A few weeks ago I was contacted by the people behind this speaker requesting I review the RockDoc Bluetooth speaker endorsed by Pitbull. When I got the email I nearly laughed out loud at my desk. Someone asking me to review a speaker by Pitbull, the rapper? I love rap music, more than most people would probably understand or believe, and I even like a few songs he is featured on but he’s never made my list of rappers I love.
Luckily for him, me, the RockDoc marketing team and VisionTek (the people that actually make it) the RockDoc Bluetooth is something I actually really do like to listen to. No one was more surprised than me. It isn’t a perfect speaker but at less than $60 on Amazon, the VisionTek RockDoc Bluetooth speaker over performs. At the end of the review I have links for a 15% discount as well as a way you can win one of these!
The RockDoc comes in three flavors and lots of colors. A hardwired/MP3 player version with a single drive, a dual speaker upgraded version of that and finally a Bluetooth dual speaker version. This is a review of the Bluetooth, dual speaker RockDoc.
My RockDoc Bluetooth arrived to my office a week or so after they first contacted me. Upon initial inspection I was pleasantly surprised at the build quality, looks and overall feel in my hands. This thing is solid, it is small and it looks great. The metal switches and buttons click and slide with authority and it has something most speakers don’t, a removable and replaceable, rechargeable battery.
Before I get into the nitty gritty let’s cover what they claim, the specs and then we’ll get into my thoughts both good and bad.
Endorsed by rapper/songwriter Pitbull, the super high-powered RockDoc® BLUETOOTH is a 4GB (64GB expandable) standalone MP3 player that also serves as a high-quality wireless speaker for any Bluetooth-enabled device..the RockDoc® BLUETOOTH is equipped to provide superior clarity, volume, and range…features two-way speakers and comes with a rechargeable Li-ion battery… for hours of on-the-go operation.
- Dimensions: 2.95″ x 1.97″ x 2.08″
- Features two-way Speakers
- Bluetooth: Wireless connection to any portable BT device
- Micro SD memory expansion slot takes up to 64GB card
- Includes: Audio Cable, USB Cable and Instructions
- Frequency Response: 150-18000HZ(±3dB)
- Output: RMS 6W(3W+3W) THD=10%
- Loud Speaker: 1.77 in magnetic resistant 4 Ohms
- Rechargeable Lithium Ion Battery
- Power Supply: 5V/1000mA, AC power adapter
- 1 Year Warranty
When I first read that I thought, wait it’s an MP3 player too and it comes with 4GB of space via a Micro SD card? That’s kind of weird to me but I suppose I can see a use case. The specs are impressive in that they are unremarkable. Most companies will tout a frequency response of 20-20kHz and measure their watts to PMPO (Peak Maximum Power Output) which is ridiculous. That VisionTek limited this to 150-18kHz is a welcome change. But I suppose I should expect that from a company like VisionTek, well known for their ATI/AMD 3D graphics cards.
One gripe, there is no power supply in the box. Not sure what that’s about.
I honestly don’t know how they’d have fit the power supply into the packaging. Depending on where you’re reading, it also includes a car adapter. It doesn’t really matter to be honest since it charges via USB and they include a cable for it, though any micro USB cable works. They don’t state anywhere how long the battery lasts but in my experience you can get several hours of Bluetooth streaming from a single charge. It’s run out on me a few times but it was after playing it off and on for a couple of days.
Moving from left to right we see one of the two 1.77″ aluminum drivers with rubber surrounds. Smart move and an improvement on the materials used in a speaker like the BoomBotix BB1/BB2 which, if you remember, feature paper-cone drivers.
The buttons and switches are metal and feel great. I do have an issue with their placement and use. Here’s how they go and followed by they should work.
- Mode – Play/Pause – Volume – Reverse/Volume Down – Forward/Volume Up.
- Volume Up – Volume Down – Reverse – Play/Pause – Forward
See, on the other side of the device is a Micro SD/TF slot, Micro USB power/audio input, headphone output (more on that later) and a power off/on switch. That power switch should instead be a three way Power Off – On – Bluetooth switch. Things should be intuitive and how the volume and play controls are right now isn’t intuitive.
Those annoyances aside, everything feels great, from the rubber feet on the bottom of the device (holding in the battery) to the clicky buttons and switch, this is a surprisingly well-built speaker. Switch the speaker on, tap Mode once and you’re ready to pair over Bluetooth. This was totally painless and really just worked out of the box. I could go without all the bloops it makes to confirm the Bluetooth connection. If only AirPlay wasn’t so expensive to license, I did hate having to un-pair the RockDoc to switch between my Bluetooth devices.
I only once plugged the speaker into an audio source, instead opting for Bluetooth. Connection quality on my iPhone 4S was stellar. I was even able to walk downstairs with my phone leaving the RockDoc upstairs without losing connection. I noticed that as the battery got low, so did the maximum distance for Bluetooth. Also, if I did the “Grip of Death” on my phone the Bluetooth connection would drop off. That’s not a RockDoc problem as much as the iPhone.
