Creative iRoar Go speaker This portable Bluetooth speaker is small enough to pack for a trip, but has mighty enough technology to fill a room with decibels to spare. An evolution of Creative’s original Sound Blaster Roar, this version, with the same five speakers and two amps (one just for bass), is smaller, lighter and even more refined, but quite a bit louder. The passive radiators at each end pulsate visibly with bass. The sound is incredible – just nuts. Creative doesn’t say how many watts it produces; suffice to say, playing one of my favourite bass-ey tracks with the Roar – aka even louder – button on is not making me popular with my neighbours. The splashproof (good for bathrooms) iRoar Go offers 12 hours of audio playback on a charge; it can also be used with a microphone as a mini PA system; a battery bank to give your other portable devices a power boost; or to make conference calls and record meetings. Creative iRoar Go speaker, £160, from creative.com.
Master & Dynamic MA770 This stupendous wireless speaker is made of poured concrete – or at least a new secret concrete-polymer mix. It is no gimmick: it is five times better at dampening echoes and rattles than wood, ensuring superb sound. It can run at full 100-watt power without distorting – and without even disturbing the needle on a turntable set down on the same surface. At the same time, its custom-made woven Kevlar long-throw speaker cones ensure a huge, room-filling sound. At 22kg, it works best on the floor – and you can buy two to operate as a more separated stereo system, or have them all over the house in a multiroom setup. The geometric concrete case is also quite sculptural – it was designed by the architect David Adjaye. No surprise, then, that the MA770 is being stocked in New York’s Museum of Modern Art design store. Its name may look like a flight number, but the only flying this beautiful thing will be doing is off the shelves. Master & Dynamic MA770, £1,600, from masterdynamic.co.uk.
Cambridge Audio YoYo (M) Cambridge Audio is a British brand I have regarded with affection since my student days. It has always been a torchbearer for decent, good-looking hifi at tolerable prices, with a touch of excitement about it. This two-speaker portable from its YoYo range can play for 24 hours on a battery charge. So you could put it in a spot without a mains point in a garden, feed it by Bluetooth and have great-quality, properly separated stereo belted out at a good volume for a few hours, several days on the trot. There’s a good-size driver and a subwoofer in each 8in tall, 1.5kg box, and it is massively loud. This is a conservative design, conservatively executed and with a fairly modest price. I loved the sound: it’s honest, untampered-with and startlingly good sometimes. Streaming Rod Stewart from Tidal was like being a student again – but with better sound. Cambridge Audio YoYo (M), £300, in dark grey, light grey or blue, from cambridgeaudio.com.
Urbanears Stammen The Stammen is the first wireless speaker from Urbanears. It packs a pleasing audio punch and has nice, rotary controls, but its USP is that, especially in this orange finish, the Stammen looks absolutely superb. Even the mains lead and plug are meticulously finished in the same orange. But the solid, fabric-covered and substantially built Stammen looks arrestingly lovely across the board. It sounds best with original recordings that aren’t quite the tops – I really enjoyed it with the playlist of Colombian cumbias, boleros and salsas Tidal has put together under its Soundtracking banner from the brilliant Netflix series Narcos. With the tracks playing, there was a nice, naïve quality, and I had a sense of being in a café in Bogotá and feeling surprised at how decent the sound box up on the sagging shelf was.
The Stammen sounds best from a little way back – bright and lively. There are techie complaints that its app is poor and you can’t easily daisy-chain the speaker, Sonos-style. But really, who’s going to? If you were doing the multiroom thing, you’d use a serious piece of kit. Stammen is a good-humoured device that made me smile and looks fantastic in a kitchen or stylish office. Urbanears Stammen, £299, from urbanears.com.
Dali Katch This is possibly the best – and loudest – portable wireless speaker I’ve found since these devices emerged with the Soundmatters FoxL back in 2009. What’s odd about the Katch, from the upscale Danish loudspeaker maker Dali, is that although it’s 10 per cent more expensive than the Beoplay A2 Active model from Bang & Olufsen, it looks like the A2 Active’s less sophisticated sibling. But this is where my carping ends. Single-box stereos have got better and better since the FoxL, and I have frequently proclaimed a model “the best ever”, but this will, I believe, be the gold standard for a while. It’s startlingly loud and handles everything from metal to Mussorgsky with total assurance. The Katch, which has a 24-hour play life, packs twin 25-watt Class D (which is to say, digital) amplifiers – actually five watts less powerful than the B&O, but its aluminium alloy‑coned bass drivers are bigger, as are its soft dome tweeters, and that’s where the Katch gains its very audible edge.
This will suffice as a main home stereo, especially if you buy two and rig them up to be a “real” separate-speaker stereo system. One or two would equally make a great office sound system, or the perfect outdoor companion. Dali Katch, £329, from dali-speakers.com.