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Experimental Review: Soundcast VG5 Bluetooth Speaker

By Christopher Coke on April 10, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Experimental Review: Soundcast VG5 Bluetooth Speaker

Way back in December, Soundcast reached out to us to see if we would be consider their VG5 portable bluetooth speaker for a tech round-up. We’re not a site for party speakers but it got my mind working. If all you have is a headset, could you use something like a party speaker for your PC? Consider this an experimental review and join us as we explore just how useful the Soundcast VG5 can be.


Specifications

  • Current Pricing: $329.99
  • PREMIUM DRIVERS
    • One 6" long-throw woofer in a downward-firing configuration with high efficiency BL ferrite motor design for increased battery life and high-performance IMPP cone with butyl rubber surround
    • Two 3" full-range drivers in a stereo 360º array with high SPL Neodymium motor design, aluminum cones and butyl rubber surrounds
  • TECHNOLOGY
    • Built-in Bluetooth 4.2 technology with 8 memory slots
    • Qualcomm® TrueWireless™ Stereo (TWS) Circuitry
    • Bluetooth hi-def AAC and aptX™ codecs
    • Proprietary 24-bit DSP
    • Auto-muting
  • INTERFACE
    • Backlit multi-modal capacitive touch keypad
    • Play/Pause for Bluetooth sources
    • Volume control via tap or capacitive touch-wheel
    • Power, mute, Bluetooth & TWS buttons
    • Fuel-gauge LED array shows power, battery & volume
  • INTERFACE
    • Backlit multi-modal capacitive touch keypad
    • Play/Pause for Bluetooth sources
    • Volume control via tap or capacitive touch-wheel
    • Power, mute, Bluetooth & TWS buttons
    • Fuel-gauge LED array shows power, battery & volume
  • BATTERY
    • Rechargeable internal battery with AC power supply
    • Play audio via battery or while plugged into USB power
  • AMPLIFIERS
    • Bi-Amp - 50W + 10 RMS, Class-D
  • WEIGHT & DIMENSIONS
    • 17" x 7.75" x 7.75"
    • Unit weight: 11.7lbs
  • CONNECTIONS
    • Aux input 1/8" (3.5mm mini jack) AC/DC power input
  • SERVICE
    • Bluetooth Hi-Def AAC  & aptX codecs


Image Credit: Aspiring Gentleman

So right off the bat, let’s be clear that this isn’t an article suggesting you should buy the VG5 for a computer sound system. For the price, you could get something much better that’s made for PC sound. Instead, as I considered whether to accept the review opportunity, I thought of high schooler and college student. In a lot of ways, I had to make things work. Maybe you can relate. I didn’t have the best of pretty much anything, my PC least of all, I found myself coming up with solutions.

Then I thought about how often we as gamers rely on headsets. Do many of us use speakers for gaming any more? But what if you wanted to; what if instead of playing a game, you wanted to crank some music while cleaning the house or working on an essay? Would something like this even work? I’d try it - definitely before going out and buying a sound system for my PC that I’d use once in a blue moon. What I would use more often for is just as a great bluetooth speaker and that’s what I’d buy the VG5 for.

What I’ve found with the VG5, the real benefit to it, is just how versatile it is. You can use it as intended, as a party speaker, or put it in the corner of a room to play music for your family, or connect it to a TV to vastly trump the built in audio, or, yes, connect it to your PC for literal floor shaking sound. All bluetooth speakers worth their salt are versatile in the same way, of course. You connect it to an audio source and it plays, but the VG5 in particular has a few tricks up its sleeve.

The first is that, compared to other bluetooth speakers I’ve used, this thing gets loud. Like, room filling loud. Compared to my Ulimate Ears Megablast ($249), it’s leaps and bounds better. There are times that I just want my house to be filled with music. Maybe I’m playing with the kids and we’re having a dance party. Or, like I said, maybe it’s just time for Spring Cleaning and I want a soundtrack. This speaker does that. It doesn’t feature an AM/FM tuner or disc driver, so I wouldn’t call it a stereo replacement but it comes awful close.

Since it’s bluetooth with a 10-hours-ish battery life I can take it anywhere. It’s a bit heavy at 12 pounds but since it’s only 17-inches tall, it’s fairly easy to find a place for just about anywhere. What’s nice is that Soundcast also includes an extra rechargeable battery, so you have minimal downtime if you run out the first, and an AC adapter that allows you to use it while charging. For my use case, I leave it plugged in most of the time. It’s nice to be able to pick it up and take it with me anytime I want to, though, especially now that the weather is getting nicer.


The VG5 has been my main sound solution in my classroom for PC audio

Most of the time, I’ll either have it under my desk at home or with me at work to replace the shotty speakers in my smart board. I’m a teacher and having a nice speaker has been such a breath of fresh air when I’m using the board for demonstrations or if I want to show the kids a video.

For gaming, it works phenomenally. The built-in six-inch subwoofer fires downward, so you can feel the vibration from big explosions or orchestral swells in soundtracks in your feet. I wouldn’t use it for competitive games where positional audio is important; the speakers are too close together and aren’t really tuned for that. If you’re playing an MMO or RPG or even a single-player shooter, however, you’ll get by very well. It’s the rare time I get to use a setup like this. Headphones are my go-to since I always have family nearby but on the days when I get the house to myself, it’s nice to be able to fill my office with sound. It honestly feels a bit cinematic thanks to all that bass.

This is the second Soundcast product I’ve looked at and I’ve been impressed with the construction and design of both. They’re a forward thinking company, so you see that in the rugged build made for outdoor use, but also in near features like the capacitive touch interface on the top. Likewise, user friendly features like NFC pairing or TWS support to pair with a second speaker are good, value-add features.

But, the fact is, in this round of experimentation, I’m forcing the speaker into situations it wasn’t designed for and came into at least one serious limitation: no onboard EQ. The VG5 is made to, ahem, get this party started! - and is tuned very bass heavy. The mids and highs are tuned down. If you’re using something like a phone or PC, you can use a different EQ, but for using it with movies dialogue just doesn’t sound that great. I don’t blame the VG5 for this. It’s tuned well for what it’s made for but if you’re like me and looking for something you can use whenever and wherever you need a good speaker, this is something to be aware of.

I also wish it had some kind of smart-assistant functionality. As it stands, it’s a speaker and no more. If you’re hoping to take Alexa with you on the go, for example, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

The Soundcast VG5 might seem expensive but compared to other major name bluetooth speakers, it’s pricey but not outlandish. It’s a lot closer to something like the JBL Boombox than the Ultimate Ears Megaboom. For the money, you’re getting something that’s very versatile and delivers really good, room filling sound. A single speaker is more than enough to power a backyard party, for example. Don’t buy it as a PC gaming solution. Buy it because you can also use it as a PC gaming solution and you’ll find a lot of utility out of this guy - just be prepared to tweak the EQ if you’re not super into bass.

The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

Christopher Coke / Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight