Hands-on review: Fresh ’n Rebel Rockbox Bold X Bluetooth speaker
Image credit: E&T Magazine
This neat little speaker may not satisfy ardent audiophiles, but it is the ideal accessory for lazy afternoons spent entertaining friends and family.
Among the countless brands jostling for attention in the audio sector at this year’s IFA consumer technology show in Berlin was Fresh ’n Rebel, a Dutch company offering attractive lifestyle tech products such as headphones and selfie sticks.
The Rockbox Bold X is the fourth in its line-up of speakers, following the Bold S (small), Bold M (medium) and Bold L (large, inevitably). Unlike its Bold predecessors, the Bold X ditches the familiar blocky shape of most speakers for a rounded pebble-like shape comparable to the Google Home Mini smart speaker or Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay P2.
The Bold X is covered in a smooth mesh and the rim (which hides a charging port beneath a tab), buttons, loop and base are all made from matching silicone. It is available in the same range of six colours as other Fresh ’n Rebel products: grey, millennial pink, mint, turquoise, (red) wine and black. The Bold X is an undeniably attractive item which would look perfectly at home within a lifestyle influencer’s Instagram feed.
The design is functional, too, designed to fit seamlessly into daily activities. Its flattened shape and non-slip silicone base mean it can be tossed on an uneven surface and it will largely stay there, while it can also be attached securely to a door handle, tent, bicycle or rucksack via the handy loop. It is also small and light enough to stuff in a bag for a weekend away, being approximately the size of a standard cheese-and-onion pasty and lighter than a smartphone. The synthetic fabric covering is durable and waterproof (IPX7 rated), so it can be left on the side of a pool or taken out in the rain without concern. Fresh ’n Rebel assert that it can even be rinsed with water. Field trips out camping – during which the speaker got wet – and to rugby matches have so far failed to damage the Bold X’s appearance or performance.
The speaker is likely to be mostly or entirely used over Bluetooth, but the inclusion of an auxiliary input is a nice touch. Charging is done via micro-USB rather than by USB-C. While this is not unusual for portable audio products, it does feel like a missed opportunity as it requires the owner to keep an extra charger around which many of us would like to have Marie-Kondo’ed by now. Given Fresh ’n Rebel’s strong focus on youthful lifestyle-oriented products, it is surprising that USB-C was not taken for granted. This year’s Kindle Oasis – while well-received – was roundly criticised for adopting micro-USB over USB-C.
In terms of battery life, you can expect around eight hours on a full charge, so it won’t last the entirety of a long weekend away but should be enough for a full afternoon and evening of entertaining.
The audio quality of the Bold X is good, but not outstanding. It is a little weak on bass compared with other speakers and headphones available at similar price points, but it does have pleasant, full-sounding midtones and treble. The sound is almost omnidirectional. It is possible to perceive when the speaker is rotated to face away from the listener, but this is not an issue when it is sitting on a surface. At its maximum volume, the Bold X is loud enough for a (hypothetical) party capable of bothering the neighbours in the flat next door, but won’t fill a house, village hall or basketball court. There is no noticeable distortion at top volume. Fresh ’n Rebel also offers a feature called ‘Double Fun Mode’ which allows the Bold X to be wirelessly linked with a second speaker for extra volume and stereo sound.
One minor frustration is that when the Bold X is switched on/off or connected/disconnected via Bluetooth, it makes sounds reminiscent of bubbling in a pool which are much louder than they need to be. This has pushed us into a silly routine of turning down the volume, playing music and then turning the volume back up again. You could say that we should have learnt by now, or that these sounds should be a more accurate indication of the speaker volume.
The Bold X is not marketed as a product for audiophiles but rather as a lifestyle product. Fresh ’n Rebel suggests that customers “take the Bold X to the park, on a road trip, for a swim or to a party”. All these are good suggestions. The Bold X is competing with a growing number of excellent audio products offered at under £100 and what it lacks in excellent audio quality, it makes up for in convenience and attractiveness. It has become a personal favourite for throwing in a bag with a board game and nibbles before events and would be the perfect accessory for barbecues, flat parties, picnics and frisbee games.
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