When we were approached by NIMA to review their new NCAA-licensed bluetooth speaker helmet, we were initially cool to the idea. RBR receives dozens-to-hundreds of product solicitations every year; and, even if receiving NCAA licensing, very few of those products meet our standards of quality and value sufficient to earn an endorsement or recommendation.
So, when I unboxed the demonstration model of their Alabama speaker, the expectations were low: As a musician with tons of audio products and a studio, I have more demanding standards for sound quality than most consumers.
Even my snobbish standards were not just met, in many cases they were blown away, especially for the price point.
What I received in the small demo version was a powerful, punchy, sturdy-but-mobile BT stereo speaker that was extremely easy to use, paired easily and readily with every mobile device across platforms (including the tablet that this is being written on,) and had enough quality aesthetic to sit on your desk, RV bar counter, kitchen corner, side table etc. (This one presently lives on my desk.)
- Full range driver for midrange clarity woofer
- Hardwearing polycarbonate construction
- TWS application to pair two NIMA speakers simultaneously
- APP for the Bluetooth speaker that includes 7 band equalization; available for iOS an Android
- Built in microphone for use as speaker phone
- Bluetooth 4.2+EDR (<20m reception)
- DC IN (19v/6.3A), USB 2.0 (5V/1A)
- Frequency: 100Hz-20kHz
Techaeris had this to say, and we echo that:
This is easily the most unique and best Bluetooth speaker design I’ve ever seen — and I’ve seen a lot...
Around the right and left of the helmet you’ll find your NCAA team branding along with mid-range speakers on both sides. The NIMA logo is prominently displayed on the speaker grills, it’s nice branding and goes well with the overall look of the helmet. On the front of the helmet speaker, you’ll find more NIMA branding on the face guard buckle that holds the face guard in place. Around back is where all the controls are located, the diagram above breaks it down. Our review unit had a few differences from what the diagram shows, for example, the play/pause/TWS button is the play/pause/call button on our unit. The other difference is the EQ button is the TWS button on our unit, we used the included app for EQ control in our testing. Overall this design is pretty amazing, not only is it built really well but who would have thought the helmet shape would make an excellent acoustical vessel for sound.
That really nails it, particularly with the cool advanced features and sound quality. I placed this device side-by-side my Bose SoundDock III, Bose Soundlink and Sony SRS-XB30 to evaluate the sound. In terms of clarity, signal strength, bass punch, true mids, and crisp treble, the NIMA blew the comparably-priced Sony away. It was not have quite in the same class as the far pricier, physically-docked SoundDock, but it even met or exceeded the Bose Soundlink -- at a significantly lower cost than the latter.
When I went poking around for the benchmarks later, I found out why:
I am by no means a photographer, and am in the process of moving so everything is a disaster at the moment, but I will include actual photos of the demo model so you can see the small details (like 16 on the helmet,) alongside some professional shots below.
The only real downsides I found were the lack of a remote, and the EQ settings. The former isn’t that big of a deal since your paired device can generally handle the remote functions. But, the companion NIMA app for adjusting EQ only works with music physically stored on your device. So, no Apple Music, no Tidal, no Spotify, no Pandora. You will need to adjust the equalizer in those respective applications/services (or, for iOS users, the primary sound settings in your OS.)
The minor complaints I have are so negligible for everything this device does. One particularly impressive feature is its ability to discharge the battery storage by acting as a portable charging station into other devices — so, heading to the stadium and need to to top up your phone? You can discharge the juice from the speaker right into your mobile device. The other rather neat feature is its ability to take phone calls, which I found to have a very good call quality when doing so.
Finally, I do appreciate its responsiveness. I use an Echo, Apple TV, FitBit, and several wireless keyboards and the like in my home and office. The dedicated frequency and robust firmware made switching back and forth between these input devices a breeze.
All in all, with an entry price of $119, you’d be hard pressed to find a licensed device in the NIMA’s class with respect to its sound quality, ease of use, feature-laden construction, and fantastic Bammer-ness.
I cannot recommend it more highly.
And now, even better, we have one to give away to you!
We love contests. To honor Father’s Day/Mother’s Day, in the comments below, tell us how your mom/dad/husband/wife/son/etc. have made you a better person, have shaped your life, or have even made you a better fan, and why they/you deserve this wonderful little product. You may only submit one entry.
Editors, Contributors, Managers, Writers, Independent Contractors of SB Nation, and their immediate families, spouses, lovers, pets and bitter foes are eligible to win. No other submissions will be accepted in any form save these comments. All entries are due by Friday, June 15th at 10:00 p.m. Central Time. Editors will select five finalists, but may not vote on their own submission, and you gentle reader will determine the winner, which we’ll announce on Father’s Day, June 18th, Noon central.
And, even if you don’t win, you can always get your own at NIMA’s site.