Another problem I encountered with Bluetooth was a bizarre pitch shifting that occurred off and on. Audio would slow and drop lower followed by speeding up and getting higher pitched. Again I think this is an iPhone issue as this happened with the BoomBotix BB2 in my tests as well.
Michael and I did a head to head with the BoomBotix BB2, the closest competitor I had on hand, and we both agreed that while the BB2 can get louder, the RockDoc sounds better at any volume, pre-distortion. Remarkably better really. Wonder what the BoomBotix Rex sounds like (rumor has it I’ll have one to test soon!).
I am traveling right now and don’t have all my usual testing tools and room but I didn’t want to leave you guys hanging. Above you can see the frequency response charge of the RockDoc. I did two tests, one with it in an open room and one with it tucked in a corner, which is typically the best way to work with one of these speakers. This is especially useful for a speaker like this since the speakers shoot out the sides, horrible for stereo imaging.
You’ll also notice lots of lines. Since I didn’t have access to an entirely silent room I had to make some adjustments to the graph. Follow the Red and Purple lines for the much more accurate results. Overall it’s a pretty impressive graph considering how freaking tiny this speaker is. Bass doesn’t really start until 70Hz and not at a volume that is all that impressive but once it hits around 100Hz things really pick up.
I also took into consideration to test just the frequency response RockDoc states in their stats. From there you can see that it the RockDoc has a relatively flat response. It would appear in the earlier graph that it was all over the place but that’s just because I’m measuring in octaves and not adjusting for the actual distance between frequencies.
So while this speaker will never blow the house down, it gets pretty darn loud and manages to keep distortion as a minimum. I really expected this thing to blow in the worst of ways but it actually sounds pretty darn good.
Yeah, get it loud and it will distort. Play complex tracks like full orchestra and pipe organ and it will falter for sure. Some piano music and female voices crackled and most bass lines in songs like Stay by Rihanna never make an appearance. Again though, we’re working with two 1.77″ speakers at 6 watts. We have to be forgiving. (See people who say I’m too hard on these things, I do to have a heart!)
Since this is both a Bluetooth and wired speaker, the volume controls on the speaker refer to the internal amplifier output, not the levels from your phone. This can get a little confusing when changing volume as I’ve had to make changes on both my phone and the speaker at times to get the right output.
Also there is nothing on the speaker that tells the current volume level. Well except that towards full power the speaker has an unmistakable hiss and whine. This annoying whine is unnoticeable when you’re playing music, especially at such high volumes. The playback buttons work as you’d expect when connected by Bluetooth or through the internal MP3 player.
Remember that headphone output I talked about earlier? I originally thought it was an improperly labeled line input. Turns out the line input comes through through the USB + 1/8″ jack cable (really guys?). That headphone jack really is a headphone. I gave it a go and it doesn’t sound half bad. I don’t exactly know why you’d want to use the headphone jack unless there’s some way down the line to daisy-chain RockDocs together like you can do with the BoomBotix speakers.
I’ve demonstrated the RockDoc to a handful of people and the general response has been from good to great. A few people have asked me if they could have it when I was done with my review (no) and others have asked how much it costs (most guessed around $75-100). Everyone was impressed with how much sound came from such a small speaker.
As I said earlier, I’m traveling right now and having a speaker like this has spoiled me. The BoomBotix BB2 and BB1 I’ve had for over a year are great but they don’t look professional or elegant and they don’t sound quite as nice as the RockDoc. This is a speaker I would be happy to pull out during a presentation when I needed a little more volume, when I want to listen to music in the shower and to play jazz during a dinner I’m hosting. I did all three of these and it’s been a charming little device.
Comparing it to the great sounding Jawbone Jambox isn’t fair. That speaker is nearly four times the cost and at least twice the size of the RockDoc. The closest thing to competition to this speaker I can think of right now is the Logitech UE Mobile Boombox. I need to do a head to head but at $100, memory tells me the Logitech doesn’t sound twice as good as the RockDoc. Worth noting, the Jambox and Logitech UE Mobile Boombox also include a microphone making them compatible as a speakerphone for your Bluetooth-enabled phone. If only the RockDoc had that feature!
Bottom line. If you have $55 to spend and need a good sounding, incredibly portable and feature-rich MP3 Player/Bluetooth speaker, do yourself a favor and check out the RockDoc. If you need a microphone check out the Logitech UE Mobile Boombox.
Until June 15th at midnight there is a contest where you can win one of these guys and even win VIP tickets to see Pitbull in concert. Ahh, the Pitbull hook finally makes it back into the game! I knew they’d find a way.
|Good sound quality||Distorts at loud volumes|
|Beautiful, minuscule design||Almost no bass to speak of|
|Top notch build quality||Button orientation is silly|
|Features galore||No microphone for a speakerphone use case|
|Price||High pitch whine at high volumes|
So there you go. A review of a $55 speaker and I managed to keep it under 1,800 words. Wait, is that really an accomplishment? I sometimes think I take these things far too seriously. (Ok, after all of my edits, we’ve managed to hit 2,000 words. Clearly my work here is done.)