Vizio Crave 360 SmartCast Wireless Networked Speaker Review - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 29 Old 10-26-2016, 02:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Vizio Crave 360 SmartCast Wireless Networked Speaker Review

Vizio has a reputation for designing products that offer comparatively high performance for the dollar, especially when it comes to flat-panel displays and soundbars. The company recently expanded its product offerings with two networked lifestyle audio speakers: the Crave 360 ($250) and Crave Pro ($300). The Crave 360 is the smaller model and is designed to be portable, but it also comes with a charging dock that allows continuous operation with plug-in power.

For this review, I compared the overall fidelity of the Crave 360 to Denon's Heos 1 speaker ($200) as well as the Sonos Play:1 speaker ($200). While both cost less than the Vizio, they are smaller, monophonic speakers that lack a built-in battery. However, Denon does offer an attachable "Go Pack" battery for the Heos 1 for $100. Read on to find out how Vizio's entry into the lifestyle wireless-speaker category performs and how it stands up to the competition.

Features and Specifications

Standing 10" high with a 4.9" diameter, the Crave 360 is fairly large for a portable wireless-speaker system. It's a modern-looking cylindrical speaker made of a satin-aluminum alloy, cloth, and glass. The look and feel says luxury, and I would rate it as being more attractive than either the Play:1 or the Heos 1. The wraparound metal grill on the Vizio is actually reminiscent of the seamless metal grill on the Sonos.

Vizio says the 360's five custom drivers can combine to produce up to 95 dB of "dynamic sound" with "50 Hz bass." The speaker sports four 1.5" full-range drivers that provide 360-degree coverage, plus one 3.5" downward-facing bass driver that's located in its own sealed chamber. The speaker comes with a charging base and can run for up to eight hours on a full charge at 74 dB average output (C-weighted). It works with either Wi-Fi (802.11n) or Bluetooth and includes a leather carrying strap for easy portability.

Vizio's SmartCast app can be used to control the Crave 360, and you can also control it directly with Google Cast-enabled apps. SmartCast offers content aggregation and brings together multiple compatible devices to create a unified ecosystem for search and playback of content.

The entire top of the speaker is a glass touch-sensitive dial that supports tap-to-play and swipe-to-skip, and you rotate it to increase or decrease the volume level. An Ethernet port facilitates use in a fixed location that is not dependent on Wi-Fi, and a USB port lets it play files from a thumb drive, albeit without any sort of display with which to search for tracks. (The SmartCast app can't do this, either.)

The Crave 360 is a Google Cast-compatible device, and this crucial capability allows it to serve as part of a multi-room networked audio system. With Google Cast, you can assign speakers to groups and cast to individual speakers or groups of speakers from thousands of compatible apps. The system is flexible enough to handle usage scenarios that include playing different songs in different rooms or playing the same music in all rooms. Furthermore, the Crave 360 can coexist on a network with other Google Cast devices like Vizio's SmartCast TVs and soundbars, not to mention Google's Chromecast Audio streamer.



The Crave 360 speaker depends on its dock for power. The USB and Ethernet ports are located on the rear of the unit. Photo by Mark Henninger


One major area where the Vizio deviates from the Denon or Sonos speakers is its lack of a threaded socket for mounting with a bracket. Furthermore, the Crave 360 depends on its dock for power, whereas you plug a power cable directly into the other two speakers. This makes the Vizio ideal for placement on shelves, desks, countertops, and end tables, but not so much for mounting up high on a wall.

Performance

Fans of high-fidelity music reproduction need to reset their expectations when dealing with compact lifestyle speakers. This is not a system that will satiate an audiophile's deep craving for ultimate fidelity, or make a bassaholic nod their head in respect. But, it makes a perfect companion for cooking breakfast on Sunday morning, providing background tunes for a party, or taking on a picnic.


The Crave 360 is a great kitchen companion. Photo by Mark Henninger


The Crave 360 also turned out to be a viable alternative to the Sonos Play:1 and Denon Heos 1 speakers when serving as part of a multi-room networked-audio system. Indeed, I'd argue that the open nature of Google Cast makes it a very appealing. Setup was just as fast and easy as with Sonos, and a bit faster than with Denon Heos—all three systems took just a couple of minutes from power up to the point they were streaming music.

I took some quick readings using Room EQ Wizard and a miniDSP UMIK-1 USB mic to see how the three speakers compared, and the results coincided with my initial subjective observations. Vizio's speaker possesses measurably better bass extension and flatter response in the treble region, as compared to the Sonos Play:1. The same observation holds for the Denon Heos 1, but there was less of a performance gap in that case.


