Gadgets

The Sengled Pulse is a clever but problematic take on whole-home audio


Sengled is the latest manufacturer to jump into the smart bulb space and their products, while a bit behind the curve, are clever and – most important – cheap. Their smartest smart bulbs are $10 cheaper than the arguably top-of-the-line Philips LIFX bulbs and they also offer the Pulse, a pair of bulbs containing an LED light source and JBL Bluetooth speakers for about $100.

First please understand that I wasn’t expecting these things to replace any of my indoor speakers, let alone my nicer Bluetooth devices. These are the audio equivalent of one of those tiny tuna-can sized Bluetooth speakers you buy for $20 or less. However, if all other options are unavailable and you know exactly how you will use these they could be a good addition to your wireless arsenal.

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Setup is fairly simple if you’re paying attention. There are two bulbs – a Master and a Satellite. The Master is the Bluetooth-connected one and the Satellites connect to the Master. This means you can make a stereo pair or add up to eight speakers around your house.

How do they sound? Well… First, these things are big and probably won’t fit inside smaller lamps with thinner shades. The handsome ceiling lamp we have in the front room is the only one that could hold this behemoth comfortably. I installed the Master and a Satellite, connected to the Master’s Bluetooth, and started streaming audio. The result was thin sound emanating from my ceiling. At a normal volume the audio was inaudible and at high volumes I could hear it in the room but not further along in our smaller house. Again, imagine a tiny Bluetooth speaker playing on a desk. It’s acceptable for some tunes while studying but an unacceptable alternative to larger, more powerful speakers.

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Sengled also needs to work on its app. When you launch it the app displays a two-second ad that appears before you get down to the business of changing the volume. Once you’re in the app there’s not much else you can do. You can pick devices to pair and control the volume but, for the most part, you do all that from inside your music app. In fact I’d say that the Sengled app is useless except for setup. You can’t even control the brightness or color of the bulb.

I would not use these to replace an all-in-one TV system. I wouldn’t use these to play music from my computer in a big room. I would add one in the kitchen to listen to tunes while cooking or stick one or two in some lamps by the futon. They are not a replacement for higher-end audio gear nor are they are a replacement for bulbs like LIFX or other higher-end wireless bulbs.

If you want whole home audio this is not the solution. If you want an automatic LED lighting system this is not the solution. If you want to put a pair of these in some bedside lamps and listen to your phone in bed then I could potentially see you plunking down $100 – or you could buy a few LED bulbs and a Bluetooth speaker. Sometimes killing two birds with one stone is harder than it sounds.


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