As technology improves, we typically think of things getting smaller, slimmer, and more compact, as companies squeeze more performance out of less space. But you can only cheat the laws of physics so far. That’s why 808 Audio super-sized its successful Canz speaker with the recently released Canz XL.
While the original Canz is slightly smaller than a soda can, the XL is nearly the size of a 2 liter bottle, keeping the cylindrical shape to produce even more 360-degree sound. It has a powder-finish aluminum shell that’s available in 3 colors: black, blue, and gunmetal. Visually, the design is minimalist; the plain-faced exterior is accented only by a small LED status light. As if in recognition of this lack of flair, 808 includes a shiny logo decal to add some visual interest to the speaker, if you choose to stick it on. The bottom of the speaker is lined with a rubber anti-slip mat that keeps the speaker firmly seated on flat surfaces.
On top is a metal grille covering the single 3.5-inch driver, but don’t be deterred by the prospect of mono audio as a driver this large is capable of producing a wide range of frequencies, particularly in the bass which is the primary trade-off for the larger form factor. In addition to the large driver, a vented passive radiator helps the lower frequencies resonate out of the base. A button near the top on the back of the speaker releases the pop-up handle, however, carrying it by this thin wire is awkwardly reminiscent of holding a can of paint. The speaker has two input ports towards the base for the DC plug and Aux-in line, though an audio cable for non-Bluetooth connections is not included. The battery can run for about 8 hours on a full charge, depending on playback volumes.
The four buttons along the top rim control power, bass boost equalizer mode, and volume, but there aren’t any playback controls such as play/pause, track navigation, or hands-free calling. This means you’ll have to control playback through your paired device, which only proved a minor inconvenience. Pairing to the speaker via Bluetooth is straightforward. The speaker even starts up in Bluetooth mode automatically the first time you turn it on, though to put it back into Bluetooth mode to pair a different device later, you simply double press the power button.
In terms of audio quality, at moderate volumes the sound from the Canz XL is clean with good reproduction in the low ranges. However, once the volume was maxed out, many tracks suffered from distortion and a lack of definition, especially if it featured a good amount of low bass. In most cases, we preferred the bass boosted EQ mode, as the standard listening mode tended to sound flat and, in a word, canned. On some tracks the bass boost mode made almost no difference, while on others the sound was not only more balanced but sharper as well.
Though the overall listening experience wasn’t as impressive as we’d hope for from a speaker of this size, the Canz XL did deliver decent quality audio with respectable low-mids and bass performance. In terms of volume, it can get quite loud, but you’ll have to watch out for distortion when you crank it up. You’ll likely be able to find similar audio quality in the $100 price range, perhaps in a smaller package with additional features like on-speaker playback controls, weather resistance, or mobile charging, but you might miss out on the 360 degree sound. The Canz XL is available now on Amazon for $99.99.