gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Majority Audio Bowfell Soundbar Reviewed

I discovered Majority in January, during an effort to find a last-minute birthday present for a family member. At the time their K2 soundbar leapt out at me due to the strong lifestyle photography, well-rounded feature set and – above all else – very competitive price. I bought one, loved it, and subsequently discovered that Majority are based not so far from me, and that many of their products are named after Cambridge locations. I was intrigued and had to get my hands on more of their shiny toys- enter the Majority Bowfell Soundbar.

Rocking the @MajorityAudio Bowfell soundbar for desktop audio. The @endgamegear XM1r mouse and their handy bungee too, and – of course – gotta represent with a @pimoroni Keybow 2040!

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) April 30, 2021

Named for Mount Bowfell* it’s is a no-frills, mini soundbar with no separate subwoofer, no FM and no HDMI ARC support but like the K2 it includes Bluetooth, Optical, USB and 3.5mm Aux connectivity allowing it to serve a variety of roles from desktop speaker for your computer setup (my primary usage), a basic audio setup paired with your phone, or a miniature A/V soundbar to add some oomph to a smaller (think <=32") TV. * - *not* a Cambridge location... it's very flat here; go fire up Google maps and drop your cursor on one of the sightseeing spots on Bowfell… it’s a spectacular view.

The Bowfell – the speaker, not the mountain – comes with a garnish of accessories. In addition to the necessary power supply is a full-featured remote almost identical to that of the K2 but with different button labels, a 3.5mm to 3.5mm Aux cable for phones and computers, and a stereo RCA to 3.5mm Aux cable for hifi equipment and televisions from the 1800s.

The remote

Alongside volume and power buttons the remote includes a mode switch button (aux, optical, Bluetooth, USB), a pair button (for pairing, duh!) plus transport controls for your connected device – ie: you can play/pause/skip music on your phone remotely! It also has a bevvy of EQ quick buttons… which is to say it has three: Flat, Rock and Jazz. It’s very no-frills, but it’s big enough to handle well and not be easily lost.

The remote is clearly cheap and cheerful, but surprisingly large for such a tiny soundbar. It conveniently takes AAA batteries instead of CR2032s and its size makes it a shade easier to use and much harder to lose than the tiny, thin garbage that so often comes with a product like this. Go on- look for bluetooth speakers with remotes and tell me how many of those godawful generic flat remotes you find.

The soundbar has a fairly narrow “field of vision” for remote control, so it can be a little tricky to use the remote while sat at a desk, but the important features are all available on the soundbar as buttons too.

The on-speaker buttons include a button shared between mode select and power on/off. A long press will turn the bar on/off and a short press will cycle between Bluetooth, AUX, USB, and Optical modes which are indicated by changing the colour of the LED on the front.

Bluetooth Playback

Like the K2 the Bowfell is single-point Bluetooth which means you will have to do a dance of disconnecting one phone before connecting another. This might cause some contention if it’s used in a family room. Connecting a device will cause the speaker to emit a reassuring “Connected” sound… yes, it actually speaks the word out loud… and disconnecting will be affirmed by the speaker saying “Disconnected.” If you’ve got the volume turned aaaallll the way up this can be mildly startling. Be warned.

The single-point Bluetooth means you might be better using this with a home assistant that boasts 3.5mm audio out (an older Alexa) or using that one Bluetooth profile to pair it to a Google Home (or are they called Nest now, you know what I don’t care…) so everyone can frictionlessly interrupt each others music playback with their own deliberately obtuse tangents. This might seem redundant but the Bowfell packs a heck of a lot more of a punch than your average home assistant speaker.

USB Playback

USB playback is… surprisingly useful. I loaded up an Kioxia memory stick with a bunch of chiptune mixes and songs I’d purchased on Bandcamp and the Bowfell would start playing music pretty much the instant it was switched on. If you’ve got a good mix of tunes that you like to stick in the background and work to, it’s a surprisingly effective and hassle free way of just getting some music playing. No grappling with apps, no arguing with a home assistant, no subscription fees, just switch on and away it goes. Since I’d rage quit Spotify recently over their price hikes this is a really useful feature- albeit my memory stick has currently been claimed by the TV. The USB port is located in the back of the speaker so a slimline USB stick with your favourite mix could be disappeared out of sight and the whole setup ready to play at the press of a button.

Sound Quality

Wow these titles are dry. It’s clear I’m struggling to put an exciting spin on the Bowfell. It is – after all – just a speaker. The mountain is definitely more exciting, as you’d hope I guess. I mean it’s a mountain… I’d like to go and stand up there sometime, but I’m spectacularly lazy. Does anyone I know own a helicopter?

While the speaker is pretty decent for its, at time of writing, £35 price tag, it isn’t pushing the boat out or remarkable in any way. Majority appear to be building a reputation for affordable tech with a strong brand and presentation. The Bowfell sounds pretty much exactly how you might expect. It’s a small speaker with twin 2″ drivers that’s more than good enough to fill a room with music or perch on your desk as a PC speaker. The Amazon listing seems to suggest it’s 2.1, which as far as I can tell is not true and not reflected by Majority’s own website. The two drivers are bass ported out of the front center of the speaker which gives a decent bass presence and, if you turn up the volume to maximum, a gentle refreshing breeze. It sounds a bit muddy at full volume and challenging basslines (my go-to is always Karsh Kale: Distance when I want to really distort a speaker) are reduced to a distorted mess (which should come as a surprise to no-one in this price category). Under normal listening conditions it delivers more than enough to justify its £35 pricetag and sounds great.

I wouldn’t personally use it as a TV soundbar – since most TVs will likely be just fine without and a separate subwoofer is necessary to push the boat out properly with movie viewing – but it’s great as a standalone USB jukebox and will likely stay on my desk to keep me company with chiptunes, ancient DOS game reviews and weird video essays during office hours.

I might be doing this wrong…. Uhhh…

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) April 29, 2021

You can grab the Majority Audio Bowfell on Amazon for – at time of writing – £35.

Sunday, May 16th, 2021, Personal Audio.