It is time to take a look at what proves to be another grand contestant in the game of Bluetooth speakers, as Kicker brings us a speaker that boots most of their neighbors out of the mix with. Kicker’s Amphitheater (iK5BTL) Bluetooth speaker not only looks good, but demands attention as it can fill a decent size room with enough sound to entertain an entire party with.
Think I am exaggerating? I guess it depends on how large your party is and how close everyone sticks together. It can indeed cover an entire apartment or condo easily. This would be great for backyards, large garage spaces and so many other situations.
It features a nice crescent curve to it and a very pleasing design, allowing it to compliment most any environment. Mostly black with a little silver accenting on the front and a silver Kicker logo on the face of the Lightning dock, the majority of the body has a smooth matte finish with a glossy vertical stripe running down its center as well as glossy buttons on the top.
Once you plug the speaker into the wall for power (not a portable speaker), you have four ways of providing it with a source:
- Apple Devices: On the front of the speaker towards the button, there is a small stand and Lightning input for iOS devices (iPods, iPhones, iPads, etc). Simply insert your iOS device, switch the input of the speaker to Lightning (white LED) and begin playing music on your device.
- Bluetooth: Make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your device and searching. Find the button at the top left of the speaker for source/pair and hold it down to being pairing the speaker to your device. Once connected, begin playing music.
- Aux 3.5: On the back of the unit there is an analog 3.5mm input for devices that do not support Bluetooth protocol. Simply plug in a cable between the speaker and your device and begin playing music.
- USB: Also on the back of the unit, there is a USB port for devices that support playback via USB.
The front-side of the speaker features its main cones and on the rear side you’ll find a 6-inch square woofer for really adding warmth to what you are listening to. On the top of the speaker are four buttons for source/pair, muting and volume up and down controls.
There is no NFC for pairing your devices, but it takes only a few moments to pair your device via Bluetooth. Once you are off and running with it, you immediately notice how rich the speaker sounds. There is a pretty decent range and more volume than some would expect. It can also hit really hard for those that enjoy listening to hip hop, club tracks and so forth.
Just in case the speaker doesn’t quite amuse your ears just yet, you have the option of fine tuning it using Kicker’s KickStart app, which can be downloaded for free from both the Apple and Android app stores. Currently, the app does not support Windows devices just yet (ie, Windows Phone 10 OS).
The app allows to you to control your bass and treble, chose from a selection of DSP presets, an 8-band EQ as well as a few other settings involving auto-start and play and a list of paired devices.
You can also control the treble and bass by using the included remote. The remote also offers you the same controls you find at the top of the speaker as well as previous and next tracks. The remote is small and fits easily in the palm of your hands. It is powered by one CR2025 cell battery which should last you a pretty decent amount of life. We found ourselves using the remote a lot, however, it only has about a 10-15ft working range. Also, the front face of the control (which includes the buttons) is a sticker that seems slightly over-sized for the area causing it to catch on things and possibly peel up (see the button edge of the sticker, seen on the right side of the following image).
We tested a number of music genres against the speaker, all of which sounded absolutely fantastic. It just has so much volume to it and a great deal of range, without any heavy distortion at the higher levels. The 6-inch woofer on the back really adds to what you are listening to with sharp bass which proved to be great for kickdrums and digital bass drops.
This speaker is perfect for just about any indoor needs as well as a number of outdoor solutions that don’t require too much of a footprint (and as long as you have a plug nearby). We even connected it to a TV via a 3.5mm aux cable connected to the back so that it could act as an analog soundbar (in a way). It obviously made the audio coming from the TV’s speakers sound like a complete joke. It even felt as though there was a speaker bar there due to the option of expanding the spatialization of the speaker via the smartphone app.
Next up is price. You can currently get it for about $219 (slightly less for the model that doesn’t have the lightning dock on the front). We pitted it up against a number of speakers (both all powered and mobile) within its price range to see how it compared. Against wireless Logitech’s Boom 2 ($199) and Megaboom ($249-$299), the Kicker Amphitheater outperformed both of them hands down in both volume and range. The Boom 2 seemed to have a more accurate range just slightly, which really adds to music when you’re listening to audiophile formats. However, it couldn’t fill the same space as the Amphitheater nor provide as much volume.
We then whipped out the SB Roar 2 by Creative ($129-$169) that features its own built-in sub. The end result, was that Kicker’s speaker kicked it right out of the room without contest. Creative’s speaker was badly affected by distortion at higher volumes and couldn’t come close to the presence that the Amphitheater has to offer.
Finally, we pitted it against the Panasonic SC-AKX18 Jukebox sound-system. A wall powered jukebox with detachable speakers that really demand your attention due to size and volume. It typically retails for around $179-$229. It’s hard to go up against a Jukebox setup like this because of the fact that you are able to place the speakers how you want them for manual spatialization and offer a barrage of features. Even with this match-up, the Panasonic left much to be desired where the Amphitheater really picked up this slack. Even though the Kicker speaker is stationary as an all-in-one unit, it was just as effective it filling a large space with a wide presence, and sounded much better.
There are no cables inside so you will have to provide your own if you need to connect anything to it via aux 3.5mm or USB on the back. The only thing in the box outside of the speaker is a power cable and documentation. Thankfully, most devices now support Bluetooth so more than likely, you won’t be needing any extra cables anyway.
It is packaged very well, protecting the speaker during shipping as well as surface areas from scratches using protective layers of film that you take off.
A fantastic speaker. It sounds great no matter how loud you crank it or how low you take it (or some of those softer moods). It looks good and compliments any environment and has a selection of ways to connect to it. Everything from rock, rap, club, pop, soundtracks and more, all sound terrific using it. The remote needs a little work to make sure the front sticker properly fits within the beveled area of the face of the remote. It also needs a little more range than the 10-15ft we were getting out of it. Outside of that, there were no complaints coming from us because it simply sounds like Kicker knows how to make a killer speaker that will send the competition scurrying. The only thing we would add to it, would be the ability to support multi-room audio via the app. The ability to connect multiple Amphitheaters together to act as a house-wide system would be fantastic. Maybe they might consider this for the next gen release.
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
User Manual – Link
Most iOS devices with Lightning connector.
|Woofer (in., cm)|
|Tweeter (in., cm)|
|Square Reflex Subwoofer (in., mm)|
|6 x 6, 152 x 152|
|Stereo Amp Power with DSP (watts)|
|Frequency Response (Hz)|
|Power Supply (volts, ampere)|
|Height x Width x Depth (in, mm)|
|8.87 x 19 x 9.14, 225 x 483 x 232|
|Weight (lbs, kg)|
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