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TDK A33… The Best Sounding Bluetooth Speaker?

This post is a little old now and there are many other better bluetooth speakers on the market.

Please checkout my coverage of these great Edifier desktop/bookshelf powered monitors

Rating: 5

Update: The links in this article have been redirected to the A33’s successor, the A34. I’ve tried this out in a local store, it’s almost the same product with a cosmetic improvement, the addition of skipping buttons and NFC for Android pairing.

Warning for readers : This small speaker has exceptional sound for the price and will be your best choice hands down for use as an indoor speaker. But it’s use as a portable speaker is extremely limited by a battery that degrades quickly over time, something I was unaware of at the time of reviewing. It is replaceable, but for portable music you’re better off with a unit with a lithium battery.

 

If you like: music to sound good, good design, minimal clutter, moving around, you’ll love the TDK Life on Record A33 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker.

I only review the best things on this blog. Out of the range available, the TDK A33 provides much better sound, build quality and amazing usefulness for its price.

To let you know how much I love this thing, it has replaced my high end B&W 200 series and dedicated amp, significantly reducing desk clutter and taking away very little enjoyability.

First Impressions.

I discovered the A33 in my local electronics store. It was unusually weighty for it’s size which piqued my curiosity. I connected it to my phone via bluetooth and played a favourite track. I could feel the bass in my hands when I picked it up. The sound was crisp and clear – no tinniness. I was blown away by this phenomenal little unit.

I also tried the other market leaders in store. Sorry Jawbone. The A33 is a similar size, cheaper, and simply better. Let me break it down for you.

Build & Portability

It’s built like a brick. Compared to the other speakers I picked up, the A33 is heavier, but it’s also much sturdier. I’ve trucked it around in my bag. I know it’s been smashed in luggage handling – it’s even been soaked with the rest of my luggage. The result? It’s perfectly working and attractively worn. See this video of someone hosing it for a good five minutes.

The weight issue is a compromise. I don’t think of it as the lightest speaker in the world – but for the size it the best sound I’ve heard. I wouldn’t take it with me backpacking, but for light travel it’s perfect.

UPDATE: Alternatively, there is a lighter version of the A33 newly available, that seems to be a third of the weight going by the listed specs. Check out the A26: TDK Life on Record A26 Trek Wireless Portable Speaker.

The Sound

While the treble emanates from the two forward 2.5″ drivers (3.5w), the bass comes through a 2.5″ subwoofer (9w) and the rear facing radiators.

It’s loud. I hadn’t turned it up full until about 10 months after owning it when someone else cranked it at a party. It filled the room like a dance hall. Amazing.

Bass…Yes, it has great bass which you can improve further by placing it near a wall, or pointing it into a corner to bounce the sound throughout a room.

The A33 sits on rubber feet which keep it in place and eliminate rattle. The unit is heavy enough that the bass seeps into what it’s sitting on instead of floating off into nothingness.

TDK Life on Record A33 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker

The Battery

It’s good. You get many many hours on lowish volume and at least a few on mid. It’s rated for 6 hours, but you can get more out of it. (at first – as said, that doesn’t last too long).

What’s remarkable is that you can turn the battery off when the device is plugged in, to extend your battery life. Mine spends most of it’s time plugged in on the desk. A simple flick of a switch and your battery is back on, you pick it up and take it with you.

UPDATE:After a year and a few months the battery isn’t what it’s used to be (it lasts about an hour or two on lowish volume). If portability will be your main use for this unit, as opposed to desk or kitchen use, you might want to consider further.

Connectivity

The A33 connects via bluetooth or 3.5mm. It remembers the last BTR device it was connected to and will reconnect when turned on, if possible. The 3.5mm input makes for faster and easier connectivity if you are up for another cable across your working space / bedroom.

Bluetooth Specs

The A33 achieves it’s great sound over bluetooth with A2DP and in-built AAC decoding. That’s fancy for saying it’s not normal bluetooth and you can’t hear any compression. You don’t know it’s bluetooth – it’s as good as airplay and I doubt even an audiophile could tell it wasn’t plugged into the source. In short – 100% listenable for even discerning ears.

USB Charging

You can charge a USB device using the provided port. Handy in that I now have an extra USB port to plug things into, leaving my computer freer. I can’t stand having a million things plugged into the computer – I like to be able to pick it up and move at a moment’s notice.

The good news is the USB input provides a 5v charge – the same as a standard iPhone USB plug – which means it won’t damage your battery by charging too fast like many other USB ports (10v is designed for an iPad, but the iPad will still charge).

Bonus handsfree!

When paired with your phone, you can answer incoming calls using the A33. There’s a dedicated button for this so you don’t need to touch your phone it to answer a call. So if you’re at your desk using your phone for music via bluetooth, you won’t have difficulty receiving calls on the A33.

Best uses

I see this as a perfect desk or kitchen music unit. It wouldn’t be great for backpacking, but if you move around a lot it’s spatially economical.

Cons

None. I mean it. There’s nothing I don’t like. I’m simply a happy customer who has spent a very reasonable amount of money to get something that perfectly fits his needs.

Check it on Amazon, they seem to have a pretty good price:

TDK A33: 10/10 bluetooth speaker

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43 Comments

  1. Hey I went out and bought this unit based on your review. I absolutely love it! Your review is spot on. I get a little annoyed at folk who say they expect more bass – but its a small unit!! Just put it in a corner and its really rocks!!

    Terrific stuff!

    • Nice to hear Andrew! I knew you wouldn’t be disappointed. Recently I’ve been experimenting with placing the unit on top of hollow pieces of furniture, or a box, etc. – you can really get an even better sound. Thanks for letting me know you love it.

  2. Hey, just bought this unit and love it. Your review says it all. I have compared it to the Bose sound link and the A33 is twice as good at half the price. Great review.

  3. I had exactly same experience on local store you did :-)

    Was mainly just browsing, looked touched, something felt more heavy that others, hey it had power on, quick pairin and shortly I was blown away how ass kickingly good Avenged Sevenfolds Hail to the King was playing :-)

    I’ve been working on a company producing these portable BT speakers and have owned & heard more (own & competitor devices) than usual consumer and can very well state that this is really good, much above the majority in its size class, with reasonable amount of money to be departed with

    Just ordered two pieces (other for neighbour).

    Nice review!

  4. I just replaced my Bose Soundlink with this device. It is an incredible unit. Not only is the quality of the sound better, the unit cost half of what my soundlink cost. We use the unit for playing volleyball outdoors. I am extremely happy with my research and final purchase.

    -Blake

    • Actually, I haven’t investigated that. I’ll try to find out and get back to you. Make sure you’re subscribed to comment replies… I think you can do that by commenting again if you’re not.

    • The battery is easily replaceable, there are screws to remove a plate on the bottom. A simple google search will lead you to a replacement guide on tdk’s website.

      • Your best bet for a new battery is to go to a local shop such as Batteries Plus and get them to make you a new battery with higher quality batteries. My A33 now lasts 8-10 hrs if played at reasonable volume. If you buy your replacement from TDK it will be the same battery that you already have with the same life expectancy.

  5. Was wondering what kind of range you get with the bluetooth connection? Just picked one up, love the sound but the bluetooth starts breaking up at around 10 feet. I was hoping to get 30 feet, or even more. My Pebble works connected to my phone while the phone is upstairs and I’m down stairs.

    Was just wondering if you ran into anything.
    Thanks.

    • Actually, the bluetooth range isn’t that great in some situations, particularly when there’s a lot of concrete and metal. It hasn’t been an issue for me as I’m mostly tiering it to the computer, but if it’s connected to the phone and I have to disappear, there’s a definite risk of disconnection. I’m not sure how this aspect compares to other bluetooth speakers as I only compared the sound.

  6. Hi, I’m looking to get a small portable speaker to use in a project paired to a Raspberry Pi running squeezelite.

    I’m only in quite a small apartment so far, but the aim is to have multiple Pis running with inexpensive speaker systems in order to provide multiroom streaming. However, until I have found a good solution and can set aside more funds for the extra units, I’m looking for a good first speaker that’s portable.

    The reason the A33 looks so attractive to me is the USB charging. I’ve heard conflicting points, some owners stating that even though the manual says it’s not possible, their USB devices were being charged when the mains power is disconnected. If this IS the case, I could run the Pi permanently from the USB charge port, simply moving the whole unit together with me when I went to another room, while it’s still on, and playing the synced music with my living room. Then, when it get’s low on power, I could just plug it in for charging.

