The Simpowel V8 Portable Bluetooth Speaker is perhaps the most impressive 18650 powered portable speaker currently on the market. In addition to supporting a wide range of sources for your audio – including Near-field communication (NFC), Micro SD card, and of course Bluetooth – this speaker is packed with features. (Note: the Simpowel V8 was previously sold as the Polaris V8; the branding on current units reflect the manufacturer’s name change).
The Simpowel V8 includes a rechargeable 18650 lithium-ion battery (2,000mAh) that provides upwards of 12 hours of play time and can be charged by the speaker itself, through a standard microUSB jack. The battery is removable – an important and valuable feature for proponents of the 18650 lithium-ion format who want the option of swapping out and recharging the cells separately. Choosing a portable speaker that uses an 18650, such as the Simpowel V8, lets you run the device on the same power source as a growing list of devices that use this type of battery.
Sound Quality & Audio Sources
The Simpowel V8 includes two 60mm double magnet speakers, each rate at 4.5W RMS. The result is excellent sound quality, even at higher volumes. The 9W of total power means you’ll be able to fill even large rooms or outside areas with sound.
This unit offers a wide range of choices in audio inputs, including:
- Bluetooth – the current standard in portable speakers. The newest version of the V8 supports version 4.0.
- NFC – short for “Near-field communication”, this wireless technology allows devices to connect and communicate easily, simply by bringing them close together. Increasingly common in smartphones, making a connection with NFC can be easier than pairing with Bluetooth.
- 3.5mm Audio In (AUX jack) – the old standby, useful for connecting audio sources like turntables, satellite radio receivers, or really any device that has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. A 3.5mm cable is included in the box.
- Micro-SD – supports up to a 32Gb card. Not only plays standard MP3s, but high-quality FLAC files as well. This feature is somewhat limited by the lack of a navigation screen to browse and locate specific tracks (though a memory card full of tracks curated and loaded beforehand could be a neat option for parties). Otherwise, there’s always the forward/back track selector buttons. Another nice feature for audiobook listeners: track position is maintained between listening sessions to the second.
- FM radio – Tune in between 87.5-108 MHz on the FM dial. Includes “auto-scan” functionality. Reception is surprisingly good with this unit, especially when you consider it doesn’t have an external antenna. Kind of a shame there’s no support for AM radio, but this won’t be a huge deal for most users.
One interesting thing about this speaker is that, when choosing an audio source, a voice announces your selection (“FM mode”, for example). It also announces when it connects to a Bluetooth device (“device paired”), which is a welcome alternative to the standard “bloop” sound a lot of electronics make when pairing. It’s worth noting that this isn’t some harsh robot-sounding voice, but more akin to that of a calm British accented man.
As noted previously, there’s a button on the top of the speaker to change sources – right beside the standard play/pause button. One press of the forward or back button will advance or retreat the track number, respectively. Pressing and holding the same buttons with rewind or fast forward within the current track.
Size, Packaging, and Build Quality
Weighing in at a little under a pound and a half and measuring 7.6″ x 2.28″ x 2.83″ (651 grams and 19.1 x 5.8 x 7.2cm), the Simpowel V8 is comparable to a 20oz bottle of soda in size and weight. This makes it portable enough for a day at the beach, park, or campsite.
On the front of the unit, protecting its two speakers, is a metal grille – inset slightly from the edge, in an attractive flat black finish. You can tell that some thought went into making this a nice looking product. A red, 4-character 7 Segment LCD display (like on a digital alarm clock) also sits behind the grill and is used to show information such as the current audio source, volume level, or track number.
In terms of build quality, isn’t a cheap or flimsy unit by any means. The V8 has a well-built construction and features a rubberized exterior, adding to its durability and giving it a nice high-end feel. This same finish extends to the speaker’s rubberized buttons on the topside of the case (power, play/pause, forward and back controls, volume, and input source).