I felt like Christmas had come early when the Astrum SM360 arrived for review. I love the sleek, velvet feel of the unit, and the top carry strap was a nice touch.
Equipped with a USB port, a microSD card slot, Bluetooth support, and a built-in FM tuner, the SM360 feels feature rich. The first connection I made was to my phone, which proved to be seamless and within a few seconds I was playing my first track. Seeing as “360” forms part of the name of this speaker, I assumed the SM360 would emit some form of virtual surround sound – but alas, it’s directional. One side of the speaker’s barrel has an 8W 70mm subwoofer, and the other two 2W 30mm tweeters, along with a bass reflex port.
When the time came for me to haul out my trusty sound level meter, the SM360 yielded an average of 95.5dB at 30mm away, and 80dB from 3 metres away, so it’s very loud. I tested it against two other wireless speakers that’re similarly priced, and the Astrum is slightly softer, but not “OMG, I’m dying from white-noise disease” softer. The sound clarity is good, but the bass is a little below par compared to other speakers in its class.
Eventually I inserted a USB stick into the SM360, and that’s when it hit me: there are no built-in volume controls on this unit when playing via Aux, USB or microSD. This means the SM360 always outputs the sound from these connection types at full blast (95.5dB). The same goes for the FM tuner, and here too I struggled with the volume constantly playing maxed out. That, and there’s also no display to help you easily find stations. I was going in blind trying to find specific stations, with the sound blaring at 95.5db while I frantically pushed the forward and back buttons on the speaker.
Sure, I get it – this speaker will, for the most part, be used to play music via Bluetooth from your phone, and Astrum’s clearly designed with that in mind. When connected using Bluetooth, you’re able to control the noise level to your heart’s content via your phone’s volume rocker. Nevertheless, I feel that the omission of built-in volume controls is a strange design choice, one that lets the SM360 down rather significantly.