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Friday
Dec212012

Hidden Radio Portable Bluetooth Speaker Review

Over the years, we have covered a few successful Kickstarter products funded and backed by you, the consumers. Some were as promising as we had hoped, while others let us down. Backing up a certain Kickstarter product doesn't necessarily mean you'll be glad you did at the end. Today, we're going to be taking a look at Hidden Radio. A Kickstarter product so successful, it gathered in nearly $1 million.

Hidden Radio is such an incredibly unique product, you would never have guessed it was born thanks to Kickstarter. What is it? Hidden Radio is a wireless Bluetooth portable speaker that's intuitively designed with simplicity in mind. Don't let the future-esque design fool you though, because as the name suggest, there's a hidden FM radio built right in. An FM radio! Who would have thought an FM radio would make the cut these days with services such as Spotify readily available.

The Hidden Radio's Apple-inspired design is a conversation starter, an unsuspecting object when closed. If you were to walk into someone's house noticing one, you would never have guessed what it was. It's an extremely nice piece of hardware in that it brings forth a refreshing new idea to the portable speaker realm. Hidden's Hidden Radio looks a lot like a metallic Diglett Pokemon, or a big spray can cap. Whichever description suits your fancy. The large cap design concept definitely stands out in a big way no matter where you place it. But at the same time, the Hidden Radio is arguably not a very attractive Bluetooth speaker. If you don't think so now, you'd come to that conclusion after you've spent some quality time with it.

One of these will set you back $150, and you can pick from three different colors including metallic silver, graphite black and glossy white. Contrary to the metallic metal-like materials, the Hidden Radio is entirely constructed out of plastic which is painted in metallic finishes that make it look as if it were one of Apple's staple matte aluminum made products. Sadly it is not made out of aluminum, and the plastic build quality is immediately apparent when holding the unit. For the $150 price tag, I'd expect some bits of aluminum in the construction. Hidden designed this speaker after Apple's design characteristics after all.

The clever bit, the part that supposedly would make you want to buy it...is Hidden Radio's unique twisting body. Like Hidden claims, the Hidden Radio is an intuitive speaker to use. Twist it one way, and it'll slowly open up to reveal the interior speakers which are delicately wrapped around with a good looking perforated metal grille; whilst it also automatically turns itself on and pairs up with your Bluetooth device. Doing the opposite will not only turn off the unit completely keeping the internal hardware protected for travel, but you can also adjust the on-board volume as you twist the body of the cap downwards little by little.

Sticky rubber underlining at the base ensures that the speaker itself will remain static when you twist the cap. However, it quickly becomes useless after a few uses and fails to keep that out-of-the-box traction.

As much as I like the unique "money-making" idea implemented here, it also brings with it an obvious complication anyone with the slightest amount of common sense would instantly figure out. The more you twist the cap to lower the volume, the more muffled the sound will get. Adjusting the volume is like slowly putting a bucket over a speaker. Not the ideal method of lowering the volume, and the Hidden Radio doesn't perform well in that regard I'm afraid.

As a portable speaker, the Hidden Radio's bulging design means it would have more trouble fitting into small spaces without looking awkward. Whereas other portable speakers utilize less space by spreading their form factor lengthwise as any stereo speaker should. However, there's more to the Hidden Radio's rounded cap design that meets the eye. The rounded design enables the Hidden Radio's omni-directional speaker setup to fire audio in a 360-degree angle. So no matter where you are, the sound will equally disturbed around which is pretty great if it weren't for the mediocre audio quality.

Audio quality isn't strong with this one. In fact, it's downright disappointing. I'm sorry to say, but JBL's $100 Flip completely obliterates the Hidden Radio speaker when you consider sound quality and volume-to-size performance. There's simply no competition between the two. As a complete package, the Flip is the clear winner as a portable Bluetooth speaker by light years, unfortunately for Hidden Radio. End of story.

The Flip isn't the only portable speaker of its size that could easily beat what Hidden Radio has to offer. Even Logitech's little $100 UE Boombox eats the Hidden Radio for breakfast. How bad is the damage you ask? Mids sound recessed and the highs have a tinny sounding signature. And the Hidden Radio cannot get loud enough without badly distorting at high volumes. Which is to say not loud or high at all considering the enormous amounts of audio power that a speaker such as the Flip is capable of producing.

The Hidden Radio speaker features a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts for up to 15 hours depending on how loud you play your music or movies. And speaking of movies, the're no lag in audio when streaming audio over the Bluetooth connection. Underneath the speaker are two hidden inputs, a micro-USB charging port and a 3.5mm auxiliary audio input for use with non-Bluetooth devices. It also doubles as the unit's antenna input which we will get into a bit later. It's also worth noting that there's no speakerphone functionality despite early claims for speakerphone functionality when the speaker was offered on Kickstarter.

The bottom also features backwards and forwards FM station skip/scan buttons and a switch that lets you toggle between the default Bluetooth mode, wired mode and the FM radio. While Hidden's attempt to neatly hide any ports and buttons out of sight can be appreciated, the deeply recessed crevice makes it difficult to plug and unplug connections. Not to mention the bottom facing FM radio buttons and mode switch add a level of tackiness to the whole design which only gets worse from here.

As much as the guys behind the Hidden Radio were thinking forward, they decided to cram an FM radio into this wireless speaker of all features. At this day and age, it should be considered a crime. You'd think there would be some smart way of utilizing a built-in WiFi antenna to grab quality radio from a WiFi network as a much easier and cleaner method than having to plug in a long antenna cable.

The radio function seems completely primitive and out of touch that it's ridiculous. Not to mention it doesn't work as it should. I could not find a single working FM station no matter how hard I tried. The automatic station scanner couldn't find one either, and all I could hear was white noise. Using the radio feature relies on utter blindness as there is no station frequency indicator just two sad buttons underneath the speaker of all places. What ever happened to touch sensitive controls?

If we were let down by the Hidden Radio's promising future when we first reported of it back when it was a Kickstarter project waiting to be funded, we can't imagine how disappointed those individuals are who pre-ordered a unit and waited months for it, only to be presented with an ill-conceived portable speaker. And because sound quality is what matters most, we strongly advise you to look elsewhere. For starters, you can keep on browsing our Gadget Hub for that special portable speaker. Or, you can do yourself a quick favor and grab a Flip.

Hiddenradiodesign.com

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