny, but overall it had pretty good sound for a portable speaker. If you want a fuller sound, though, you can connect up to four speakers to one device. I also perplexingly found that the volume was not stable. It always reset to the default level every time a new song started. I am not sure why it did this, but it would have been nice if the volume had held where I set it.
I was also impressed by the battery life, which outlasted even my testing. I listened for three whole days without charging, before I finally decided that I needed to spend some time looking at the cradle. Yes, that’s right, I said cradle. though I really found this to be a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, I really liked the cradle, which holds the speaker upright, projecting the sound into the room while charging. I liked the cradle for those times when you were relatively stationary. But it presented a problem for those times when you want to take the Cyfi while traveling. You don’t want to lug that bulky cradle around with you. It would have been nice if the AC adaptor had the option of connecting directly into the speaker.
Overall, I thought the Cyfi was simply fantastic. It is an attractive solution which is right at home in virtually any environment. The battery lasts for more hours than I was able to test, which makes it the perfect solution for an overnight camping trip, long bike ride, or pretty much any other outdoor or overnight activity you care to try. The wireless connection worked flawlessly, and connected easily. I have to admit that the Cyfi far exceeded my expectations. Now, if I could only get one with an adaptor for my soon-to-arrive Zune HD…
What I Liked: Easy connection, crisp and clear wireless connection, large buttons were easy to push, goes anywhere and everywhere, even where there is no power outlet, cradle doubles as a stand.
What Needs Improvement: Sound could be a little better, volume did not hold where it was set, slick design made it easy to control on a bike, but more difficult in other locations, no travel charger, no Kleer adaptor for non-Apple devices.
Where To Buy: Cyfi