The Internet of Things is becoming more and more popular. A decade ago, the idea of connecting everything in our homes seemed like an impossible dream only available to the rich.
These days, however, it seems like every device functions as another device.
While at CES, I had an opportunity to meet with Sengled, a Shanghai-based lighting company that’s using lightbulbs to accomplish everything from extending your WiFi signal to playing sound from your phone.
At first, the idea of using a lightbulb for a speaker seemed like an innovative idea, but after spending some time with the Sengled Pulse Solo, this device is unable to live up to its promise.
Before delving into my experience with the Pulse Solo bulb, let’s take a look at the technical specs running it:
Sengled Pulse Solo Technical Specs
1.07” High-Fidelity loudspeaker with surround sound effect, performs as a Left-Right stereo. (Two x 3 Watts (Rated) @ 8ohms / bulb; 260Hz-18kHz frequency response).
Power Supply: 100~240V AC, 50/60Hz.
Power consumption: 9.5W (Rated), 12.5W(Light and Audio)
Brightness: 550 lumens, Color Temperature: 2700K, Ra: 80, Light beam angle: 105°.
Available in three standard light sockets, E26, E27 and B22.
Pulse Solo As Entertainment
When I purchased my Samsung Galaxy S7 at the AT&T store, I noticed the Pulse and Pulse Solo on the shelves next to bluetooth speakers for pretty much every use-case scenario.
JBL Harman provided the speakers for the Pulse Solo, and the company also produces the JBL Charge 2, one of the top-rated bluetooth speakers on the market.
The frequency on the JBL Charge 2 is 75Hz – 20kHz. For those unaware of audio frequencies, bass is from 60Hz – 250Hz. Sub bass ranges from 20Hz-60Hz.
Sub bass is the frequency range that you can actually feel more than hear, and in car audio, the speakers that create the booming bass sound are called subs.
On the other end of the spectrum are tweeters, which produce high-audio frequencies of 2kHz-20kHz.
With all that being said, the bass is where you’ll really notice the difference between the JBL speakers in the Sengled Pulse Solo vs the JBL Charge 2.
The Pulse Solo isn’t capable of producing bass frequencies. If you like music with a lot of bass, such as hip-hop or EDM, this is not the speaker for you.
However, the speakers on the Pulse Solo are noticeably better than the speakers on the Galaxy S7, providing a much clearer, brighter, and crisper sound. This is going to be true of any mobile phone, which focuses on the higher-end frequencies of the human voice.
Despite this, as a trained musician, I can’t recommend this speaker bulb to be used for music purposes. Sengle’s Pulse Solo does outperform any mobile phone’s speaker, but it can’t provide the same sound clarity of a traditional speaker.
Installing the bulb in a cheap desk lamp like below does somewhat improve the sound quality. The circular shape is perfect for audio uses, but this adds another $10 to the price and tethers both your light and sound to your smartphone.
Both speakers offer much more expansive musical range and crisper sound at the same price point. In addition, they are battery-powered, making them mobile sound solutions that are more inline with the point of using a mobile phone as an entertainment system.
Pulse Solo As an Intercom
Since the speaker isn’t an ideal solution for music, I looked for other uses for it. The idea of a speaker bulb intrigued me too much to dismiss the device simply because it can’t compete with traditional bluetooth speakers.
Having already used a few smart bulbs, I decided to try out the Sengled Pulse Solo as an Intercom system. This is where I stumbled upon the other major problem with this bulb.
The Class 3 bluetooth in this bulb disconnected from the phone as soon as I left the room. It wasn’t capable of transmitting even through the glass door to the back patio.
As much as I wanted to use the Pulse Solo bulb as an intercom, it was completely ineffective as such.
Pulse Solo As a Smartbulb
The only usage I could find for the Pulse Solo was as an LED smartbulb.
Unfortunately, as just a smartbulb, it’s unable to compete with the GE Link, and Phillips Hue smartbulbs.
At $14.99, the comparable GE Link smartbulb provides 800 lumens of light (vs the Pulse Solo’s 550) and can be voice-controlled. For $45, you get 2 bulbs and the hub that connects to your WiFi network, which has a much better range than Bluetooth.
The first-generation Phillips Hue starter kit costs $134.99 for a bridge and 3 600-lumen bulbs that change colors and also connect through WiFi, not Bluetooth.
Both of these smartbulb solutions not only work better and have more features, they’re cheaper per bulb, and you can control multiple bulbs simultaneously.
The Bottom Line
As much as I wanted to like the Sengled Pulse Solo, I simply can’t find a place in the market for it.
The lack of portability leaves it unable to be as mobile as the device necessary to run it. The lack of frequency capabilities makes it ineffective as a home-entertainment device, especially one at such a high price-point.
Sengled also offers a Pulse system where multiple bulbs can be linked and controlled together, but multiple speakers are only worthwhile if they have play different frequency ranges.
Although Sengled promotes the Pulse Solo for small rooms, there are just too many other devices that perform the same functions (providing light and sound) better and cheaper that it’s impossible to find a place for this technology.
If Sengled wants to create an actual market for speakers in light bulbs, they need to figure out how to cover a wider frequency spectrum with a longer wireless range and provide better control options.
Until then, this bulb is unlikely to catch any traction in a crowded market of smart and connected devices. It’s just technology for the sake of technology.
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work appears in High Times, Fast Company, Huffington Post, and The Street.