Pioneer FREEme

Pioneer FREEmeMichael checks out a portable Bluetooth speakerWith the tagline of ‘Listen in Style’, Pioneer has released its FREEme Bluetooth speaker product, which delivers audio output from two 40mm full-range speakers backed up by passive radiator. This portable device has dimensions of 151 x 45.5 x 8.2mm and weighs 361 g, so it can easily be transported in a pocket or bag. Two versions of the product are available. The IF1 model comes in a choice of black, white or aqua rubber covering, while the more expensive IF3 version has a choice of black or brown leather livery. My review unit was the black IF1 FREEme.

In common with numerous other devices performing a similar task, the FREEme is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack that is rated at around seven hours of power. However, unlike these other devices, the FREEme comes with instructions on how to replace the battery. While I haven’t tested this replacement feature, I have managed to squeeze over ten hours of playing time from a single battery charge.With the body of this Bluetooth speaker encased within a perforated metallic grill, the unit’s various controls are concealed on the rear of the device rather than the more convenient top of the unit. Running from left to right, these controls are made up of a micro-USB port for charging the battery, aux input, a pinhole reset option, phone call button, volume level adjustment, Bluetooth pairing and power on/off. With power turned on, a white light will appear on the front of the speaker.There’s one other control, which involves the unit’s NFC (near field communication) support. This can be activated by holding your smartphone or tablet close to the top of the FREEme. The power light will flicker while the connection is established before reverting to a steady glow.Standard Bluetooth pairing is generally quick and straightforward as you hold down the pairing button for a second. If necessary, the standard ‘OOOO’ password can be used to complete the connection. The FREEme can hold details of up to eight separate Bluetooth connections, although only one can be active.When the FREEme is linked to a smartphone, then it can act as a speakerphone for receiving and making calls. Incoming calls are announced with a ringtone as the music is put on temporary hold. Depending on a short or long press of the FREEme phone button, a call can be accepted or rejected. In the case of the latter, or when a conversation is ended, the music output will be restored.As mentioned earlier, there’s an aux connection for use by devices that do not support Bluetooth. When a device is connected via the aux option, it will take preference over any Bluetooth output. It does not stop the Bluetooth output, which continues merrily on its way, but you just do not hear it.Audio quality was reasonable for a device of this size, and you can download the free Pioneer Wireless Streaming app in order to make certain adjustments to the FREEme audio output to help justify the price of the product. Pioneer has included two- and three-pin plugs with an AC adapter, non-slip sheet and a drawstring carry pouch. Michael FeredayReasonable output but a little pricey for its functionality.

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