I’ve been using two Divoom speakers, the Tivoo and Tivoo-Max for a good three months and this review was meant to come out sooner. But the lockdown meant Divoom couldn’t operate its online store, therefore it made no sense to tell you about a product you couldn’t get your hands on. Now that e-commerce is ‘allowed’ in South Africa, I thought it would be best to share my – now extended – time with it.
A quick background about Divoom; they make a range of audio products for both indoor and outdoor, and have a smart series that is a collection of pixel art speakers. Under this retro-inspired category (seriously, they look like CRT TVs from the 80s), I got to try the entry-level Tivoo and its big brother, the Tivoo-Max. The pixel art speakers have a programmable LED panel that lets you customise what you display on the panel.
The Tivoo is a powerful little speaker that looks like a miniature TV from back in the day. If you’re an 80s kid like me, how can you not find that appealing? The design is what caught my attention initially and I won’t lie, I didn’t have high expectations on the sound quality, but that’s not a concern any longer as I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
It’s small enough to fit in my hand at 380g; features a 256 full RGB LED panel, 3rd-gen MCU processor, delivers 6W 360° sound, has bass port and a DSP processor. More technical specs include a 2″ driver, Bluetooth 5.0 support, wireless range up to 10m, frequency response of 80Hz-20KHz, signal-to-noise ratio 75dB, and a 3000mAh battery.
This particular speaker is placed on my nightstand and is in the colour white. I use it when I’m chilling in bed and listen to podcasts or whatever short videos I’m watching on YouTube or Instagram. Sound quality is crisp and it has a powerful bass for its dinky little size. I keep this one permanently plugged in because it’s just easier.
The top of the range Tivoo-Max is a square shaped speaker that is permanently at my office desk. I love the design, especially in the colour red. It’s built solid with sturdy legs. I don’t keep this one permanently plugged in but I do switch it off when I don’t use it to prolong the battery. It does have a timer you can set to switch off when inactive.
It has a 20W subwoofer, 2x 10W stereo speaker (left and right), a bass port and DSP processor. That’s a powerful 40W speaker with 2.1 stereo sound. They don’t call it an ‘acoustic beast’ for nothing; I can hear every sound and beat I need to. You simply have to listen to your music on it to appreciate the quality; everything sounds better on it.
Some of its other tech specs include 256 RGB LED panel with 16 million colours; Bluetooth 5.0 support; 10m wireless range; 40Hz-20KHz frequency response; 80dB signal to noise ratio; 8000mAh battery (amazing); and its 1490g in weight.
Both speakers needs to be paired with the Divoom app to make use of its full functionality. It works on both Android and iOS. It can be a bit overwhelming the first time you use it because it supports a lot of features. You have to create an account before you start, and choose your basic settings (time format, song titles, metric system, start-up logo, notification sounds, brightness, auto power off timings, etc).
I recommend you first play around with the app and its tabs, like Discover, Channel, Gallery and Music. Discover is where the magic happens with tons of features, which I’ll get into shortly; Channel gives you about six screen options to customise that you can access with the dial on the speaker – this took me a while to figure out how it works; Gallery is where the community uploads their pixel art and where you can choose stuff for your own speaker; and Music has a bunch of radio stations etc. I don’t use it because I just play straight from Spotify.
There are tons of features on this speaker. Mainly under the Discover tab. Instead of listing them all here’s a quick view:
I loved the DJ Mixer feature, it’s pretty cool for aspiring DJs or just to feel cool enough to do your own mixes. I loved some of the 80s sound I created. Text Editor lets you add your own custom scrolling message to the speaker, and if you fancy yourself an artist, create your own pixel art under Design. I’m not good at that, so I got my art from the community gallery.
If you live in one household and each kid has their own speaker and separate user account, they can use the Chat feature to speak to each other from their own rooms. And as you can see, it has social features like a scoreboard, countdown meter celebration days, stopwatch, game and planner, which makes it a great family speaker for the living room.
The Channel tab took me a while to figure out how it works. Inside this tab, you will see the option to customise six channels, which can be changed using the physical dial on the speaker. They are clock, lighting, cloud channel, VJ effects, visualiser (I love this one the most) and custom. Preselect whatever effects you want and toggle when you feel like it.
The Gallery will show you what the community is posting, and you can view it by new artworks, most popular, by character, festivals, emojis, patterns, etc. There’s a section that shows Experts and their artworks and groups.
The last option is Music with radio stations, local audio or TF card but I’ve never used this. I stream straight from my own apps like Spotify.
Both speakers support Bluetooth so I use the Tivoo-Max sometimes with my Macbook but I couldn’t get it to work with my older Windows PC (no Bluetooth) when used with the aux cables, which comes inside the box. I think it’s probably my old hardware on the PC.
Both speakers can’t be paired to the app at once. You have to disconnect one and connect the other. For most of my usage, I just go into the Bluetooth settings on my phone and pair to the speaker instead of via the app interface. These connections are separate to each other; just because you paired via phone settings, doesn’t mean it will work inside the app – if you are using the app features. You have to select the correct speaker to connect to inside it.
Initially, I spent a lot of time on the app to set it up and customise it to my liking. The app could be more user-friendly and it feels like there’s a lot going on. This is mostly because it supports so many features. I know this is a good thing for some, but I’m more minimal, and haven’t been using the app much after initial setup. I just use them as audio outputs, like a regular speaker, instead of the bells and whistles. Social media notifications support include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Viber, Skype, etc.
This point isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes when I leave my office, the range is so wide that it is still paired to the speaker and can’t hear sound on my phone because I’m in another room – very first world of a problem, lol. I manually disconnect.
Initially I was skeptical about the Divoom brand because I had not heard of it until the company contacted me. Now that I’ve used two products from their lineup, I appreciate many things about it – the design, quality of sound and packaging – they also include pixel stickers in the box. It has replaced all my other speakers.
That said, it has too many features for a person to fully enjoy, unless you’re younger perhaps. I don’t use more than half of what it has to offer, but that suits me fine. I use it for its primary function, and now that my presets are saved on each channel, I just toggle between them with the physical button.
The Tivoo-Max is more suited as a combined household gadget for everyone to use. The smaller Tivoo is better suited for individual usage. If you’re an audiophile who wants the best, then the Tivoo-Max is right up your alley.
The speakers are available from Divoom, iStore, Takealot, Musica, The Gadget Shop and Dealz.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 13 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ firstname.lastname@example.org