A few years ago, annotated somewhere on this forum, I had walked into a Best Buy store and tried on the Bose Soundwear Companion portable speaker neckband. A bizarre departure for its time, the neckband contained small nearfield speakers and a lot of signal processing. At over $300, it provided an interesting experience, marred by the amount of signal processing going on, which I found distracting. The sound was surprisingly good, and you were not isolated from the rest of the world, but it seemed as if music phase relationships were off, and you might be simultaneously in two different sized spaces.
It appears that BOSE has given up on this product now, and is trying to sell you sunglasses with speakers instead. As one of the primary uses for the neckband might have been TV or gaming, I’m not certain of the sunglass idea. Perhaps they should consult with Dyson for their next audio mashup.
The personal neckband speaker, however has not gone away. It has been embraced by Sony, Panasonic, Monster, and a host of other (probably Chi-Fi) companies wishing to put out something different. The Panasonic is gamer-intensive, and was developed to play Final Four. Sony has two models, one specific to certain Sony TVs, and one more general audio. Monster has the Boomerang and more recently the Boomerang Petite. Prices range from several hundred at the high end, to $75-119 in the middle, and as low as $30 for off-brand crap.
Why would someone buy a neckband speaker? Not bad for exercising, doing work. With bluetooth you can take calls and not have weird headgear or white grubs hanging down from your ears. You can have a goofy neckband instead on your zoom. In my case, I was going to be away at meetings for a few days, and with TPTB having booked a ski resort in the summer and weather predictions wet, I figured they would be good to binge Ted Lasso Season 3. I was right.
My choice was the $89 on Amazon Monster Boomerang Petite. Looked like the newest Monster electronics, and although having perhaps smaller speakers than the regular Boomerang, the available reviews didn’t show much difference.The Boomerang Petite is light, under a pound. I’m guessing under 250 grams. You don’t notice it on your shoulders. It charges via USB-C, and a charge seems to last longer than I’ve used it at reasonably loud volume, more than 5 hours.
If I had to describe the sound and frequency response, I’d say it was consumer-oriented, midrange focused, with surprisingly clear upper mid and lower high, and depth extending smoothly to mid-bass. No sub-bass and not much deep bass, although some reviewers have said the bass gets better with break-in. An audiophile would find it lacking, but unobjectionable compared to typical consumer stuff with boosted mid-bass.
It’s forte is the nearfield soundstage. Almost ethereal. Much wider than any headphone I’ve heard. I thin there is less signal processing going on than there was in the earlier Sony, and attention is paid to location of tweeters and woofers on the band, so you do have several inches of depth not that far from your ear producing sound. It’s not a “natural” soundstage as you would get from a 5+1 or 7+1 speaker setup, or even a 2 channel system, but it is actually pleasant.
In the photo above, you see how they look on, twisted slightly to show the controls. Holding the O turns it on or off and accepts calls. The triangle engages bluetooth mode and does pauses, and the + and - control volume. It’s supposed to be waterproof, mostly, but I didn’t test that with water or adult beverages.
In use, it’s very good for TV. I watched Lasso via my MacBook Pro’s HDMI to hotel 55 inch Samsung TV, and the sound was far better than the standard TV sound. Dialog was clear, sound effects were positioned well, there was some front-to-back feeling and plenty of dynamics. It does not get super loud, but more than adequately loud.
I’ve used them when getting ready to sleep, and they are far more comfortable than a headphone or earbud if you’re drifting off.
Above I engage the Boomerang “Stealth Mode” attempting to appear inconspicuous. Sound is slightly muffled, and this effect is somewhat ineffective.
So, is the Boomerang Petite worth it? For $89, I think so. There are more than a few times when I choose to use it rather than something else. I suspect a gamer might enjoy the more expensive Panasonic.
I don’t see any real category for this type of gear here, so I’m just dropping in into the general discussion. Moderators feel free to adjust. And note that this probably qualifies enough as a “review” to continue to justify my “Core Team” label and access to any secret areas of the forum that may or may not exist.