Wireless speakers hidden away in hefty LED bulbs shed new light on the concept of multi-room audio.
These days there's no reason for your music to stay locked away on your devices, not when there are so many ways to stream audio between rooms. If you're paying for a subscription music service like Spotify then you've got even more reason to find a way to stream audio to the far reaches of your home.
At first glance the Sengled Pulse bulbs look like any other bulky smart LED bulb designed to be controlled by a smartphone app. They're rather hefty – roughly the size of a large jar of Vegemite and tipping the scales at 400 grams. There's a choice of colours; red, silver and white.
The bulbs shine at 600 lumens, about as bright as a standard 60 watt bulb, which is fine for mood lighting but might not cut it for reading. You can dim them via the smartphone app but you can't adjust the colour, they're fixed to a 3000K warm white which doesn't feel too clinical.
The tiny slits on the front of the bulbs betray the fact that there's a speaker hidden behind that grill. You can stream audio to the speaker from an Apple or Android gadget, just like any other Bluetooth wireless speaker. You don't have remote access or wider smarthome integration as with some competing smart bulbs.
You'll pay $349 for a twin-pack of Sengled Pulse bulbs, which are available with a choice of bayonet or screw fittings. One bulb is the master and the other a satellite – you can place them in separate rooms or both in the same room to create a stereo pair.
You can buy additional satellite bulbs for $169, adding up to seven satellites to your master. Only the master bulb is visible via Bluetooth and the streaming range from your smartphone is 10 to 15 metres, as with any Bluetooth speaker. Sengled claims a 30-metre range between the master and satellite bulbs, so you can spread them out in your home, but your mileage may vary and I struggled to get them more than one room apart.
Switch off the master bulb at the wall and all the music goes dead, plus you lose control of the satellite bulbs via the app. This might cause frustration if you live with people who are less enthusiastic than you about smart bulbs.
Your wall dimmer switch has no effect on the brightness of the bulbs, but if you switch them off and on at the wall they return to full brightness – which is handy if the master bulb is off or you don't have access to the app.
You're obviously paying a premium for a multi-room audio system that's heard but not seen – not just in the high price tag but also in sacrificed audio quality.
The sound isn't terrible – I set my expectations rather low so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the sound is well-rounded, although naturally a bit thin in terms of bass. The speakers don't distort when you crank the volume, although if you're looking to annoy the neighbours you might want something that goes louder.
If you care about sound quality then your money might be better spent on a portable Bluetooth speaker like the $180 Philips BT6000 or $250 Logitech UE Boom 2. The Sengled Pulse bulbs sound a little muffled alongside these portable speakers, plus the portable speakers are louder and pump out more bass. The UE Boom 2 can also be configured as a stereo pair, with the advantage that you can move them around the room to improve the sound.
Considering that you'll find better wireless speakers and better smart bulbs, you'd probably only consider these bulbs if the convenience of combining a light and speaker outweighs the shortcomings. They're not for everyone, but if you're chasing hideaway multi-room audio then the Sengled Pulse bulbs might be the bright idea that you're looking for.