Available from: Argos
Gear4 has been busy reinventing themselves recently and the Black line is a direct answer to this. Coming in two versions, the Gear4 Black Stream 3 is one of two solid multi-room speakers which pack in a lot of connectivity at a very competitive price.
We’ve got both in the office right now but today we’ll be looking at the Stream 3, which offers a more stationary experience when compared with the smaller Stream 1. This version is not made to be taken outside and needs to be near a wall socket as it’s powered by the mains. The cable supplied felt a little on the short side, coming in at 1m in length. At 27.5cm x 14cm in size, it’s quite a small speaker considering the sound. Even the 13cm height isn’t very much. Comparing it to the competition, we’d say it’s about half way in between a Sonos Play:3 and Sonos Play:5.
No official speaker dimensions were given but from what we can assume, there seems to be a pair of 3” cones and a tweeter. There’s a vertical bass port along the rear to help accentuate the bass, which manages to come across clear but slightly shallow. That’s not to say it’s absent of bass… there’s just a little less than you would perhaps expect. With the frequency response rapidly rolling off after 100hz, you’re going to miss some of the more deeper tones. In the rest of the areas, the Gear4 Black Stream 3 is pretty much on point, with excellent clarity and good representation of the frequency spectrum. Sounds are clearly divided and there’s a nice sense of space to tracks, with each instrument shining through the mix. Treble is also good, leaning more towards the soft side with rounder tones that won’t pierce your eardrums. All-in-all, it has a desirable smooth sound.
Gear4 Black Stream 3 packs a lot of connectivity
Connectivity is a big selling point on the Gear4 Black Stream 3 and the Stream 3 doesn’t disappoint, cramming in 3.5 AUX, Bluetooth, WI-FI DirectStream and WI-FI HomeStream. The former are solid options that tend to be a staple on portable speakers. When we asked why they chose to include both Bluetooth and WI-FI streaming support, a Gear4 representative stated that they didn’t alienate users with a new technology. It’s a fair point, though we’d advise you skip the Bluetooth if you want solid audio. It’s notorious for compressing audio and dumbing down the quality, so stick the WI-FI features for best sound.
DirectStream and HomeStream allow you to connect to the speaker using a WI-FI network, as all Stream models have a modem built into the device. The former requires a router and multiple speakers can be linked through your home network. The latter sets the speaker up as a WI-FI hotspot, so you can connect directly to it. Unfortunately, if you want to play music using these modes you’ll need to download the Gear4 Stream application, which currently feels a bit messy.
The user interface isn’t all that intuitive and all my albums were missing covers and song data. I couldn’t even find a way to alphabetise my music! Once you get your head around the weird setup of the app, it does get easier to use. We’d still recommend however, that they patch it with an overhaul.
Application aside, this is a very good multi-room speaker which is incredibly easy to set up and get working. Add to that the added plethora of connectivity options and you start to realise it’s a bit of a bargain when placed against Sonos and Libratone.
It’s not the most bass heavy speaker in the world, but it still packs a mighty sonic punch. If you’re after a bargain multi-room setup, the Stream 3 is well worth a look.