    If the manual is correct and USB charging doesn’t work when disconnected, the Pi will lose power and I’ll have to move it and wait for it to boot again in the next room (not a tragedy, but inconvenient and negates the portability somewhat).

    Would you be able to please test for me whether or not you can charge while disconnected? Thanks and great review!

  7. after listening to numerous bluetooth portable spkrs i auditioned the Tdk A33 and was very impressed. when i googled the reviews on it i found that it was highly rated in all. but i was wondering, what if the rechargeable bat finally conks out? thanks to you now i know that a replacement battery is available. thanks n more power!!

  8. I love this speaker. The weak spot is the ni-cad battery. Yet there is a YouTube video of someone replacing the 6 ni-cads with li-ions after soldering them in. I am going to replace mine soon as after 7 months of daily use they are not holding like they used to. The Bluetooth range has been more like 20 feet for me. But it is sufficient.
    Spot on for bass… Against a wall or corner it picks up quite nice. No regrets picking this up over the soundlink 2.

    • Yep – I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to update this post about the battery. After a year and a few months, it’s down to one or two hours at most on lowish volumes, making it only practical in plugged-in situations, in which it’s still worth it’s salt. Thanks for your 2c.

  9. After extensive research and testing, I finally decided on the TDK A33. I was lucky enough to get the next model up, TDK Trek Max A34 and I have to say it’s amazing. Total BANG for your buck.

    http://www.amazon.com/TDK-Life-Record-Wireless-Weatherproof/dp/B00JST4VHW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403583698&sr=8-1&keywords=tdk+a34

    Reading all your comments it looks like the main concern about this unit is the battery. In my research I came across the battery replacement instructions for the A33:

    Thank you for contacting our Technical Support Department. Regarding your email, you’ll be able to order a replacement AC Adapter and Battery for your unit through our parts supplier Farnsworth Hill at 1-800-321-6993 with the part number EU-BT00003000-B (battery) and ET-A2400V08500-B (power cord). We don’t have information about the price for it, but you’ll be able to verify it with them.

    Also you can look this parts in any other third party company, please find the specification for the battery and power cord below:

    Rechargeable Ni-MH Battery:
    MH-AA2000mAh L*6 (6 x AA)

    Power Cord:
    DC 12V ADAPER (Center Positive)

    With some digging I think I found a match for a replacement battery for $20, you want to search for a 6 cell AA battery pack. I assume it would be chapter to buy it on your own rather then get it from the manufacture. These types of batteries can commonly be found in hobby stores where they sell RC cars.

    http://www.onlybatterypacks.com/showitem.asp?ItemID=12010.8

    I’ve been researching batteries because I actually want to upgrade mine, but for all you other A33 owners, let your A33 live on!

    • Thanks. My opinion is it shouldn’t be so difficult to deal with a consumer device – replacing batteries and so on. I was happy with my unit living on the desk or just being an extremely small and portable but not thinking of it as a battery powered device.

      However I just had my A33 replaced here in Australia (the AC adapter died within out constitutionally guaranteed 2 year warranty ^_^ ) so I’m once again enjoying a fully functional battery and am hoping this time it lasts. I’m going to try leaving the battery switch permanently on to see if it makes much difference.

    • So, did you upgrade your cells to 2500mAh, and if so did you experience better battery life (longer than 6 hours?)? I noticed that the stock ones are 2000mAh and thought about upgrading to 2500mAh cells because I am not impressed with the battery life on mine so far.

  10. There are a few things you can do to help improve the performance of rechargeable batteries.
    1. When you first recieve your unit, charge the battery to a full charge (with no interuption of the charge cycle).
    2. Do not charge the battery again until it is fully discharged, at which point you should charge it until at full charge (again, try not to interupt the charge cycle).
    3. This process should be repeated for the first three charge cycles, and then once per month there after.
    4. You should avoid prolonged non use of the battery.
    5. Remember, these batteries have memories, so repeated partital use of the battery will affect its performance.

    Hope this helpful.

    • Do to you think the charging logic can handle increased capacity cells? 2500 vs 2000mAh…? I suppose the charge logic is checking voltage and not amphours.

