Boom...boom...boom...it's the: Parrot Boombox

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A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) is the latest buzzword in the portable music industry. Why do you care? Because your mobile device (especially if it’s a Windows Mobile device) probably has it built in. And if it does, that means that after hitting the "Read More" link, you are about to learn about an entire new world of wireless music.

Boombox Main

Mobile phones are truly the ideal device for playing music- they are with you anyway, are small, and have wireless data access (you’ll see why that’s important in a bit). There is one issue, however- the lack of high quality speakers/headphone jacks/line out jacks on phones. If you have ever had to play around with endless 2.5mm>3.5mm converters, you feel my pain. Nokia has attempted to address this on their pricey S60 multimedia line (the N-Series) by including 3.5mm jacks, but for some odd reason neglected to ship the N-Series with A2DP support (sigh).
Plus, with Sprint and Verizon (and possible another major carrier soon) opening up OTA (Over the Air) download stores where we can purchase instant, on-demand music tracks and d/l them directly to our handsets, you may begin to see the value of music on our phones. Factor in the removable memory phenomenon allowing vast repositories of MP3 libraries to reside on them, plus subsequent hot swapping of said cards, it was only a question of time before the last piece of the puzzle was going to be put into place by manufacturers.

Now, it has.

Bluetooth A2DP allows the streaming of your music to a wireless Bluetooth speaker/set of headphones, provided the speaker/headphones also have A2DP support. It’s easy to use, requires no wires, and sounds great (in most cases). The idea is to allow free, no hassle interaction between a multitude of devices and locations. The car, train, gym, workplace, and home all become ideal environments for listening to music.

Launched at CTIA, Parrot’s new Bluetooth Boombox is a great way to listen to your music at home, and after using it for a bit, I love it. Being an aesthetics fan, I found the Boombox a beautifully designed block of black, with sleek lines and curved corners that fits right in most any room an the house.
Boombox Room
A magnetic speaker grille cover that comes on and off with a flick enhances the aura. In a conversation I recently had with someone in the industry, he described Parrot as the “Apple of Bluetoothâ€. When he said this, I thought of the Boombox, and I’m inclined to agree too.

Boombox Grille

Usage is simple; perhaps too much so- there aren’t all that many options. Incorporating just three buttons onto the top of the box, they are: Pairing initiation, Volume up, Volume down. There is also a small blue/red light that flashes blue when in pairing mode, and remains a steady blue otherwise. On the back of the unit, you’ll find a power switch under the power line cable, and should you happen to not have an A2DP compatible device, two RCA audio inputs. You also get a Y cinch cable that gives you a 3.5mm plug from the RCA jacks to plug in any music player, but that pretty much defeats the entire Bluetooth/wireless concept. Power is required, and there are no internal batteries, so you’ve got to be plugged in a wall outlet. I’m no audiophile, but my more aurally capable friends tell me that the quality is above par, although nowhere near the higher end systems. Specs are listed at 2.1 channels, a 60W speaker, and its frequency range is 50Hz – 20Hz. Also, it has a built in MP3 and SBC decoder. Should you need higher audio quality, Parrot also sells a Hi-Fi dual Bluetooth speaker system on their site, although it’s pricey at $449.

The pairing went smoothly with the ANYCOM BlueNa (stay tuned for a post on that) adapter on my iPod Nano, as well as with the Parrot Bluetooth USB adapter. Music played without a hitch after the initial connection, but bugged out after several sessions on the iPod. I attributed this problem to the BlueNa, and simply re-paired the units. The HTC S710 streamed music just fine, as did the Cingular 3125 and the HTC Atlas. Parrot also sent along a BT 2.0 USB adapter, which allowed me to stream my music directly from my PC collection- again, all was well with the PC side. The CD it ships with comes with two programs. One, the “Parrot Flash Update Wizard†is a surprisingly easy to use wizard that downloads a new firmware from Parrot’s site and flashes the Boombox. I did this, not expecting any updated images, but there was (2.02) and the flashing went perfectly (truth be told, though, I’m still trying to figure out why this is needed on such a simple device- but hey, you never know what bugs will appear after shipping, right?). The second program is the “Parrot Audio Configuration Toolâ€. This is a slightly confusing application, and I couldn’t see what it added except for allowing me to delete paired device relationships from the Boombox.

You can pair with many devices, but only one connection at a time is allowed. In order to establish a connection, I found that I needed to disconnect the active connection. Range is decent, dropping out at about 20 feet on the Herald.

My only (minor) problem with the Boombox was the lack of remote volume control on certain devices- having to get up and physically adjust the volume buttons is very ‘80’s-ish. I would’ve appreciated either a second remote for just that purpose, but truthfully, the only device whose built in volume control didn’t control the master volume was the iPod with the BlueNa…go figure.

I should mention one more thing that has me scratching my head, although it isn’t an issue per se. The PR datasheet I received lists the device as having Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR (Enhanced Data Rates) and the A2DP and AVRCP (Audio Video Remote Control Profile). Parrot’s product documentation also makes obscure references to this as well, but I can’t figure out how to do it for the life of me. Apparently, you are supposed to be able to control the music (back, forward) with the volume keys, but the only feature I was able to access by holding down the volume down key was mute.

Conclusion and Availability:
All told, I am delighted by the Boombox. It has earned a place in my room, and it gets exercised every day along with me. It looks good and works well- what more could I ask for…?

Unfortunately, you’ll need to wait until Q3 for the Boombox to hit the shelves. Pricing is a bit steep at $299, but street price may end up being a little lower if you can afford to wait around. It can be purchased online at the Parrot store here (link: http://www.parrotshopping.com/us/p_parrot_home.aspx).

Bottom Line Score: (Out of 10)
For the average user: useful, elegant, and easy to use- 8.2.

Disclaimer: Many of the units/applications I review are sent to me at no charge. Sometimes I keep these, and sometimes they are loaner unit/trial applications. Whatever the case, I do my level best to remain impartial; however, we are all only human- me included:).

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