Soundcast VG7 Outdoor Wireless Speaker Review Page 2

It didn’t take long for the big speaker’s authoritative and surprisingly sophisticated voice to pull me in. I was inadvertently using the speaker’s Indoor EQ mode (having not yet bothered to read the instruction sheet), but there was still no question that the bass was unusually present for a single, battery-powered, portable speaker, especially one positioned outdoors at that distance with the closest and only wall boundary being the back of the house some 5 feet behind me. The VG7 wasn’t shaking the earth, but it could certainly kick, and it exhibited a noticeable but gentle upper bass contouring that made it sound satisfyingly full and added definition to bass lines without being boomy. Midrange vocals were clear and well enunciated without undue sibilance, and details in the highs were well delineated, to the point that the character of the metallic shimmer on cymbals was easily discerned—but without the hyper-etched dimensionality attendant to some designs. When Earl Klugh’s “Tropical Legs” came on, the opening bass drum thwacks and funk-infused electric bass line provided a solid and tuneful groove, and the crisp delicacy of Klugh’s guitar-plucking and clarity of the cymbal crashes and percussion raised my eyebrows. And all this from a Pandora stream that was likely no greater than 192 kilobits per second. It was time to roll out the good stuff.

I switched over to my Macbook Pro laptop as the wireless signal source and confirmed from the computer’s Bluetooth menu that it properly defaulted to the preferred, enhanced-quality aptX connection. This gave me access to my full iTunes library with lossless 44.1-kilohertz/16-bit CD rips as well as Tidal’s CD-quality streaming service, essentially delivering aptX’s “near CD quality” signal to the speaker. I started with a few known go-to tracks, among them Dave Brubeck’s classic “Take Five,” which exhibited the same impressive, shimmering cymbal work that further demonstrated a nicely laid-back high end that didn’t leap from the speaker but retained the ability to deliver detail and natural timbre.


Likewise, a favorite pop test track, Amanda Marshall’s “The Gypsy,” was reproduced with striking fidelity that tickled my inner audiophile, bringing out the purity and power of Marshall’s voice and revealing all the background guitar work and vocal overdubbing I hear in the busy mix on my reference system. Notably, this well-recorded song (as previously described in some earlier reviews) begins with a 30-second, close-miked violin solo that hits a long, sustained high note about halfway in. On a good, neutral speaker, it sounds deliciously detailed and soul-satisfying, revealing the subtle vibrations that are so unique to bow on string but are often smoothed over on mediocre systems. On the other hand, any unnatural boosting of the upper midrange or highs on this note will sound edgy enough to send you scurrying for the volume control.

The VG7 passed the test with its rich, palatable, and almost silky rendering.Interestingly, a little later I turned up the volume on both my Mac and the speaker to near full and used the same track to check the VG7’s dynamic capabilities. It was then that a low bass note (probably electronic) that strikes hard and deep from the silence following the violin intro gave the VG7 its one and only apoplectic fit of my audition, causing it to instantly shut down. Uh, oh. Fortunately, it was just an unapologetic act of selfprotection, and a simple push on the power button brought the VG7 right back up. Short of handing it this kind of unpleasant surprise, the speaker never otherwise faltered—not even a Bluetooth dropout—and it always demonstrated powerful and impressive dynamic capabilities, playing loud and louder to any reasonable volume I asked it to.


To that end, this being perhaps the epitome of the “party speaker,” and with me still reminiscing warmly about my recent attendance at the 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in New York, I dialed up a Tidal stream of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”—a song co-written, co-performed, and produced by this year’s Musical Excellence Award inductee Nile Rodgers. Using this for SPL tests out on the patio from a paced-off distance of 10 feet, I measured very healthy maximum peaks of 92 dB on some of the vocals in the Outdoor mode. And the VG7 performed the same whether it was running on battery power or with its power adapter/charger plugged in. (A duplicate indoor test in my basement studio space yielded essentially the same results, with the speaker gaining about a decibel more in each mode.) At one point, I cranked the speaker up and walked to the back of my deep yard, about 85 feet away. The VG7 had no trouble filling the entire space with clear, undistorted music that seemed to lose little or none of its midrange vocal detail and sounded perhaps only a touch more subdued in the highs from that distance. Thanks (I suppose) to its DSP, the VG7, once playing, arrived gracefully at its volume limits without audible harshness or amplifier clipping.

