House of Marley's $60 Chant Portable Audio System is a Bluetooth speaker that you can carry inside its own custom canvas case. If you prize affordability and portability over audio fidelity, the Chant is a fine option.
You can use the Chant without removing it from its case by simply by unzipping the top; that exposes the speaker grill, with cutouts near the base of the case that expose the speaker's ports and buttons. The case also sports a carabiner clip to attach it to your bag. When you listen to the Chant in its case, you see just the top edge of the speaker's natural-bamboo exterior poking out. Or at least what looks like a natural-bamboo exterior: Remove the speaker from the case entirely, and you discover that this visible ring of bamboo is the only wood on the device--the rest of the body of the speaker is made of black, recycled plastic.
That body is shaped like a cylinder, 3.4 inches across and four inches tall, and weighs less than a pound. The actual speaker driver fires up from the top of the unit. Adjacent the black speaker grill, sitting on a narrow silver band that surrounds it, is an On/Off slider. The Chant enters pairing mode the first time you turn it on; to reenter pairing mode later, you just slide the On/Off switch to the left and hold it for several seconds. Around the Chant's base, you'll find a Mini-USB port for charging, an LED charging-status light (on when charging, off when fully charged), a microphone, and a 1/8-inch (3.5mm) auxiliary-audio input.
The Chant ships with an 18-inch Mini-USB cable, but you'll need to provide your own USB charger--or computer USB port--to charge the speaker. Marley says that a fully charged Chant should provide six hours of listening, which meshed with my experience.
Wow does the Chant sound? Well, it sounds good for a $60 speaker. Which is another way of saying that it's not great--even compared to speakers that cost just $40 more--but it offers adequate audio quality given the speaker's size and price. For its size, the Chant's volume performance is impressive: Dial your device's volume all the way up, and the Chant kicks out some serious loudness. However, I heard an omnipresent hum when the speaker was powered on and paired but not in use. And the audio lacks at the low end--despite the speaker's passive radiator for bass reinforcement--and higher frequencies sound soft and muddled. The overall sound skews tinny and muffled, and distortion becomes a problem at moderately loud.
I actually enjoyed the Chant a bit more when I turned the speaker on its side, so that its upward-facing speaker instead pointed at my head--the speaker just isn't powerful when firing straight up.
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