Tuesday 2 June 2015

New Gear Reviewsday Tuesday: Low-buck, Big Sound - Eton Rukus XL

     "It gives it's heat to everyone...."
                                  -The Police

   Our purchase of Karma  was a transaction of compromises:

   More room, but less gear.
   Bigger hull, but less power.
   Longer waterline, but more tender.
   Sink in the head, but no stereo.

   That was a problem.

    For SWMBO and I, tunes are an important part of our life aboard.
    An important part of our life, period.

   But, until we lived with our new summer home a while, I didn't want to start running cables and cutting holes for speakers, and bolting up a head unit.

    Last season, we made do with playing our ASUS Transformer netbook-housed music library linked all Bluetoothy with a Sony SRS-BTM8 speaker.

   It was ...okay.


   The upside was the portability- do you want sound in the cockpit or on the fordeck, or on the back porch?  No problem.  Pick up the speaker and move it wherever the tunes need to be.

   The connectivity was great.  The netbook could stay warm and dry below, and the signal would reach the speaker anywhere on deck.

   The sound quality was okay.  Not a ton of bass, but no distortion at full volume.

   Speaking of volume, while it had okay sound quality, the sound QUANTITY was sub-par. Down below, the speaker  filled the saloon with sound.  On deck...

...not so much.

   The battery life was meh.  it seemed like we were loading AAAs in every day or so.

So, as winter rolled reluctantly toward spring and the dawn of boating season, I was looking for alternatives.

  Alternative 1: I was toying with a Poly-Planar MRD system driving hardwired speakers in the cockpit and below.

  Alternative 2:  Sticking with a netbook driven mp3 library and player coupled to more robust wireless speakers.

   Alternative 3:.... uhm, I didn't get that far.

  Then I got a flyer from Radioworld.

  Browsing through the clearance section, I spy a Bluetooth speaker of some substance...  that is solar powered.
  It is SO solar powered, it can not only charge itself, but can also charge other USB devices.... while in use.

  So, I pointed, I clicked, I ordered, and 3 days later a box showed up on the doorstep of SJM.

  Ladies and gentlemen, I present the Eton Rukus XL:

                                                                   -all images in this post courtesy of etoncorp.com

It.  Is.  Awesome.


I'll get to that in a minute.

  First, I can hear your question, Faithful Reader: "Who the hell is Eton?"

 Well, Eton is an anomaly:   A distributor who essentially outlived and outthrived the manufacturer for whom they distributed.  Eton is an American company that started manufacturing shortwave radios back in 1986, but were primarily a distributor for famous German shortwave radio manufacturer Grundig. At the dawn of the 21st century, with Grundig sales flagging,  Eton began focusing on alternative energy products- in 2002 they introduced their first crank operated radio. By 2004, Grundig was bankrupt in Germany, but the name lived on in North America- Eton continued to manufacture Grundig branded products for the North American market.

  So, these guys kinda know their stuff.

Initial impressions of the Rukus XL

It is BIG.

At almost 15 inches wide and a little more than 8" tall, it dwarfs the Sony speaker.  Unfold the solar panel that folds down against the back of the speaker, and the height almost doubles.

It is HEAVY.

This unit weighs in at a hefty 7 lbs

To provide some scale, the Rukus XL is essentially the same size as a 5 pound bag of potatoes,  but almost 50% heavier.

It is, indeed, seriously XL.

It is also serious about sound.

There are 2 tweeters, 2 woofers, and 4 passive radiators, punching out 22 watts of sound.  this thing is just covered with cones:

In the center of the front face is a flip down panel, revealing a docking bay for most smart phones:

  Alas, our Samsung Galaxy Mega phablets are too  huge to fit this hideyhole.

   All switchgear is rubberized, the charging port /aux in port bay has a rubber flap cover, so there is some level of moderate weather resistance.  I wouldn't leave it out in a driving rainstorm, but

In the box is a 110 v wall wart (for charging on cloudly days or indoors) and a manual.

Operation is ridiculously simple.  Outdoors in sunlight, flip up the solar panel, turn  it on, pair with your Bluetooth enabled device, and play.  Indoors, plug in the AC adapter and play.

 The fully charged lithium battery will blast tunes for 8 hours or more.  That's not just over-optimistic marketing department bullshit- we have consistently run this speaker for 8 hours plus before recharging.

 The solar panel can fully charge the speaker in 5 hours or so of sunlight.  AC charging results in 100% battery in 2.5 hours.

The sound is FANTASTIC.  Great tone throughout the entire range.  My go-to soundcheck on new audio  is Stevie Ray Vaughan's rendition of "Little Wing."  so, I cued it up and worked the volume controls- no mud in the bottom, no buzz at the top, just crisp, clean, clear, solid sound.  If you need some extra bump in the bottom, there is a bass boost button.

The Bluetooth range is excellent- we have had the Rukus up to 50 feet from the sound source, with no connection drop.

The manufacturer's warranty is pretty typical- 1 year, parts and labour.

So, what about that "mostly" part?

Only one minor gripe- the ergonomics of the handle, and the proximity of the switchgear. Pick up the speaker to move it and, more often than not, your hand will brush the power button, shutting it down.

Retail on the rukus XL is $199.99,  just under the low-buck cap.  At full retail, considering the performance, it is a good deal.  Keep an eye open for specials, though- we got ours for $79.99 CDN. At that price, it is a SCREAMING good deal.

This is an ideal wireless sound solution.

Overall, 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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