I’ve used/reviewed lots of Bluetooth speakers. From the SOL REPUBLIC DECK to the Skullcandy Air Raid and the Beats Pill, I’ve seen them all. Or so I thought. When I was contacted by I-Venstar and asked if I wanted to review “The Taco“, my curiosity was piqued, and I said yes.
The Venstar* Taco is…well, it’s a mid-sized Bluetooth speaker that is shaped exactly like a taco. It measures 63mm x 65mm x 210mm (2.5in x 2.6in x 8.3in) and weighs 300g (10.6oz). The taco “shell” is a slightly rubberized black, while the “meat”, or inside part of the taco is bright red.
There’s a panel in the center that contains four buttons, starting with a dedicated power button. There’s also a multipurpose button that allows you to pause/play your music, or answer an incoming phone call, and a pair of buttons that allow you to skip the track, or adjust the volume. To skip the track, you simply press one of these buttons (forward or backward), and to adjust the volume, you press and hold for a few seconds.
I would have preferred this functionality to be swapped, so volume is the default, but otherwise found them responsive and easy to use. There’s also a small indicator light hidden between the power and multipurpose buttons.
On the “bottom” of the taco, directly behind the aforementioned button panel, is a flat strip. This serves to steady the “taco” if you’d like to stand it up straight, but it also has a thin silicone flap that protects the 3.5mm auxiliary input port, and microUSB charging port.
The Venstar Taco has a 1,400 mAh internal battery that promises over 8 hours of continuous tunes. I used the Taco on my 1hr-each-way daily commute for two weeks, and only had to charge the speaker once, so this is pretty much on par.
The speaker features Bluetooth 4.0, and built-in NFC for easy pairing. The NFC sensor is located on the side of the speaker, in the middle of one of the grilles. It worked great with my Moto X 2014 and made pairing a breeze.
Venstar is really proud of the audio quality of the Taco, and really highlights the audio specifications. These include 2 40mm drivers, and 2 45mm passive radiators that are supposedly specially tuned. At medium volumes (less than ~75%), it’s pretty good. Loud, clear, with decent bass for a speaker of this size. However, if you go any higher than that, it gets very distorted, very quickly.
Despite the taco design, the speakers are actually located on the “sides” of the taco, instead of the “ends”. I found this really odd, and felt like it detracted from the design quite a bit. As previously mentioned, I primarily used the Venstar Taco on my drive to and from work. I’ve been using the SOL REPUBLIC DECK for this, but was hopeful the Taco would be better, since it has a built-in microphone and call-handling support.
Unfortunately, the design of the Venstar Taco was its demise, at least for this purpose. While the DECK is flat, the Taco’s rounded design allowed it to roll around on my console with every curve of the road – not ideal, at all. This, paired with the location of the speakers, relegated the Taco back to household audio duties.
Again, the design worked against it here. I tended to rest it at an angle, using the large flat panel on the back to angle it. Since the speakers are on the sides, and not the ends, this provided slightly unbalanced audio, and drove me nuts.
The Venstar Taco does come in very nice packaging. The box is sturdy, and something I would expect to see on a store shelf. Great for gifting. It also comes with a 3.5mm auxiliary cable and USB-to-microUSB cable in the box, along with a really nice zippered carrying pouch. with a loop and carabiner, so you could attach it to your backpack or suitcase or whatever.
For the price ($30 as of this publishing), the Venstar Taco is a great speaker. It looks nice, has a premium build quality, and comes with everything you need in the box. The NFC and built-in microphone are rare at this price point, and they both function as expected. However, I would only give it 3 out of 5 stars, personally. The round design makes it too wobbly for what I need it for, and the fact that the speakers are on the sides instead of the ends really bothered me.
Disclaimer: the Venstar Taco was provided to me by the company for this review. Also, this post contains affiliate links to the product listing on Amazon. Because I need to buy new gadgets, and the alternative is ugly banner ads.
*For whatever reason, the company is “I-Venstar” and their other products use this name. However, the Taco is branded as just “Venstar” on both the box and the speaker itself. No idea why they dropped the “I” on this speaker model.