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Big Blue Media Tower mostly disappoints

Lex Friedman | April 12, 2013
Brookstone's $300 Big Blue Media Tower is an unusual entrant into the world of speaker bars. It's powerful, it offers pretty good audio quality, and it includes Bluetooth connectivity, but the speaker's design seems odd. It's meant to serve as both a music speaker and an entertainment-center audio hub, but it uses a tower design that presents a placement predicament: You don't want to put the Tower smack-dab in front of your TV, but if you place it off to the side instead, won't you be listening to off-center audio?

When you couple that glaring omission with the Tower's shape, it feels as if the claimed television connectivity is sort of an afterthought. I found that audio sounded disappointingly off center with the speaker to the right side of my television. It sounded, in fact, like the speaker was precisely where it was. A horizontally-oriented sound bar that sits beneath your TV avoids this problem by stretching the sound across the stereo field with a (perhaps virtual) center channel pointed directly at you.

Maybe Brookstone's just marketing this thing wrong. If you forget the television aspect, and instead focus just on the speaker's music performance, things get better. As a less-colorful, better-quality take on something like the $200 iHome iP76 (), the Tower shines. It won't win any audiophile awards, but the Tower hosts two dual-driver speakers, each of which employs a 1.5-inch tweeter and a 3-inch midrange driver powered by 20 Watts of amplification. There's also a 4-inch lower-range driver. (We refuse to call it a subwoofer.)

Brookstone says that the speakers "project sound out and away from each other to reflect off walls and the ceiling, filling every inch of the room with huge, three-dimensional sound." I like the sound the Tower can generate, but I didn't notice an immersive, 3D sound experience. In fact, I barely noticed any stereo separation at all. What I did notice was a nice, full sound, substantial low end given the lack of a true woofer, and decent--though not earsplitting--volume.

Bottom line

The basic conundrum of the Big Blue Media Tower is simply this: It sounds good, but not great, and thanks to its shape and the glaring omission of a remote, it makes no sense in its seemingly intended use as a television/media speaker. Which means the Tower is best suited for use as a standard, single-box audio system. And in that context, there are much better values to be found. In fact, Brookstone's own $150 Big Blue Studio () offers more-enjoyable audio for half the price.


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