Samsung DA-F60 review
As so many people now store music on their smartphones and don't want to be confined by trailing cables, more or less every hardware manufacturer on the planet has decided to start producing portable speakers. However, although there are plenty of Bluetooth-equipped speakers out there, few of them are all they're cut out to be. The Samsung DA-F60 could be the exception - it looks amazing, which immediately sets it apart from the ugly boxiness and bright, cheap-looking plastic finishes of many rivals.
The rather stylish machined aluminium grille
With a design that combines elements of vintage radios with modern minimal styling, it's easily among the best-looking portable speakers we've seen. The front is covered by a beautifully machined metal grille, which can be covered by a removable protector (held in place with magnets) to protect the speaker when it's rattling around in your backpack. The DA-F60 is a diminutive 131x225x47mm and weighs just over a kilo, so carrying it around with you won't be a problem. Its rechargeable battery should last up to ten hours on a single charge, and lasted throughout our testing without having to reach for the plug socket. There's also a USB port at the back which you can use to charge your phone from the speaker, although it will drain the battery far quicker than if you're just playing music.
The rear ports, surrounded by the pop-out stand
Alongside the USB port at the back of the speaker is a 3.5mm auxiliary input, so you can connect non-Bluetooth hardware, plus a power connector for recharging. A plastic stand pulls out out to prop the speaker up; it seems solid enough, even though it feels a little loose when you fully extend it. The volume button is on the right-hand side - it's a pleasingly retro looking dial that pops in and out of the side panel at a press - as well as a power switch and some raised icons that double as buttons. The function button cycles between Bluetooth, auxiliary and Smart Share, a wireless audio standard used by some Samsung TVs that allows you to use the speaker to boost sound from your TV, or even allow you to keep listening to a programme if you move to the next room.
All the buttons are at the right hand side - along with the beautifully machined volume dial
There are also mute and bass enhancement buttons. Mute is self explanatory, but we didn't like the software equalizer profile that bass enhancement enables - the bass emphasis drowns detail in the midrange, which in turn makes the treble seem a little harsh. The fluctuating EQ adjustments are also noticeable during playback, so we wouldn't recommend turning it on. Even with bass enhancement switched off, the DA-F60 has far more bass presence than we'd expect from such a slim portable speaker. As well as a pair of 10W active stereo drivers, it also has a passive bass radiator, which vibrates in response to air moved by the active drivers, helping to produce the emphatic bass which so impressed us.
The DA-F60 comes bundled with one removable cover - with the possibility that Samsung will produce other designs in the future
As well as standard Bluetooth audio, known as A2DP, the DA-F60 also supports the lossless apt-X codec. While it can be hard to hear the difference between the two if your speakers aren't very good, the DA-F60 is certainly high quality enough for the distinction between the lossy and lossless codecs to be clearly audible. Using apt-X eliminates the odd muddiness and loss of extremely high and low sounds that typifies A2DP, and the improvement is immediately obvious. Not all mobile devices support apt-X - none of Apple's phones or tablets do - but several popular phones from HTC, Samsung and Motorola can use the standard.
The flip-out stand keeps the DA-F60 firmly in place, although its hinges were slightly loose on our review unit
Built-in NFC means that - assuming your phone supports the standard - you can just touch it to the NFC logo on the left of the speaker and it'll prompt you to pair the two, before connecting them without having to search for it via your phone's Bluetooth detection settings. It's much faster and more convenient, especially if you have multiple Bluetooth devices around you which can slow down the detection process.
As you would expect, the DA-F60 worked flawlessly with Samsung's own Galaxy S3 smartphone
The DA-F60 sounds great, particularly given its small size. Because it supports the lossless apt-X streaming codec, it can make the most of high-quality audio files on your audio source. The speaker isn't sensitive enough for there to be an easily audible difference between FLAC and very high-quality MP3s. Both sounded excellent and the speaker is good enough to make the difference between low- and high-bitrate (or lossless) audio files clearly audible. At high volumes in particular, high-pitched treble sounds such as cymbal hits were a little harsh, while the bass and mid-range were more in balance with each other. However, sound quality is as good as any we've heard from a comparable device.
The DA-F60 creates a really big sound for such a small device, and its audio quality is among the best we've heard from a portable speaker. It's incredibly stylish and is equipped to handle the latest and best technologies for connecting and streaming wireless Bluetooth audio, including NFC device association and lossless apt-X. It is expensive, with exclusive retailer John Lewis expected to price it close to its £250 RRP when it launches in April; however, we've seen Bluetooth speakers at the same price with far fewer features and worse sound quality. Unless it ends up costing significantly more, the DA-F60 is our new favourite portable speaker and wins our Best Buy award.