Last month Como Audio debuted a brand-new model called Como Blu Streaming Stereo System. We did so without any fanfare because frankly, we were just too busy handling holiday orders and dispensing our superior customer service. This month’s Tech Rap gives Como Blu its well-deserved 15 minutes of fame.
What Is It?
Como Blu Streaming Stereo System (Como Blu Stereo for short) is a Bluetooth speaker with a separate wired speaker for true stereo reproduction. When we developed Como Blu Stereo, we knew the market was already flooded with Bluetooth speakers, so we decided to design something different. Not just different, but better.
To start with, as with our other models, our Como Blu Stereo uses thick MDF cabinets and real walnut veneer, not cheap plastic like so many other Bluetooth speakers. MDF costs more but it is more rigid and provides excellent sound, just like a home loudspeaker, and the walnut veneer lends it an elegant look. As of this writing, we do not expect to offer Como Blu Stereo in a finish other than walnut, our best-selling finish. In addition, the “face”, knobs, and speaker grilles are aluminum not plastic.
Speaking of speakers, we decided to retain our custom dual voice coil woofer and fabric dome tweeter. Our powerful 30 watt per channel, Class D stereo amplifier and custom digital sound processor are also employed. These parts also cost more, but we knew the last thing the market needed was another poor-sounding Bluetooth speaker.
Stereo? Yes Please.
Our founding CEO and Designer, Tom DeVesto, felt very strongly that Como Blu should be a true stereo system, not a mono Bluetooth speaker or stereo disguised in a single box. Most music streamed via Bluetooth from smartphones and computers is recorded in two channel stereo. That is why Como Blu includes a dedicated right channel speaker, allowing left and right channels to be reproduced separately. The included speaker is connected to the main unit by a 15′ audio cable, allowing the listener to spread the two speakers apart. This results in a generous sound stage lacking from most other Bluetooth speakers. And since the main unit includes a stereo amplifier, there is no need to plug-in the separate speaker to an electrical outlet. It might strike you as strange for a Bluetooth speaker to have a separate wired speaker. Our experience with separate speakers connected via Bluetooth was not positive. There were frequently audio drop outs, or worse, the two speakers disconnected, requiring frequent re-pairing and reconnecting. Needless to say, this ruined the listening experience, so we felt it best to go with a wired separate speaker for the best possible listening experience.
Do You Have the Time?
Although there is no alarm on board, during development we added a clock that sets the time automatically to an iPhone (or can be set manually when using an Android phone or a computer). A built-in optical sensor automatically adjusts the display’s red back light based on ambient light conditions. Above the display are a series of lights that indicate the current source…blue for Bluetooth and green for auxiliary input. If the 2200 mAh Li-Ion battery pack (sold separately) is installed, the lights turn amber and cycle whenever the battery is charging.
In addition to a stereo auxiliary input on the back panel there is also a stereo headphone output and a dedicated bass control knob. The bass control increases or decreases frequencies from 150 cycles on down. A center detent indicates the recommended position. A bass port further enhances the low frequencies and cleverly doubles as a carry handle. There are even helpful spoken messages that confirm the mode (Bluetooth or Aux), power status (Power on or Power off), and low power for the optional battery. I have recorded a how-to video posted on our website under “Support” to walk you through the simple operation.
Keep It Simple
As for our motivation for designing a Bluetooth stereo system in the first place, we heard from audio enthusiasts who did not need the myriad features our legacy models offered, or the semi-complex Wi-Fi setup. For those customers, we did not have anything to offer. It was decided to fill that gap with Como Blu Stereo. No Wi-Fi. No app. No involved setup. Just pair and connect your smartphone, computer, turntable, or other Bluetooth source, and enjoy. You can access a variety of content by streaming from your favorite Internet radio apps like TuneIn, and music streaming apps like Pandora, SiriusXM, and Spotify, via Bluetooth to Como Blu Stereo. Note Como Blu Stereo cannot be used as part of a multi-room configuration with other Como Audio models since it does not include a Wi-Fi module.
Mix In Some Vinyl
Como Blu Stereo bundled with our Como Audio Turntable Analog makes for a great little Hi-Fi stereo system. Connecting our Turntable Analog via Como Blu’s auxiliary input leaves the Bluetooth source open to stream your music from your smartphone, computer, tablet, or other Bluetooth enabled device. You can certainly use the Como Audio Bluetooth Turntable if you prefer, but you will have to turn off its Bluetooth whenever you want to stream from a different Bluetooth device.
Sounds Good, But How Much Does It Cost?
There is a delicate balance between trying to design an audio product using quality materials and providing great sound whilst maintaining a reasonable price. The two-piece Como Blu Stereo retails for $399. Add the Como Audio Turntable Analog to create a nice little Hi-Fi system for $799. You can certainly spend less (and get what you pay for), but you can also spend more. We think these prices hit the sweet spot. Since this is a new model, there probably will not be any specials on it in the near term, but be sure you are signed up to our email list to be notified of any upcoming specials.
We know there are endless choices (and prices) when it comes to buying a Bluetooth speaker. As you evaluate your options, pay close attention to the sound quality, whether the unit offers true stereo separation, the materials used, the design aesthetics, whether the brand offers free US-based technical support, and the warranty period (Como Audio’s warranty is two years). We think you will find few are like Como Blu.
Tip: If you buy Como Blu + The Como Audio Turntable, be sure not to mix up the two external power supplies. They are not the same. Using the Turntable power supply with Como Blu will result in Blu’s voice message repeating “low power” and could cause damage not covered by the warranty.
Trivia: Who’s voice is it that speaks the messages on Como Blu Stereo? Answer: Como Audio’s General Manager, Peter Skiera.
Como Audio General Manager Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio as V.P. of Product Development. In addition to Tech Rap, Peter also writes for his own music-related blog, www.RecommendedStations.com. If you have any comments about or suggestions for a Tech Rap topic, Peter can be reached directly at email@example.com
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