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Can music save your Latino soul: the Bowers & Wilkins T7, a portable Bluetooth speaker, may very well end up being the musical redemption for millennials--and other generations.

In an era when listening to music in a social scene has been reduced to ear cans or the muffled sounds of an anemic Bluetooth speaker in small gatherings, it's hard to believe that at one point in history, boomboxes ruled the musical and sound world.

The big, heavy ghetto blasters practically had succeeded transistor radios, which had been popular from the 60s to the 1970s, along the way nurturing rock n' roll music. Loud, flashy and unapologetic, boomboxes made and designed mostly in Japan and Taiwan--though they were invented in the Netherlands--reached their zenith during the 1980s, but by the time the 1990s came around, they were as dead as Jordache jeans.

Bowers & Wilkins, the venerable, blue-blood British firm is betting that its latest creation, the T7, a portable Bluetooth speaker the size of an old school common transistor radio (9 inches wide and 2 inches thick) may spark the spiritual resurrection of those gadgets and ghetto blasters of yore--albeit, without losing their aristocratic mien in the process.

The U.K. firm is hoping to have imbued the T7 with its legendary audiophile sound, giving it killer looks--all wrapped-up in a package small enough to be carried in a purse or by one hand--ikely to ensnare millenials and awaken them from the lethargy of living out of their cell phones and tablets while convincing music lovers from Generation X and beyond that here lies the answer to the plague of musical silence.

But is this small, Bluetooth speaker really up to the task? In addition to fighting an uphill battle of evangelizing a generation in which music played in public is almost alien, the T7 also faces stiff competition from serious contenders.

The sound of music

Diminutive in size, the T7 carries a big responsibility. Since the 1960s, Bowers & Wilkins has been creating some of the most respected audiophile equipment (Abbey Roads Studios--known as the Beatles home studiocarries their Diamond flagship speakers, which cost $24,000 a pair).

The soundtracks for many movies, including Lord of the Rings, have been tested by engineers using Diamond speakers. In terms of sound and music, the brand has an unquestionable highclass pedigree.

During the last decade, Bowers & Wilkins opted for taking some of its audiophile prowess and wisdom to the masses (though remaining pricey) by developing their 600 series speakers and airplay and Bluetooth speakers like the Zeppelin series. Not surprisingly, in terms of sound excellence, the latter products blew away the competition in their price range.

But the arena in which the T7 is struggling is an entirely different weight class. Bowers has ventured headfirst into the small, bluetooth speaker world designed mostly for millennials, a generation which largely has been fed on dismal quality products, shunning high-grade CD recordings for compressed, lower bit-rate recordings that may be practical to carry but sacrifices sound eminence.

How to convince the new generation that for their beloved music, noise excellence--the ability to hear a crystal clear soprano or to appreciate the guitar licks of a Keith Richards like he was playing in your bedroom with his favorite Marshal amps--should almost be a religious experience? How to convert the new masses to the catechesis of the doctrine that leaves no room but for only the joyful noise that the recording artists intended, without artificial colorations?

Let the music play

Then there's the competition, which is aimed directly at the T7.

On one corner is the Marshall Stanmore, which costs about $400 (fifty more than the T7's $349; the Stanmore's little brother, the Acton, costs $300). Also from Britain, looking like a classic rock amplifier (the brand has a reputation for making some of the best amps in the business), the Stanmore is louder and bigger than the T7, blasting away more like a savage ghetto blaster from the deep, dark 80s than the subservient bluetooth speakers so popular today; what it lacks in polished reverberations it makes up with in your face, bare-knuckle intensity.

On the other corner is the T7's real mortal enemy: Bangs & Olufsen's Beoplay A2. Also an aristocrat, the A2 ($400) is slightly bigger, better-looking and boasts some mean audiophile swish; the Danish speaker is equally matched with the T7.

It would seem like the small but plucky T7 is down for the count, clobbered from both ends by the more plebian but powerful British bruiser and the highborn Danish rival.

Not so fast.

The T7 may just have a couple of 2-inch drivers (speakers for those of you who are not Euroweenies) on the sides and a radiator bass in the middle, but the little bluetooth player punches way above its weight class. If the T7 were a boxer, it would be a young Manny Pacquiao.

I tested the T7 for several weeks, making sure that I left it playing for over ten hours to let the speakers expand and reach their full potential (this practice is a must for any speaker). For music, I used and Ipod, connecting it directly from its AUX insert via a cable instead of employing the bluetooth system, which functions wirelessly and once the T7 is charged, can give up to 18 hours of normal listening levels and can be played anywhere without the need of being hooked up.

Using only 320 bit music recorded straight from original CDs (which is the least that should be done, preferably using losseless files recorded from genuine CDs or from higher grade DAT tapes), I tested the T7. Ah, the little speaker did not disappoint.

Lola Beltran, Amalia Hernandez, Lucha Villa and Juan Gabriel sounded, well, spectacular in Obertura Mexicana in Las Tres Senoras, as I could perceive practically every instrument of Mariachi de Mi Tierra. The brilliant acoustic guitar work of Los Panchos shined through, as Jose Luis Rodriguez "El Puma," that former master of 80s Latino ballads belted boleros in his mid-1990s masterpiece, Inolvidable.

Without being ear piercing, the T7's managed to fill my living room quite nicely, making me ask myself when our next door neighbor was going to complain about the noise? He didn't, perhaps seduced by the sounds.

From classical music, Hispanic 80s stars and baladistas (think Rocio Durcal, Miguel Bose) to ranchero crooners like Pepe Aguilar, the T7 took them all and asked for more, delivering crisp highs and some warmth lacking in lesser speakers (though the T7's lows could have been better). I also tested it by tuning the speakers via an AUX cable into my old analog 13 inch Emerson TV/ VCR combo, where through a connected DVD player it made The Hunger Games: Mockinjay Part 1 sound satiating.

There's no denying the T7 carries true audiophile sound. The team from Bowers & Wilkins came through, trickling down their mastery, relentless passion and technical savvy into their smallest creation yet.

Granted, it's not as loud as the Stanmore, but it is more portable and it has enough punch to bring life to a small pool or beach party. The A2 may be as handy as the Bowers speaker, with equivalent cachet and daintier, but while the Bangs & Olufsen speakers seduce you with feminine beauty, the T7, with its honeycomb mesh and dark good looks carries itself better in a more virile panache (think Pierce Brosnan playing Remington Steele or James Bond).

For its $349 asking price, the T7 is a bargain. You can really take your music wherever you want and enjoy it. At home it will not substitute a classy, dedicated sound system, but if you live in an apartment or small house, it will do the job without making you feel want for more.

As for the question of whether the T7 has enough depth and charm to become the new high-grade boombox or transistor radio of its age, the answer is, yes. Will it become that?

It remains to be seen. But to quote George Michael in Freedom 90, "I won't let you down/I will not give you up/gotta have some faith in the sound/it's the one good thing that I've got/I won't let you down/so please don't give me up/because I would really, really love to stick around/Oh yeah!"
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Author:Trevino, Joseph
Publication:Latino Leaders
Date:Jun 1, 2015
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