Having had a quick look and listen to the Damson Oyster bluetooth aptX speaker at The Gadget Show earlier this year, I was pleasently surprised with its performance in what was not an ideal listening atmosphere. In the last couple of weeks I’ve had a chance to spend some hands-on time with the speaker, finding out its strengths and weaknesses.
The name probably comes to some degree from its shape. Not the smallest of portable wireless speakers, but not too big to take with you to the park or beach either. From the looks of it they have tried to take advantage of as much space as possible, with replaceable grills on each large side, allowing to customize in terms of color, and simple button controls at the top of the unit.
Damson have been able to pack 4 independent speaker drivers into the small unit with a set up that includes dual 2-inch front drivers, dual 1.5-inch side drivers, plus a passive radiator. All powered by 4 amps, providing what they themselves deems as a “very loud” output. The rechargeable lithium ion battery ensures up to 12 hours playtime between charges.
Audio streaming is through bluetooth, with support for aptX codec for the portable media players that supports it. aptX brings a higher CD quality audio stream compared to standard bluetooth. Hands free calls are supported, and should you require to wire your connection, you can use the 3.5mm line in.
Damson Oyster review
There is always something a bit magical about opening up the packaging for a new product, and Damson have done a good job from the box that it come in to the actual speaker itself, as the build feels of good quality and not light and plastic. Once charged the speaker up, switching it on and pairing with bluetooth devices was simple and easy. All the buttons required are right there at the top of the rugby ball styled speaker, including on/off, pairing, and volume controls. At the back base of the unit you also find the charging port and the 3.5mm line-in for a physical connection to audio sources. Size wise, it is not amongst the smallest of portable speakers, but still within a comfortable carry in your hand size, and the shape does help as well. Battery operating time seems to be largely as advised.
In terms of audio performance, I started it off at a moderate volume over Bluetooth connection (have not tested the aptX due to lack of compatible audio source). I recommend turning the volume all up on your smartphone/tablet/computer and using the volume control on the speaker itself to control the volume. That is how I found the speaker to perform the best. Running it through a variety of tracks from ‘Hiipower’ by Kendrick Lamar to some Miles Davis, the performance was pretty good. There was a good level of bass, but not overpowering, although I found the overall sound to lack a bit of clarity compared to some of the top ranked speakers in that category, such as the Bayan Soundbook. This improved somewhat when connecting through the line-in, so it would be interesting to see how it would perform with the aptX stream (will try and get a device to test it with). Once the volume is turned up, and the Oyster does go quite loud, the issue feels amplified, and the bass starts to feel a bit muffled. Again, connecting it to a better audio source does improve the overall performance, but given that it is a portable bluetooth speaker, I’ll try to judge it based on how most people would use it.
- Great build and portability
- If you like your speakers to go loud, the Damson Oyster does get loud beyond its size
- Overall a good audio performance
- Only a minor issue, but there is a lack of volume indicator on the speaker
- The sound over bluetooth connection can lack a bit clarity, especially at higher volumes
- There are some very tough competitors at around the same price
Yorkshire based Damson Audio have created a good portable speaker in the Oyster, proving that there is a growing industry of quality UK based audio devices in this genre. Sound performance is always a case of personal preference, and although the Damson Oyster delivers an overall good sound, I found it to lack some of the clarity that I like to hear from my speakers, and that I have heard in some of the top rated portable bluetooth speakers sub £200.