We've all seen countless numbers of small speakers designed for use with an iPhone, iPad, or laptop. Most of them have sound quality equivalent to their prices, low and low respectively. Thus, I was a bit hesitant to embrace the foxL DASH7 pocket-sized loudspeaker when a colleague pulled it from his bag at Rocky Mountain Audiofest 2013. Granted this was a colleague whose opinion I respect greatly but I've heard the same story about small speakers sounding much bigger than their sizes one too many times. I proceeded to indulge my friend by connecting my iPhone 5 to the foxL DASH7 via Bluetooth and selecting some tracks from my favorite music service MOG. I was immediately blown away by the sound. RMAF 2013 hadn't officially started and I knew I'd already heard my favorite product of the show. Yet, this product wasn't even on display at the show. I spent the next thirty minutes listening to the foxL DASH7 placed on a few different surfaces with several different types of music. Following this impromptu listening session my next question was, "How do I get one for review?"
The foxL DASH7 is a pocket-sized loudspeaker that weighs 7.1 ounces. The DASH7 is highly portable or easily placed on a cluttered desk due to its small size. The temperature here in Minneapolis is currently -11 degrees Fahrenheit. Needless to say I didn't test the DASH7 while on my bike or while pushing my daughter in her stroller down the parkway. I'm willing to bet the speaker would work great but the stated 12 hour battery life may be reduced a bit in the cold. I used the DASH7 around my house in the kitchen, on my desk, and in the living room while decorating the Christmas tree. The speaker was fantastic in all three situations.
One of the things I like best about the DASH7 is its ability to accept power from battery, a computer's USB port, or any 5 volt 2 amp charger. In addition the DASH7 ships with the all the necessary cables and a charger to make use of these options. When using the DASH7 at my desk I leave the unit connected to via the included wall charger for power. This power connection enables twice the power output compared to USB and battery power. Inclusion of another cable for USB power enabled me to leave the 5v adapter in place at my desk when using the DASH7 elsewhere. This is very nice as I dislike dragging cables around the house or on an airplane unless it's necessary. In addition, I weave the power cable connected to the 5v adapter behind my desk and through some hoops for cable management. If I had to unravel this cable in order to use the DASH seven in another part of the house I'd probably purchase another cable rather than go through the hassle. Fortunately Soundmatters includes the cables many users need. When using my laptop somewhere other than my desk I connect the DASH7 via the included USB cable to power the unit. I prefer not to use battery power unless absolutely required simply because of all batteries have a limited charge cycle lifespan. The DASH7's battery is replaceable should the need arise. When powered from its internal battery the DASH7 should last around twelve hours. I didn't time my listening sessions and listen until the battery ran out, but I never had an issue with battery life. I used the DASH7 on battery power for many hours at a time and believe it would easily last an entire work day running on batteries.
Computer audiophiles should note that the DASH7 can't act as a DAC when connected directly to a computer via USB. It doesn't appear as an audio device unless connected via A2DP Bluetooth. The DASH7 doesn't support aptX.
Most of my DASH7 listening was done at my desk in my listening room. The desk is made out of solid wood. I mention the material because the sound of the DASH7 can be greatly affected by the surface on which it's placed. When placed flat on its back on this wooden desk the DASH7 is a bass monster. Listening to Bill Evan's Waltz For Debby the DASH7 rattled my desk at high volumes during deep bass notes. This isn't an album known for its bass demonstration capabilities at HiFi shows, but through the DASH7 on the right surface it was surprising. When seeking a bit better sonic image I tilted the DASH7 forward by resting it on the included magnetic sleeve. This reduced the bass reinforcement from my desk and produce what sounded closer to a flat frequency response.
I moved the DASH7 to my kitchen one evening while cooking dinner. I place the unit on its back on a granite countertop. In this placement the countertop didn't reinforce the bass like my wood desk in any way. The sound was much closer to the DASH7 resting on its sleeve at an angle. My configuration in the kitchen was an iPhone streaming MOG to the battery powered DASH7 via Bluetooth. A very portable system to say the least. The DASH7 easily produced enough distortion free sound to fill the kitchen. Some small speakers distort badly when attempting to fill an entire room with sound. This wasn't the case for the DASH7.
The third area I tested the DASH7 was my living room that connects to my dining room in an L shape. I placed the DASH7 on its back on a wood dining room table. This table is much more sturdy than my desk and has a much larger surface area. I connected the unit to my retina MacBook Pro via USB for power. The audio streamed from MOG running on the laptop. Once paired with my laptop via Bluetooth I selected the DASH7 in Audio MIDI the same as I would select any audio device such as a USB DAC or built-in speakers. I played music in this configuration for several hours while decorating the house and Christmas tree for the upcoming holiday. Bing Crosby's White Christmas album is no audiophile sonic treasure, but the ability to play it for my almost two year old daughter without jumping through setup hoops was priceless. There is no way I could have configured another system with cables and components while keeping my daughter from smashing all the Christmas ornaments. The DASH7 was simple and reproduced the soundtrack of the evening. Resting on the solid wood kitchen table the DASH7 sounded better than the previous two configurations. I really like all three configurations for that matter, but one was best. Just the right amount of its monstrous bass was reinforced by the table while the mid and high frequencies filled the L shaped room. I was surprised the DASH7 could fill this space with clear and crisp sound. Looking at the unit and feeling it on one's hand provides the user no indication of the sound that emanates from the DSAH7.
Excellence and Relativity
How can the sound of a $100k reference system, the Peachtree Deepblue, and the foxL DASH7 all be excellent? Everything is relative. The 7.1 ounce Soundmatters foxL DASH7 is no match for the Peachtree Deepblue. But at $400, an exponentially larger size, and lack of portability the Deepblue is in another category. In its category the DASH7 is the best speaker I've ever heard. Its sound is excellent. Sure I want more from the $219 DASH7 loudspeaker but I also want more from my TAD CR1 loudspeakers with an MSRP of over $40,000. Once in a while getting good music to locations where one wants to listen is most important. Moving one's main two channel system to an office, kitchen, or bicycle handlebars isn't going to happen for most of us. Spending a bit over two hundred bucks for the foxL DASH7 is likely in reach for all but the poorest college student computer audiophile. I highly recommend picking up a DASH7 or two or three. The Computer Audiophile contributing writers don't know it yet, but they'll each be receiving a DASH7 from the CA Santa Clause this holiday season.
Product: Soundmatters foxL DASH7
Where To Buy: Online
foxL DASH7 Image Gallery