      • If you will buy a new NiMh battery get the philips enelope 2500mh its solid rock and very good battery life. This is the only brand that i use in my photo gear for 10 years.

  11. hey ali!

    wondering what your current thoughts are on this speaker? after having it and it becoming a battery issue, is it still your fav.? What else would you buy?

    What do you know about the jam box mini jawbone? i love the bass from that unit. is the A33/34 as powerful? I love the durability- but if you’re mostly using it inside, maybe the battery issue isn’t worth it. what do you think?

    finally, can you pair this device?

    gracias!

  12. Hi ali just found your site whilst googling working instructions for my TDK blue tooth speaker ,which was a Christmas present from my husband . I absolutely love it, unfortunately it’s stopped working and I can’t find my instructions to see if I’m doing something wrong.ive plugged it back in to mains to charge the batteries and it is still not working ! Do the batteries need to be full for it to work even if it’s plugged into the mains?
    Thanks
    Maria

    • It could be the power supply – take it to a/the store and use another one to see if that’s all you need.

      It should be under warranty though, so really you could just ask the retailer to deal with it. Good luck.

  13. Hi there..great write up… was looking to buy the A34 and then i saw the A360 on display..any reviews on it?? which is better and louder

  14. Hello everybody,

    I bought my A33 about a year and three month ago. I bought it because I travel a lot and didn’t want to buy a new sound system in every new place I ended up. I haven’t been using my unit heavily, and have been trying not to leave it plugged in for too long, and always with the battery switch Off to avoid using the battery while charging it – I unplugged it at night and sometimes would just use the battery until the red light came on. I recently noticed the battery life was completely unreliable and the batteries would hold or not hold the charge randomly. And most recently my A33 didn’t hold the charge at all. On battery mode, it would go to the red blinking light right away, lower the volume to the minimum and make the sound stutter. Whether on Bluetooth or aux, same thing happened. What I figured is the batteries were actually full but for some reason the unit would interpret they were empty. Instead of plugging it to the AC, I tried to let it die completely to see how long it would hold. As I had guessed, the speakers stayed on too long for the batteries to be dead. I ended up having to actually empty them by forcing full volume back on when the unit would lower it and bear with the stuttering sound – and so for literally hours! I put it a drawer to mutter the sound and got out of the room… Eventually, the battery emptied itself – no more sound came out of it at any sound level, only LEDs on. I put it to charge again and oh miracle, it’s now holding the charge. Three charge/discharge later, the battery life is between 4 and 6 hours depending on the sound level – that is about midlevel. Hope this can help those who have trouble with their A33 not holding the charge, especially if you have left if plugged in for long periods of time. I had heard it is good to put the NiCad batteries through full discharge/charge cycles every now and then, but I never actually did it. I figured this might be the reason why the unit was interpreting the batteries where dead.

    • Interesting! I guess it’s similar with other electronic devices that recommend the battery being cycled every month.

    • Update : after a few more cycle of charging/discharging, the battery doesn’t hold the charge anymore – again. I contacted TDK for a solution, and TDK Europe – warranty in Europe is 2 years, I live in France – sent me a new battery that should arrive anytime soon. We’ll see how long this one lasts. So yes the battery is covered by the warranty for those who still had doubts.

  15. I have the TDK A33, TDK A360, and the older TDK 2 Speaker Boombox. These products rock in terms of sound. Yes I have had the battery degradation over time in both the A33 and the A360. The A360 is more powerful and has more bass. It has bottom facing sub-woofer and 4 small drivers for the mids/highs. As Ali says, place the A33 near a wall to boost the bass. The A360 will fill the room as it fires in four directions.

  16. This is a great portable speaker for a small boat – it can be charged with a 12v/US-5 adapter and it’s grippy and splashproof. The rubber feet prevent the heavy beast from sliding around on a tilting surface. Coupled with a good tablet and you have a great minimalistic media setup offshore with a speaker you can leave lying around on deck. But don’t turn it up too loud and disturb everyone in the anchorage!

  17. Have purchased A 50000MaH Powerbank for $25-00 and a 5.5 mm Bullet adaptor which goes into the DC/12V Power jack all found on Ebay.End of any power problems.Hope this helps.play on!!!

    • Can you post up the links to the items and pictures of a how to rig it? I’ve never used a bullet adapter before.