AC Worldwide Star Wars Darth Vader Bluetooth Speaker
Star Wars is very much on the ascendancy again, thanks to a new series of films and spin-offs which will see it lodged firmly in the back of the public’s mind until the end of the decade at least. Taking advantage of this renewed interest, AC Worldwide have crafted a series of Star Wars-based bluetooth speakers, which they hope will transcend the usual glut of tie-in tat that accompanies the films.
Following on from the C-3P0 and Stormtrooper models, the Darth Vader speaker fits into the audio family perfectly, and looks incredible. A glossy helmet, hand-crafted and mounted on a sturdy base which also houses the controls, it feels like high-end tech - and it should do, given the eye-watering £149 price tag.
Out of the hefty box, you receive a cloth cover (to protect the speaker from dust and unexpected marks), several different AC adapters, an aux cable, a pair of gloves for handling the speaker, a lint-free cloth and an instruction manual.
Size and Setup
The speaker isn’t small. In fact, you’ll need at least 20cm of clearance for the base, and over 30cm clearance for the height. This isn’t something that you’ll be able to hide away on a small bookshelf, but then that’s not what it’s designed for. The helmet is as much a focal point of a living room as it is a functional speaker.
Setup involves pairing the speaker to a device via your choice of connection. NFC is marketed as the quickest and easiest, and worked well with our Sony Xperia smartphone. Bluetooth pairing is also possible for any device that supports it, so phones, laptop any other Bluetooth-enabled players are all fair game. Connecting to the speaker lights up Darth Vader’s eyes, and once connected it triggers his iconic breathing sound, which is both a helpful indication of success and pretty damn cool to boot.
You can also connect it directly to a device using the included aux cable - however, the port for this is around the back on the same side as the power port, and if regular aux connections are needed, you may find removing and inserting the cable to be a little finicky depending on where you’ve stored the speaker.
One point of note is the instruction manual, which is at odds with the overall quality of the speaker. While it gets the information across, it’s riddled with typos and odd phrasing and feels very much like a translation by a non-native English speaker. Given the attention to detail clearly spent on this speaker, it seems bizarre not to have followed this through with the manual as well.
AC Worldwide advise that the battery will last between three and five hours. We managed to get just under four out of it, before the low battery warning noise (lightsabers clashing, obviously) alerted us to the need to charge it. It’s not a particularly long battery life, but given the size of the speaker it’s unlikely you’ll want to move it around too much and therefore are more likely to keep it close to a power outlet anyway. However, if you do plan on transporting it, you may want to factor this into your evaluation before purchase.
The base of the speaker contains the volume buttons (which double as track changers), bass increase/decrease buttons, and buttons for Bluetooth pairing and switching between Bluetooth and Aux mode. At the back, alongside the aux and power powers, there is an additional 5v power input and a 5v USB charging port.
The buttons are soft touch and require a fairly firm tap to register your press, but once you understand the level of force needed they’re simple to use. The volume buttons actually alter the volume of the media player you’re using on your device, and we noticed that when playing YouTube from our test laptop the top end volume was never reached by the speaker - a warning beep sounded at 86%, and we had to manually push up the volume on our device.
The speakers can be paired with others in the range for stereo sound. They will remember the last device that they connected to, and only the main speaker will activate its sound/light functionality when they’re paired in dual mode.
Although its price point would usually suggest a premium sound, it’s at this crucial point that the speaker falls down compared to its competition. It isn’t that the sound is bad, per se. Far from it, the 32mm speakers combine with a 10-watt ported subwoofer to deliver an impressively loud treble alongside sterling bass.
However, the area most in need of attention is the high-end. At full volume, the speaker buzzed with distortion and delivered an often tinny sound when playing serious rock anthems. The bass buttons make a real difference, and it’s likely you’ll want these cranked up to maximum to reduce the tinniness, but even then you may struggle to get the full enjoyment of meaty tracks from Darth.
Mid-range, performance is far better. Chilled hip-hop beats click and pulse through the helmet with clarity, and orchestral tracks are bright if not fully nuanced. Sound is thrust forward rather than outward though, which means if the speaker isn’t facing you head on you’ll enjoy a reduced experience. This is offset by its lack of mobility - it’s not a speaker you’ll be taking to the beach, so you will just need to ensure its placement is optimal in whatever room you plan to show it off.
Taking calls is straightforward via Bluetooth enough, as the speaker reads out the number calling you and a quick press of the answer button lets you converse with Darth directly. Call quality was excellent on both sides during testing.
When compared with similarly priced speakers on the market, not least the mighty Sonos Play 1, the Force may feel a little weak in this one. That said, it’s also worth noting that this is as much a collectible item as it is a functional speaker, and the meticulous design and shine of the helmet along with the glowing red and blue lighting will ensure it’s a talking point for any visitor. That it offers reasonable sound above and beyond what you might expect for a “novelty” item could be considered a bonus, and while audiophiles may want to look elsewhere for overall quality, Star Wars fans will be pleased with this purchase.