The concept of a “Smart Home” is something that we’ve not really jumped on-board with here at Rock Father HQ, despite our ongoing #RockFatherRemodel Project and an abundance of future upgrades planned for the home that we intend to raise our daughters to adulthood in. If I were to pinpoint a single reason why, the big one is that I’ve turned out to be a lot more old-school that I once thought – a sometimes early-adopter that is immersed in tech daily, yet makes an attempt to keep his children as tech-free as possible, firmly believing that our age of “devices” has severely over-saturated the human species. However, I am intrigued by a lot of the tech that’s been coming out for the home, and being so rooted in music, I’m always keen on new ways to bring the audio experience into new places. When the folks at Sengled got in touch to ask me about reviewing their recent Pulse Solo LED + Wireless Speaker, I took them up on it… despite not being entirely sure what to expect from a lightbulb with a Bluetooth speaker inside.
From a concept standpoint, the idea of using a lightbulb to bring music into additional spaces of the home (Kitchen, Bath, Garage) is a big win. If done correctly, the light fixture becomes dual purpose, illuminating its space with energy-saving LED, all while bringing some tunes into the room as well. What I didn’t consider when I agreed to review the Pulse Solo is that it’s designed to be used in open fixtures, and that’s something we just don’t have in abundance or in convenient locations here at our home. Nearly everything is enclosed, and that made finding a suitable space to test and use the Pulse Solo difficult. Additionally, the length of the bulb (slightly longer by an inch or so due to the internal hardware) rendered it unusable for our down-facing powder room fixtures, where I thought it would’ve been really cool. That said, I finally found a great fixture for it, albeit in a room where I don’t need additional speakers – my office. The right fixtures are an important consideration when looking to purchase combination LED + Speaker units (a category that’s about to grow with several brands entering the mix), but there’s potentially some great usage here for folks with recessed canister lighting in particular.
The LED works beautifully, though it’s important to note that whatever fixture you use should always be left “on,” with the actual light controlled by an on/off function of the iOS or Android App. Reason being – if you’d like to enjoy the speakers without light, the App is what makes that possible. Through the simple-to-use App, you can control brightness and volume.
Touted as “the world’s first LED light with dual speakers in one bulb,” the sonic hook is that the audio is powered by Harman Audio’s JBL brand. Personally, I’m a big fan of Harmon’s car audio (Kia uses a lot of it), and I have some excellent JBL bluetooth speakers here at the house. So how does JBL Audio sound in a lightbulb? Just “okay,” I would say. Since the app is devoid of an EQ control – something present on some other Sengled products – you have no control other than volume. In my experience with the bulb, the speakers seem high on the treble and mids, lacking any real bass or warmth. At low volume used as background music, that’s not a bad thing… but I am “The Rock Father,” and I like my music to have a certain oomph that’s lacking here.
Overall, I love the concept here and can only imagine that it will be improved upon in time. At a suggested retail price of $59.99 (perhaps cheaper on Amazon), I’d say that’s reasonable, but again my only criticism is that I wish the sound were beefier. If anything, the Solo (which can only be used on its own – hence the name) has opened my interest in some other Sengled products such as the larger Pulse system, in which a main speaker/light can have multiple satellite units that work together to form a larger network within the home.