Beats Pill XL Review: A Great Bluetooth Speaker That Plays Nice With Others

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There are so many Bluetooth speakers, you could easily be mistaken for feeling like you’re drowning in them. So what does it take for a company trying to sell a Bluetooth speaker to stand out? Well there’s a popular brand for one, and Beats has that, but with the Pill XL, it also offers the ability to pair two speakers for true stereo sound from a single source, and that’s a big deal when you’re talking about Bluetooth, which doesn’t natively support output to multiple audio devices at the same time.

Basics

Pros

  • Sync two Beats Pill XL speakers for stereo sound
  • Top-notch sound quality

Cons

  • NFC-based speaker pairing can be hit or miss

Design

Everyone seems to have a theme for their wireless speakers, which take the form of some real-world object, and Beats have opted for the “pill” look. There are worse designs upon which to base your brand identity, and speakers work well as ovaloid things anyway so on the whole, I applaud this design direction. The Pill XL takes the smaller and original Pill speaker and inflates it, but adds a handle at the back for easy portability, and it’s a formula that’s surprisingly pleasant in terms of both looks and ergonomics.

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The glowing red “b” is a bold bit of branding on the front of the Pill XL, but I’ll allow Beats this bit of bragging because they’ve turned out a speaker that otherwise is mostly understated and attractive, with a minimal front for visual simplicity but ample controls on the back for flexibility of use.

Performance

The Beats Pill XL really impresses in terms of audio performance. It manages to stay clear and bright even to high volumes, which is not something that can be said of most Bluetooth speakers, even those in the larger, more powerful output category. As with most Beats products, the Pill XL features bombastic bass performance, but it manages to muddle the highs a lot less than I was expecting going into my tests.

In fact, the Beats Pill XL does a better job with sound quality overall than the Jabra Solemate Max I tried out recently, and compares well even with the Cambridge Minx Go speaker that has been my audiophile favorite for a while now. It’s a different kind of sound, one that’s probably more suitable for backyard parties than dockside relaxation with classical music, but depending on your mood and tastes, the Pill XL is just as good, if not better, than the Minx Go, and miles above the Jawbone Big Jambox.

Maybe the most revelatory experience with the Pill XL is tapping it to another Pill XL (or Pill) and pairing the two speakers for simultaneous output from a single source. You can switch between stereo sound with each speaker acting as one of a left and right channel, or have them both output the same sound in “Amplify” mode. Admittedly, I did have some trouble occasionally getting the speakers to recognize each other via the NFC bumping method they use to pair, but it was worth the minor hassle once they did connect to finally be using two Bluetooth speakers with a single device.

Bottom Line

Beats has done something I thought nigh impossible these days, which is truly surprise me with a Bluetooth speaker. The $299.95 price tag on these things may seem steep, but you’re getting one of the longest lasting (the 15 hours of battery life Beats advertises is about accurate) models available, with some of the best sound available, with multiple speaker pairing capability thrown into the mix. Add in the fact that the Pill XL can charge your smartphone on the go using a built-in USB port, and that it acts as a good quality speakerphone, and you’ve got the complete package.