As a communications professional, I take my conferencing gear seriously. When traveling, it boils down to three options: the handset, the smartphone speaker, and a portable saucer.
Increasingly, the portable saucer wins. It’s nice to have the hands-free and the quality can be as good or better than headsets. The problem is that most of these bluetooth speaker saucers are crap. There are few standouts, and today I want to highlight the Konftel Ego.
Konftel, a Swedish company, put a lot of emphasis on design. The Ego is one of the most elegantly designed personal speaker saucers I’ve come across.
The Ego is a small, triangular unit that comes with a neoprene case and USB cable. It is a delight to hold. The smooth, matte-black design has lots of curves and contours – there’s no corner on the entire unit. All the ports and buttons are well marked, accessible, yet completely out of the way.
The saucer comes alive with sounds and lights that are as friendly as the feel. The LCD screen provides visual icons such as battery level and mode, but because it’s underneath the speaker grille it disappears when it has nothing new to communicate.
Somehow the Ego knows what to do. In music mode the screen displays a music icon and the light-bars are blue. The changes in mode are automatic.
It’s a symmetrical design, so what I will call the front point is where it says “OmniSound.” All three sides have a multi-color light bar that indicates the mode. There are touch-sensitive “buttons” on two of its sides. The right side has buttons for Bluetooth pairing and the green and red icons that indicate answer and disconnect. These buttons are also marked for skip-forward and skip-back for music mode. The left side has mute and its dual purpose pause along with separate buttons for up and down volume (the same for telephone and music modes).
All of those buttons are on the top which is where one tends to look when searching to control the unit. On the back, there’s nothing visible on top, but a bit lower on the side is the USB port, power button, and 3.5 mm headset jack (nice touch but probably superfluous). These are easy to find, but not in the way when searching for mute.
As a musical device the unit is functional. The main speaker (mono) is about 2” wide. It’s an improvement over smartphone speakers. The light bars turn green in saucer mode – or red when muted.
It’s a small device so designed for personal use or with small groups – probably good for about up to four around a small table. Normal operation is wireless with built-in battery, but the Ego can be used while charging on a USB.
As with all Bluetooth audio accessories, it’s best with mobile devices. For some reason the desktop makers just can’t seem to nail the broader Bluetooth specifications. If you intend to use it with a desktop consider purchasing a separate Bluetooth USB dongle. The Ego is an attractive, light-weight device that I would not hesitate tossing into a laptop bag.