I spent extended time experimenting, both inside and outside, with the Indoor and Outdoor listening modes. Descending bass tone sweeps in Indoor mode suggested some concentrated extra output somewhere around 80 Hz (which no doubt accounted for the speaker’s obvious low-end fullness), with meaningful output down to about 60 Hz before it began dropping off, though with still clearly audible energy at 50 Hz. This is more or less in line with the VG7’s rated specifications. Outdoor mode added a quite noticeable bass boost between 80 and 200 Hz, which Soundcast said was about a 5-dB goosing designed to account for the lack of room boundary reinforcement when the speaker gets used outside. According to the test tones, it also took the usable bass output down another 10 Hz or so; there was substantially louder output at 50 Hz and some bass still detectable from 40-Hz and 35-Hz tones. (See Test Bench for our quasi-anechoic measurements.)


If utilized indoors, the Outdoor mode added a noticeable touch of extra warmth and unwelcome huskiness to some male voices; a mellifluous James Taylor singing “Line ’Em Up,” for example, crossed into the realm of syrupy and exhibited magnified sibilance that doesn’t usually call itself out on this track. But applied judiciously in my studio, this mode did give many tracks useful extra bass without ever overloading the room. “Get Lucky,” for instance, didn’t quite come alive indoors until I hit the Outdoor button. In keeping with the 2017 Rock Hall inductee theme, I cued up Yes’s “Long Distance Runaround.” Despite the lack of stereo separation, the interplay between Steve Howe’s opening guitar licks in the left channel and Rick Wakeman’s electric piano in the right was easily followed, and when Chris Squire’s ascending and repeating bass line kicks in with the, what a happy and beautifully controlled chaos. The Outdoor mode was required listening for this track as well and did nothing to hurt Jon Anderson’s high-pitched vocal. Similarly, inductee Tupac Shakur’s “Brenda’s Got a Baby” wasn’t really the same without the added richness of the Outdoor mode’s extra bass energy running undercurrent to 2Pac’s heartbreaking lyric. Bottom line: Even indoors in my wide-open studio, I left the Outdoor mode turned on most of the time. Your results may vary depending on your room.

I mentioned the lack of stereo separation, which leads to perhaps my only minor nit to pick with the VG7’s sonic performance. Of course, you can’t rightly expect much imaging from a pair of left/right full-range drivers that are maybe 6 inches apart, even when they’re both angled outward and slightly upward as they are here. But given the VG7’s otherwise superlative sound quality, I sometimes yearned to hear a taller and more dimensional soundstage coming from it, and perhaps deeper projection into the room of the vocalists and instruments. Of course, Soundcast’s suggestion would be to buy a second VG7 and use the TrueWireless feature to create a stereo pair, something I was unable to try due to the availability of only one early sample. According to Soundcast president and CEO Oscar Ciornei, with two units thus mated and separated by a distance of at least 10 feet, the resulting wide, tall, and deep soundstage makes for an adrenaline-rush audiophile experience. Fair enough—I don’t doubt it.


That said, I did eventually realize that, with a single speaker at a distance of 8 to 10 feet, the angled drivers were firing toward a point below my sitting ear level. A quick squat suggested there may be some benefit to propping up the front-firing face to cant the speaker back a touch, and sure enough, a couple of inches of height added with a small roll of bubble wrap under the front edge made a noticeable improvement in the height and projection of the image. Centered vocals were particularly benefitted, such as Lady Gaga singing standards with Tony Bennett on Cheek to Cheek. In the second verse of “I Won’t Dance,” where she sings, “And so what? I’mmm lovely, but...ohhh...what’d you do to meeeeee,” the tonal purity and smoothness of her sustained phrasing combined with that extra touch of solidity and height to give me goose bumps. That’s good stuff. Of course, propping the forward face sends the output of the rear-facing drivers careening into the ground, defeating the space-filling 360degree getting a second VG7 is clearly the best solution of all. Still, the Soundcast folks might want to experiment with a steeper driver angle for future generations to add a touch more dimensionality to nearer-field listening.


There’s no question that a portable Bluetooth speaker costing $800 has to meet some high standards to justify its price. I’ll say here with conviction that the Soundcast VG7 gives back in performance and pride of ownership what it asks from your wallet. Its superior build quality is evident from the first moment you lay hands on it, and its combination of superb sound quality, reliable operation, and day-to-day ease of use makes it a product you’ll just want to haul out and enjoy again and again. Add to this its portability and weather-resistant durability, and you’ve got one serious party on the go. The VG7 is a true leader in its class, and highly recommended.

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Warrior24_7's picture

At $800.00? Nope, A Sony GTK-XB7 costing between $199-$249 will equal it, two will smoke it, and you save $300.00 in the process!