Beats isn’t known for its speakers, it’s known for its iconic headphones — and rightly so. Even if you aren’t a fan of the company’s high-priced in-, on-, or over-the-ear offerings, you have to admit they are all much better than the crude and plasticky Pill speaker. But today, Beats is announcing the first speaker that it’s made since the company was acquired by Apple last summer. It’s called the Pill+, and it’s the most attractive-looking and sounding speaker that Beats has ever made.
The new $229 speaker isn’t any sort of radical redesign. Instead, it’s a refinement on the recognizable Beats Pill look. It’s shaped like — you guessed it — a pill, but the new version feels much sturdier than its predecessors. It’s topped with four buttons: a squishy rubber power button on the left, a metal pause / play button emblazoned with the Beats “b” logo in the center, and two more rubber buttons for volume control on the right. The Pill+ only comes in stark black or white options — if this all sounds very Apple to you, it should. From the “plus” branding right down to the color choices, the Pill+ looks a bit like a reigning in of Beats, as if someone from Cupertino was watching the entire production process.
More important than the look and build is the sound, and judging from our brief demo the Pill+ is likely the best-sounding Pill ever. That’s apparently all thanks to what’s called a two-way active system, meaning that amplifiers are built into the speakers — two in fact, one for each pair of woofer and tweeter. This helps better assign the different frequencies of music to the right parts of the speaker, resulting in better sound. Whatever it’s doing, it works. Every sound comes through full and clear, and all the music sounds much better than you would expect from yet another portable Bluetooth speaker.
The Pill+ is noticeably bigger than the Pill, but it’s still small enough that you could fit it in most bags. It’s also just light enough for that, weighing in at 1.5 pounds. The Pill+ has a 12-hour battery life, and can even use its big battery to charge your devices through the USB and Lightning ports found on the back. The new speaker will also do some of the stuff we’ve come to expect from pricier Bluetooth speakers. You can link it with another Pill+ to either amplify the sound or set up dedicated stereo channels, and you can also allow friends to sync their device to the speaker without needing to hit any of its buttons. All this is done through a new Pill+ app, which will be released iOS and Android along with the $229 speaker next month.