Inspired by the early-1920s Magnavox R3, the Bluetooth Gramophone doesn’t look like a typical wireless speaker. Is it compact? It’s 20 inches tall. Portable? It’s a steel horn embedded in a brick-sized block of walnut. High performance? Sure, but it’s one speaker, and did I mention it’s a gramophone? The allure is that it is unlike any other wireless speaker. From a distance, it looks like a voluptuous black question mark. Up close, you cannot escape the delightful incongruity of the sinuous horn and the angular base. It isn’t just a speaker; it’s a centerpiece.
To preserve the aesthetic allure, Gramovox stashes the unit’s technical unmentionables into a small back panel. If you don’t want to bother with wireless connections, you can connect your device directly through a 3.5 mm stereo input. The Bluetooth Gramophone boasts a 15-hour battery, which you can charge via its micro-USB port and a wallcharger, similar to that which Apple ships with iPhones. Turn it on and the gramophone sings a three-note ditty. Connect by Bluetooth and it trumpets a different trio. Everything about the unit feels refined and thoughtfully finished, down to the black velvet bags within which the base and horn ship.
As a wireless speaker, the Bluetooth Gramophone earns its stripes. It possesses more than enough oomph (that’s a technical term) to fill an apartment, and thanks to the latest wireless tech (Bluetooth 4.0), I even streamed music from my garden. Because its sound is amplified through an 18-inch steel horn, the Bluetooth Gramophone sounds different than other modern speakers. Gramovox describes it as a “vintage, organic sound.” I don’t know what that means, but I would describe it as brassy. Just as the horn lends a metallic quality to soft-spoken voices (e.g., everyone on NPR) it adds texture to bass (e.g., Bill Callahan). I do suspect that many readers will regard this acoustic embellishment as a feature rather than a fault. It’s a unique stamp, and why would you buy such a peculiar speaker if it sounded like every other unit on the market?
Mind you, the Bluetooth Gramophone is not inexpensive. For its price tag ($400), you can choose from a parade of alternatives from Bose, Beats and Jawbone. However, thinking of the Bluetooth Gramophone as a wireless speaker misses the point. It’s your study’s focal point, which also happens to be an excellent speaker. Compared with buying a vintage gramophone, which I can assure you will not play the latest Taylor Swift album, the Bluetooth Gramophone is a bargain.