The Cowin Ark is a novel concept but its execution and design fall short of its potential
As far as Bluetooth speakers go, the Cowin Ark is unique in the sense that it actually comes as two separate components. You have the ‘Cruze’, a rather standard-looking Bluetooth speaker, but it also has a separate wireless subwoofer base station.
The two units attach using a magnet and what Cowin describes as ‘Magnetec’ technology. It’s essentially inductive wireless charging, the same you see on many smartphones that support the Qi standard. As such, when you’re not charging the Cruze, you can place your compatible smartphone on the subwoofer base station to charge, which is a handy feature.
The subwoofer itself has a silver brushed metal finish surrounded by white plastic edges, and its four white feet can be seen protruding from its base. I wasn’t particularly fond of its design, as it looks more like a toaster than a piece of audio equipment. With the Cruze placed on top, the whole assembly takes on a slightly anthropomorphised look thanks to the two visible drive units inside.
^When combined, the unit looks like a small, dumpy robot
The Cruze has a consistent brushed metal finish, but its edges feel sharp and unrefined, and compared to a stylish Bluetooth speaker like the Cambridge Audio G2, it looks pretty garish overall. However, when the Cruze only measures 200x60x65mm, it does mean it’s compact enough to carry around with you, such as on outdoor activities or around the home thanks to its built-in battery which is rated for around 8 hours use. A travel bag is included, as is a cleaning cloth to help keep the mirrored finish looking pristine. Then, once you’re back at the base station, you can dock it on the subwoofer for more impactful bass on top of recharging its battery. You also have the option of charging the Cruze using a Micro USB cable.
Unsurprisingly, the subwoofer is intended for home use only. Measuring a substantial 300x170x145mm, it’s hardly something you’ll be moving from room to room, and its lack of built-in battery means you’ll need to keep it plugged in via its DC jack at all times.
The top of the Cruze has the usual touch-sensitive media playback buttons for controlling your music, and you can either use Bluetooth, NFC or its 3.5mm auxiliary jack to start playing your chosen tracks from your phone or tablet. However, its rather comical-sounding audio prompts during the pairing process are pretty jarring to say the least (you’ll never hear the word ‘connecting’ the same way again), and it doesn’t remember the volume setting after being put into standby either, meaning I had to keep turning the volume back up whenever I turned it back on.
Fortunately, the Cruze and base station don’t have to be in constant contact during music playback, as they pair together wirelessly. This gives you some freedom to move the Cruze around, but each unit can only maintain its connection for around 10m. You can also use the Cruze for hands-free conference calling thanks to its built-in microphone, and it’s sensitive enough to comfortably pick up your voice from around 2m away.
|RMS power output||Not disclosed|
|Audio inputs||3.5mm stereo|
|Battery capacity||Not disclosed|
|Price including VAT||£99|
|Warranty||One year RTB|