The Crave 360 beat the Heos 1 and Play:1 speakers when it came to bass extension, but not peak output. Photo by Mark Henninger


When it came to bass extension, the Crave 360 lived up to its claim of providing extension down to 50 Hz, easily beating the other two speakers in that metric. The Play:1 and Heos 1 both quit trying at around 80 Hz.

The Crave 360's peak output, as measured from one meter away, was lower than either of the other two speakers. However, the gap was only about 2 dB, and because the Crave 360 is radiating in all directions—unlike the other two speakers—it sounds as loud as the others.

Despite the claim that the Crave 360 is a 2.1 system, there's no real stereo soundfield to speak of. Notably, unlike the Denon and Sonos speakers, you can't use two Crave 360s as a stereo pair.

A major performance parameter for any wireless speaker is Wi-Fi range. I have no way to measure the exact limits of the Crave 360's wireless range, but there was no place in my home where it did not immediately connect to my network and stream reliably. This was in contrast to the Heos 1 and Play:1 speakers, which would sometimes struggle to connect when located at the farthest point from the router in my home, which is about 50 feet—two rooms and one floor away.

Sound quality was pleasant for a device of this type. It's not going to be the number-one consideration for such a product, but it's worth noting that the Vizio genuinely sounds better and measures better than the Denon Heos 1, or the Sonos Play:1. This advantage comes at the cost of a few dB of peak output, but even that is only because the other speakers are not omnidirectional. Unlike the other two speakers, the Crave 360 sounds crisp no matter where you stand relative to it.

Listening to music with the Crave 360 was more fun than I had anticipated. It's better than a lot of computer speakers I have heard, and it's 3.5" bass driver did its very best to pound out a genuinely surprising amount of bass for a device of its size.

I used Google Play as my streaming source. "Welcome to Los Santos" featuring MC Eiht and Kokane sounded surprisingly unencumbered, with a driving bassline and plenty of sparkle. Meanwhile, DJ Cam Quartet's "Espionage" from The Soulshine Session sounded better than decent; every note of the bass was reproduced with a tightness and depth that was commendable for a wireless speaker, while the cymbals, sax, and piano came through with non-fatiguing clarity.

I could—just barely—feel a bit of physical vibration from the bass. "Friends and Enemies," from the same album, showed off its surprising ability to parse out layered recordings in an engaging manner.

"You Wish" by Nightmares on Wax, turned up loud enough to be more than just background music, sounded surprisingly full and detailed. Don't get me wrong, it pales compared to a decent stereo system, but it's absolutely better than you'd expect from a lifestyle speaker.

The most notable aspect of the Crave 360's performance was how effectively the 360-degree dispersion works. The speaker's tonality stayed consistent regardless of where I was in a room.

Conclusion

There are many options out there when it comes to wireless, rechargeable, and Bluetooth speakers. Vizio's take on this type of product is a strong entry that can be used as part of a multi-room system at home with Google Cast or as a rechargeable, portable Bluetooth speaker that also plays music stored on USB flash drives.

It's well-made, attractive, and because it relies on Google Cast, it's not going to be obsoleted anytime soon. Indeed, the best thing about networked speakers is that their capability grows as the software controlling it matures.

On the design side of things, the Crave 360 looks so good, it got the ultimate seal of approval—that of my spouse. It's a speaker that sounds good, goes anywhere, is easy to use, and can act as part of a multi-room audio system. You can't ask for much more out of a wireless, networked, lifestyle-audio device. If Vizio's portable speaker sounds like what you've been looking for, it's worth checking out.
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Last edited by imagic; 10-26-2016 at 03:00 PM.
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post #2 of 29 Old 10-27-2016, 09:10 AM
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Pretty cool; doubt it matters for this article/outcome but the reflection off the table will produce different measurement results for all of the speakers. Results will be different due to the height differences between all of the manufacturers air motors.

Thanks for the article on this product.

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post #3 of 29 Old 10-27-2016, 11:17 AM
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You mentioned that you compared this Visio speaker to the Sonos Play 1 and a Heos speaker, and that it pretty much beats them. What other "lifestyle" speakers do you think would be a better comparison to the Visio in terms of SQ, bass performance, streaming ability, etc? Note that I didn't mention price in my question, since Visio has a habit of making very good products for much lower prices than most of their competition...
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post #4 of 29 Old 10-27-2016, 11:32 AM - Thread Starter
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You mentioned that you compared this Visio speaker to the Sonos Play 1 and a Heos speaker, and that it pretty much beats them. What other "lifestyle" speakers do you think would be a better comparison to the Visio in terms of SQ, bass performance, streaming ability, etc? Note that I didn't mention price in my question, since Visio has a habit of making very good products for much lower prices than most of their competition...
The Sonos Play:5 is in a whole different league and is a very good speaker. Vizio's own Crave Pro does not have battery power but is more focused on fidelity. Paradigm's PW600 is another good one for fidelity but it's also costly.

