10/26/2013 04:07 pm ET Updated Dec 26, 2013

iLuv MobiAria Review

Bluetooth speakers have been getting cuter and cuter for the last several years, with bricks, cubes, sphere and even turtle-like form factors. But if it's evening, it might be time for a more refined look and sound. Let's ditch casual attire and check out the iLuv MobiAria, whose name is a bit confusing since it's neither mobile nor quite up to the demands of an aria. It is, however, an elegant sleek black plastic unit. Most of the other speakers reviewed in my Bluetooth speaker roundup are all compact, portable, battery-operated  units; not so the MobiAria, which sports an 8" x 13" front face and plugs into the wall. The controls are all soft-touch regions on the top of the unit, with no indentations or mechanical mechanism; again, classy. The unit would be at home in an adult living room.
Those controls include track-skip as well as volume control and play pause; there's an aux in; and there's also a USB charging port output to keep your phone juiced up as it beams music to the speaker. Unique among speakers I reviewed, the iLuv includes NFC tap-and-pair / tap-and-connect. Pairing and connecting work well, but disconnecting doesn't always. When I disconnected my phone from the MobiAria and attempted to connect to another speaker, I found myself disconnected from the MobiAria but unable to connect to the other speaker. I had to shut off Bluetooth on the phone altogether, then re-enable it, in order to connect to the other speaker. Meanwhile, the MobiAria, which has voice response, kept surreally repeating in an insistent British female voice, "Your phone is connected."
As befits its likely target market, the iLuv is less bassy than most Bluetooth speakers, and offers nice mids and reasonably good highs, with little to no distortion even at maximum volume. It's not the most crisp speaker in the world, but it's not bad either. Part of what you're paying for is the convenience of NFC, which is great when it works.
For more Bluetooth speakers, check out my Bluetooth speaker roundup. For other reviews (especially of devices for mobile, click here.
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided product for this review.