Music Anywhere!

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2015 • all rights reserved

Music Anywhere: Need tunes? This portable waterproof Bluetooth speaker has great sound for the cockpit, in the cabin or at a beach barbecue!

We had two problems on Barefoot Gal:

  • the stereo wasn’t all that good, the speakers couldn’t be put in the cockpit and it didn’t have a way to plug my MP3 player into it; and
  • the speakers on my laptop were anemic, so that if we were trying to watch a YouTube video to learn how to do something, we had to wear headphones . . . and that meant that only one of us could watch at a time.

A $50 Bluetooth speaker and a $35 Bluetooth transmitter solved both problems!

We’d been using the MP3 player with an FM transmitter. The sound quality was awful! I wanted something so that I could keep the MP3 player in the cabin (out of the weather) but move the speaker wherever I wanted it. Hence the desire for a wireless solution. Bluetooth seemed a good way to go since everything new, it seems, comes with Bluetooth built in.

[NOTE: As mentioned in the comments, the Bluetooth speakers are MUCH more energy efficient than most car/boat stereos and can cut your power draw for music considerably. Yes, you have to charge the speaker but it’s much more efficient and you use far less power than if running the big stereo system.]

Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

Oh my. When we started looking for a “waterproof Bluetooth speaker” I found that there are hundreds.

How to choose? Well, good sound quality was number one. Battery powered small speakers are never going to equal top-of-the line powered ones, but they can produce good sound without distortion, buzzing or static. Reviews are important for what others have experienced! Maybe I should have said, good sound quality at a price within our budget . . .

Although I didn’t plan to use this in pouring rain or anything, we do live on a boat. I wanted to be able to put the speaker out in the cockpit and not worry if some water or rain splashed on it. Or if we wanted to take music to a beach barbecue. So high quality waterproofing was a key feature as well as battery life, ease of charging and size.

Equally important for our lifestyle, I found, was having it dust-proof and shock-proof. The marine environment is just dirtier than living in a house and drops can happen.

After reading a lot of reviews and discovering that some “waterproof” speakers hadn’t been so waterproof in real life, I settled on the Photive HYDRA. We’ve been using it for 5 months and are really happy with it both for music and for videos on the laptop. UPDATE: It’s now been about 16 months and still going strong!

It’s got great sound for a small speaker that we can put anywhere (6″ x 2″ x 3″). It’s battery powered so it’s not super-powerful but it’s more than adequate for background music in the cockpit or cranking up while I’m cleaning. But no, you’re not going to blast your music across the anchorage.

My only “complaint” is that the volume controls are hard to see (the outside is black rubber). We had to mark the up and down volume with white so that we could see them in low light.

Bluetooth speaker

The speaker charges with a micro-USB cord and a charge lasts about 8 hours. The charging port and on/off switch have a rubber cover. Some speakers only have an AC charger, which we didn’t want on the boat.

It uses Bluetooth 4.0 — I don’t know a lot about Bluetooth, but when I was buying this I learned that 4.0 was considered much better for audio applications than 3.0. We have never had a problem and the audio quality is great. No skips or static at all. No problem in pairing it with the transmitter or my phone.

We love this speaker!

Bluetooth Transmitter

I had to buy the Bluetooth transmitter as my MP3 player is ten years old (!) and doesn’t have Bluetooth. Neither does my laptop. If your devices are Bluetooth enabled (such as my phone) you don’t need a transmitter — just pair the devices.

Bluetooth transmitterThe transmitter is tiny — about the size of a matchbook. It charges through a micro-USB port and then can be used for up to ten hours. It has a range of up to about 35′ — we’ve never really tested the range since the cockpit (where we use the speaker most often) is only about 10 feet from the nav station where the MP3 player and transmitter are.

It also uses Bluetooth 4.0 — while the speaker is backwards compatible with 3.0, it does work best with 4.0.

There are cheaper Bluetooth transmitters, but after reading a large number of reviews, it seems that many of the cheaper ones had various sound quality problems or didn’t have the battery life that this one did or used some weird proprietary charging cords (we have a charging station with several USB ports and like electronics that can use the cords interchangeably). I decided it was worth the extra money and am very happy with it. What can I say? It just works.

The Bluetooth transmitter simply plugs into the headphone jack on any device — the MP3 player, the laptop, Dave’s tablet or even our phone. Turn it on and it automatically pairs with the speaker (there are directions with both the speaker and transmitter in case they don’t pair automatically but they did for us).

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Comments

  1. I was chasing power consumption issues on my sea ray 370. Disconnected the stereo and 800 watt amp completely and went to a Bluetooth speaker. Great solution and zero power consumption.

  2. so, what’s on the soundtrack?

    • We’ve got about 2500 tracks and since I’m too lazy to do much in the way of playlists (other than Christmas or Mexican fiesta), I tend to just put it on random or go by genre. Lots of classic rock, country, quiet jazz . . .

  3. This is what we use for tunes

  4. Bluetooth (BT) is a great convenience. There are some things to be aware of.

    BT operates in the Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) radio band along with a lot of other devices including those using WiFi, satellite communications, some remote controls, microwave ovens, and other equipment. That means there is the potential for interference. The more devices you have, and use, the greater the potential for interference.

    What does that mean to you? In my opinion that means BT is not a good choice for mission critical systems. For example, the BT option for SCS Pactor modems for e-mail over SSB may not be a good idea. Using a BT headset with your smart phone to communicate over an Iridium GO! may lead to interference. Consider the possible impact of heating soup or coffee in a microwave while downloading weather information.

    Convenience and entertainment functions like the BT speaker Carolyn writes about can really contribute to quality of life aboard. Depending on circumstances the prudent seaman should be aware of possible interference stemming from the technology we often nonchalantly bring aboard and act accordingly.

    On Auspicious the entire communications suite is hardwired and shielded to minimize interference. We have WiFi aboard that disseminates NMEA information to secondary displays. We use BT between laptops and a printer and between headsets and phones. We don’t happen to have a microwave but that is for space reasons, not radio interference concerns. If all the radio links fail we can still sail the boat and use our communications systems.

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