One thing I am curious about is how the Vizio stands up compared to what Bang and Olufsen offers in its wireless lifestyle speaker, since the price discrepancy is so huge.

I have only just begun looking into these types of speakers.
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post #5 of 29 Old 10-27-2016, 11:45 AM
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Just get a $50 Bluetooth speaker and save the real listening for actual speakers. 1.5" "full range drivers" and a 3.5" bass driver and all this could be yours if you want a sound making garbage can instead of some damn bookshelves and an AVR. But it's small you might say so are $50 BT speakers. I'm trying to cut back on stuff so I'm a bit irritable.

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Just get a $50 Bluetooth speaker and save the real listening for actual speakers. 1.5" "full range drivers" and a 3.5" bass driver and all this could be yours if you want a sound making garbage can instead of some damn bookshelves and an AVR. But it's small you might say so are $50 BT speakers. I'm trying to cut back on stuff so I'm a bit irritable.
Sure, but if you want something portable that does not literally sound like garbage, then consider this.
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post #7 of 29 Old 10-27-2016, 02:52 PM
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Sure, but if you want something portable that does not literally sound like garbage, then consider this.
Doesn't seem all that portable.

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Doesn't seem all that portable.
Ahhh yes, of course. Thank you for the insight, truly appreciated.
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post #9 of 29 Old 10-27-2016, 03:08 PM
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Ahhh yes, of course. Thank you for the insight, truly appreciated.
That was your selling point for spending 300% more for this than a regular $50 BT speaker the ones that can go anywhere without needing a dock.

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post #10 of 29 Old 10-27-2016, 03:14 PM - Thread Starter
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That was your selling point for spending 300% more for this than a regular $50 BT speaker the ones that can go anywhere without needing a dock.
How do you charge the speakers that you speak of? Solar? Hand crank? USB? Rub it against a wool sweater?

My advice is not to worry, instead be happy. Love the speaker that best suits you!
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post #11 of 29 Old 10-27-2016, 03:17 PM
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How do you charge the speakers that you speak of? Solar? Hand crank? USB? Rub it against a wool sweater?

My advice is not to worry, instead be happy. Love the speaker that best suits you!
At least they hold a charge for actual portable use. And you can get solar and hand crank chargers. Thanks for playing.

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Is it battery or does it depend on its dock for power? This could swing the entire election.

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At least they hold a charge for actual portable use. And you can get solar and hand crank chargers. Thanks for playing.
What a fun game, I had no idea. Thank you.
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post #14 of 29 Old 10-27-2016, 03:24 PM
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What a fun game, I had no idea. Thank you.
Answer the other post. And your gift basket is gluten free.
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My review duly noted that you get 8 hours of playback from a charge of the built in battery.
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post #16 of 29 Old 10-27-2016, 03:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Answer the other post. And your gift basket is gluten free.
Bored?
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post #17 of 29 Old 10-27-2016, 03:28 PM
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My review duly noted that you get 8 hours of playback from a charge
I read depends on its dock for power. Get your facts straight mister. Very misleading especially to someone that "took care" of the irritability and started watching cartoons.

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i read depends on its dock for power. Get your facts straight mister. Very misleading especially to someone that "took care" of the irritability and started watching cartoons.
lol!!!!! Reread the review. Or look the product up. Or go listen to some music. Fun times!
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post #19 of 29 Old 10-27-2016, 03:30 PM
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Bored?
wanna play world of tanks?

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This is a safe space.

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Nice alternative for background music. I have Sonos in every bedroom,kitchen and bathroom .The must important is that my wife love it. She love the sonos more than my Revel home theater setup.



how many music apps this vizio support? The bass can be a good thing for hiphop but it could affect other music genre. The sonos speakers have a pretty good midrange sound.


also love the idea that sonos constanly send firmwares ,exellent support.

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post #22 of 29 Old 10-28-2016, 05:50 AM - Thread Starter
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Nice alternative for background music. I have Sonos in every bedroom,kitchen and bathroom .The must important is that my wife love it. She love the sonos more than my Revel home theater setup.

how many music apps this vizio support? The bass can be a good thing for hiphop but it could affect other music genre. The sonos speakers have a pretty good midrange sound.

also love the idea that sonos constanly send firmwares ,exellent support.
Google says thousands of apps work with Google Cast, which is the networked audio ecosystem the Vizio supports.
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Setting aside my nonsense and article skimming. What is the main point of this if you have a stereo setup already. Features other than BT, sound and portability. What is worth $200 or so more than this thing. https://www.amazon.com/Anker-Bluetoo...tooth+speakers

Is the sound even better for the money? I'm looking for a better one (had 2) but rare music mostly podcasts and taking it up to gf place she's deaf but I like to listen up there while "medicated" when her brother and his husband come over. No stereo up there obvious reason. I'm just starting to mess with BT speakers myself.

