With the launch of three new portable Bluetooth speakers in a range of different sizes and colors, Sharp’s aim is to cater to everyone, whether you’re “entertaining guests at home, on holiday, or visiting a friend.”
The mid-sized speaker, the GX-BT280, promises a 12-hour battery life and an output of 20W. Like its smaller sibling, the GX-BT180, the GXB280 comes in red, black, and blue, and it’s available for £69.99 (around $89, AU$129).
That price point puts it in the same arena as our favorite budget Bluetooth speaker, the Anker Soundcore Flare. Can it beat the Flare? We put the pint-sized speaker to the test, and here’s what we thought.
With a cylindrical build and wraparound grille, the GX-BT280 looks a bit like a smaller version of the UE Boom 3.
The grille is made from an attractive fabric weave, with rubber accents on both the top and bottom of the speaker – we tested the black design, but it comes in bright red and blue if you’d prefer your speaker to be more of a focal point.
On the front of the speaker, you have two volume buttons and a play/pause button, while on the back, you’ll find a power button and both AUX and Bluetooth ports concealed by a rubber cap to protect them from the elements.
Both ends of the speaker contain a passive bass radiator in silver, with the Sharp logo printed in black in the center.
Sharp says the speaker has an IP56 dustproof/splashproof rating, which means it should be fine if you get caught in a rain shower, but you won’t be able to take it into the pool with you, and you probably shouldn’t take it in the shower, either.
At just under 1lb / 240g, the GX-BT280 is incredibly light, which makes it ideal for listening on the go. It also features a handy carrying strap (which, in all honesty, looks like it’s made out of two shoelaces tied together), so you can secure it to your bag or bicycle.
Features and performance
The Sharp GX-BT280 packs a powerful audio punch, and despite its small stature, it’s surprisingly loud, with a clear, treble-heavy tone.
We listened to Radiohead’s ‘No Surprises’ and walked away impressed with what we heard: Saccharine glockenspiel melodies are sparkling clear, while electric guitar arpeggios have a sweet and crystalline quality to them. Thom Yorke’s ethereal vocals sound just as good, with the GX-BT280 providing smooth and detailed mids across the board.
We also listened to Little Dragon’s ‘After The Rain’ and were impressed by the warm, analogue sound of Yukimi Nagano’s RnB inspired vocal.
The GX-BT280 seems to perform best when it comes to delicately strummed acoustic guitar, with Harley Alexander’s ‘Tiny Bricks’ coming across with a good amount of detail and texture.
While it isn't as forward as we'd like it to be, the relaxed nature of the treble frequencies might enable you to listen to music longer, particularly if you suffer from ear-fatigue after long listening sessions.
Similarly while treble and mid frequencies sound pretty good, the GX-BT280 is somewhat let down by its feeble treatment of bass frequencies, despite the inclusion of a passive bass radiator at each end of the cylindrical speaker.
Separation across the frequencies leaves something to be desired as well; we struggled to pick out the intermingling synths and vocal harmonies when listening to Cool American’s ‘Focus’.
The inbuilt microphone works fine for summoning your device’s voice assistant, but it didn’t pick up our voice from across the room – we had to sit fairly close to the speaker for the microphone to hear us clearly.
The stated battery life of 20 hours seems to be accurate, although we didn’t play music constantly during this time, so you may find the battery life drops off it you listen at high volumes for long periods of time.
The last issue we had (it’s a confusing design feature) is that it's hard to know exactly how Sharp wants you to orient the speaker; judging by the buttons on the front of the speaker, it’s supposed to sit upright, but the soundstage becomes more open and warm when you rest it on its side.
This orientation gives the bass radiators room to displace more air that would otherwise be dispersed throughout whichever surface it’s sat on, leading to a wider soundstage and thumpier bass notes.
Having the option to place the speaker upright or on its side is a great feature, but we feel that Sharp could have made this feature a little clearer when designing the buttons on the grille.
All in all, the GX-BT280 is a very capable little speaker, and potentially well worth the money – if you don’t mind sacrificing powerful bass for that budget-friendly price.
This isn’t a speaker for audiophiles, but Sharp has packed a lot of audio power into its small frame, with extremely clear treble and mid frequencies. The bass leaves a lot to be desired however, so bass-heads may want to try the Anker Soundcore Flare instead; at the same price, you’ll likely find the bass to be a bit more powerful.
Although we liked the overall design, we were slightly confused by the placement of the buttons on the fabric grille; it’s not particularly clear whether the speaker should be placed upright or on its side for the best audio quality.
Overall, while we don’t think the GX-BT280 beat the Anker Soundcore Flare in terms of sound quality, it’s still a decent portable speaker, and represents good value for money if you’re looking for a way to play your music on the go.
All image credits: TechRadar
- Read our roundup of the best portable speakers