When I first saw the ZAGG Origin 2-in-1 Bluetooth speaker I was intrigued. The Origin looks like a large gray plastic desktop speaker with the ZAGG name proudly displayed on the front. It is, in fact, a large gray plastic desktop speaker with the ZAGG name proudly displayed on the front. But that is only part of the story.
Grab the middle portion of the large gray plastic desktop speaker’s back and the ZAGG Origin breaks into two pieces. You see, the ZAGG Origin is both a large desktop speaker and a small portable speaker. When the two pieces are together they function as a single system while the larger ZAGG Origin also charges the smaller mobile speaker. In addition, when the two pieces are together the small mobile speaker adds Bluetooth connectivity and additional controls. After using the system for a few minutes one has to wonder- Is the ZAGG Origin a terrific Transformers-like combination of home and mobile audio? Or is it a Franken-tune speaker that unnecessarily complicates things when two separate audio accessories would do a better job? Let’s look at what each speaker brings to the table and then look at both the “Cool” and the “Gimmick” sides of the argument.
What the Desktop Speaker Brings to the Portable Speaker:
The desktop speaker has a striking appearance that you will either love or hate. There is no way this speaker will go unnoticed. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since I like the way the Origin looks. Elana, on the other had, isn’t a fan. The speaker is large enough that it offers big, room-filling sound. Sound is directed forward and a bit to the side thereby giving you decent audio everywhere but directly behind it.
The desktop speaker comes with a handy little remote. It is light, plastic and doesn’t feel like the premium product Apple offers in their aluminum remote but it does let you remotely control your tunes and adjust the bass and treble. That may not sound like a big deal but when you boost the bass from large portion of the Origin speaker things step things up a notch or four in the sound department. I honestly thought the sound coming from the Origin was just okay until I started playing around with the remote. Once I did my impressions of the speaker changed significantly. I was impressed.
The desktop speaker not only offers big room-filling sound but it also has a 3.5mm Aux-In port for creating a semi-permanent connection to an audio source. We will see why this is significant in a moment. In addition, the large speaker has a USB port on the rear from which you can charge a phone or tablet. It is a nice extra that allows you to avoid having to plug yet another AC adapter into your wall outlet although it is annoying that the port is on the back of the speaker and will either leave a cable connected all the time or flip the speaker around to access it.
Finally, the large speaker charges the smaller portable speaker. A magnetic contact plate sits at the top rear of the speaker in a recessed area that perfectly fits the smaller speaker perfectly.
What the Portable Speaker Brings to the Desktop Speaker:
The smaller speaker is about the size of the JawBone JamBox that effectively started the small-Bluetooth speaker revolution. As one might expect this mobile portion of the system has Bluetooth connectivity as well as a 3.5mm AUX-in jack for wired connectivity. It also has a microphone built into the top so you can use it as a speakerphone. Depending on the connection and volume you use the Origin portable speaker can get up to 15 hours of playback. None of this stands out since these features are found in most portable Bluetooth speakers these days.
When the smaller speaker is docked atop the larger speaker it not only brings Bluetooth connectivity to the entire unit but it also adds additional physical controls. (The large speaker only has volume up and down buttons. The remote supplies the remaining controls when the two parts are separate.)
How the Two Speakers Work Together
ZAGG did a great job creating a speaker system that works together rather seamlessly. While you can use each speaker individually the smaller speaker fits perfectly into its docking area at the rear of the larger speaker and each augments the other.
What most impressed me was the way ZAGG connects one to the other- the magnets are strong enough to hold the smaller speaker in place but not so strong that it becomes difficult to remove it and take it on the go.
Point/Counterpoint- Is the ZAGG Origin 2-in-1 Bluetooth System a gimmick or a seriously cool audio accessory?
The ZAGG Origin 2-in-1 Bluetooth System is an unnecessary gimmick that doesn’t really add all that much to the experience. Sure there is something cool about one speaker holding the other but you can easily buy a home audio product and a portable speaker and will likely get a better experience with each individual product. After all, when the portable speaker is not docked the larger speaker has neither Bluetooth connectivity nor physical controls beyond the volume up and down buttons on the top. Moreover, Bluetooth will only work when the small speaker has more than a 10% charge. That means the larger speaker is more than a bit crippled when it is being used on its own. The smaller speaker doesn’t suffer the same limitations but the point still stands- this hybrid approach diminishes one of the components in rather significant ways.
The ZAGG Origin is one of the most unusual and, yes cool, accessories in recent memory. The dual-speaker arrangement addresses the way an increasing number of people enjoy their music by providing rich full sound at home and smaller portable sound on the go with each part of the Origin bringing something significant to the table. The docking mechanism is top-notch and ZAGG used magnets that strike the right balance between offering a strong grip and an easy release of the smaller speaker. The larger speaker offers a permanent and safe location for storing and charging the portable portion of the system. In the process it removes not just one but, thanks to the USB charging port on the back, two wall adapter that would otherwise be necessary. In addition the fact that you can have music streaming to the larger speaker via the small one and then, once you grab the small speak and remove it, have the audio switch to the latter device is pretty neat. The reverse also happens. Put the small speaker in place and the audio stream begins to flow through the larger of the two.
Then there is the final point- price. Show me a way you can get a desktop speaker and remote with big sound AND a small portable speaker for under $250. There may be such options on the market but I challenge anyone to find something at this price that offers the same audio quality and features on both the large and the small speaker.
I went into writing this review leaning toward the “Gimmick” side of the equation. As is always the case when I review an audio device I listened to the speaker/s the entire time I was researching and writing this review. During the process my impressions changed significantly and I moved pretty solidly into the “Cool Gear” camp. That was largely the result of my adding bass via the remote (it really enhanced the sound) and the experience of pulling the smaller speaker off and replacing it while streaming music the entire time. The move from one speaker to another and back again simply by placing or removing the smaller of the two is quite impressive. Once I took the $249.99 price tag into account it became clear that this is a fantastic speaker option for college students, people living in apartments or gadget hounds who just want something cool. In short, I am surprised to write this but I can recommend this to just about anyone who is looking for a speaker and has a budget of $250. The sound is good and you’ll get the best of both worlds.
What I Like: Two in one system gives you the best of both worlds; Speakers work as a single unit or can be split apart and used in two places; Sound is quite good once you increase the bass using the included remote; Price point is great considering the fact that you get two speakers in one
What Needs Improvement: The large speaker loses Bluetooth when the smaller one is detached
Source: Manufacturer supplied review loaner sample