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Google says thousands of apps work with Google Cast, which is the networked audio ecosystem the Vizio supports.

Ok forgot that it use Google cast. So you can cast youtube? that would be great.



we love our sonos ,We been using it for few years,I don't see it as a replacement for me.

still this one have some nice features.

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post #25 of 29 Old 10-28-2016, 12:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Sheckler View Post
Setting aside my nonsense and article skimming. What is the main point of this if you have a stereo setup already. Features other than BT, sound and portability. What is worth $200 or so more than this thing. https://www.amazon.com/Anker-Bluetoo...tooth+speakers

Is the sound even better for the money? I'm looking for a better one (had 2) but rare music mostly podcasts and taking it up to gf place she's deaf but I like to listen up there while "medicated" when her brother and his husband come over. No stereo up there obvious reason. I'm just starting to mess with BT speakers myself.
Let see, I have three stereo sets up in my house...you could take it out on the deck, to the beach or in the garage. You could use it tailgating. you could use it while you throw a frisbee in the yard.
And for someone like my daughter, this is all she uses, so she just takes it with her around the house...

Sure, there are cheaper options, but Mark reviewed this one!

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post #26 of 29 Old 10-28-2016, 12:40 PM
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Let see, I have three stereo sets up in my house...you could take it out on the deck, to the beach or in the garage. You could use it tailgating. you could use it while you throw a frisbee in the yard.
And for someone like my daughter, this is all she uses, so she just takes it with her around the house...

Sure, there are cheaper options, but Mark reviewed this one!
I think I'm just gonna gorilla tape something together.

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post #27 of 29 Old 10-28-2016, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Ted Sheckler View Post
Setting aside my nonsense and article skimming. What is the main point of this if you have a stereo setup already. Features other than BT, sound and portability. What is worth $200 or so more than this thing. https://www.amazon.com/Anker-Bluetoo...tooth+speakers

Is the sound even better for the money? I'm looking for a better one (had 2) but rare music mostly podcasts and taking it up to gf place she's deaf but I like to listen up there while "medicated" when her brother and his husband come over. No stereo up there obvious reason. I'm just starting to mess with BT speakers myself.
The point of devices like Heos and Sonos has been lost on me as well. Obviously in some ways you are paying for fidelity and all are going to likely sound far better then a cheap portable Bluetooth speaker. I have heard the Heos for example and was pleasantly surprised at it's abilities considering the form factor. I have not heard the $50 Bluetooth speaker you linked above, but rest assured if you want decent sound quality in a portable device you're going to have to pony up for it. That said, normally the point of these non portable devices like Heos and Sonos is lost on me. Because why spend $200 to $300 bucks on one of these, when you can go buy a nice quality Klipsch Bluetooth speaker like mine for about the same price and have the benefit of that portability. Obviously the Crave is portable, so that does help it's cause. Is the appeal of multi-room listening to the same music that high? Truthfully, I'd far prefer to see Mark do some head to head reviews on some high quality Bluetooth speaker offerings such as the KEF Muo, Onkyo X9, H/K Onyx, Bose Soundlink etc.

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post #28 of 29 Old 10-28-2016, 05:48 PM
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You don't have to pay what they ask for this speakers, I bought my sonos speakers from ebay like brand new.


My big concern is that vizio was bough by leeco. by experience with other products that did the same ,the products ended discontinued or replaced by lower quality products.

Last edited by losservatore; 10-29-2016 at 12:31 AM.
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post #29 of 29 Old 12-25-2016, 09:39 AM
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I just got one of these to try out as I plan for having multi-room music. I've always thought about using a multi-room capable receiver and in ceiling speakers at some point in my house but products like Sonos, Heos and now this from Vizio make it so much easier and more flexible. I can't compare sound quality to Sonos or Heos but most reviews I've read say the Vizio is better. I like the idea that the Vizio can be moved around easily since it also has a battery. This also allows me the ability to live with fewer speakers because if there's areas I don't need speakres all the time (say garage) I can just bring one with me when I'm working out there instead of having one dedicated to that space. I should have purchased two for testing multi-room with same music and running different audio to each speaker.

Now the bad. Although it was easy to setup and get going right away it lost connection to my WiFi on the second day. Then worked again on the third day for a few minutes before just dropping off again. Once again, reading the few reviews available out there it appears this is a common problem. I may try calling Vizio this week to see if there's a fix for this issue. Otherwise I will be returning and considering Sonos again.

@imagic did you have this around long enough to experience any problems with it staying connected to WiFi?

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