Bluetooth speakers have matured, and the Kicker Amphitheater BTL (Bluetooth + Lightning Dock) doesn’t disappoint. It only makes sense for Kicker to evolve their full-range offerings, and no reason to let JBL, Marshall, and Bose have all the fun.
Don’t get it twisted though, Kicker is far from a home audio small fry. They’re largely known for their bombastic car audio, but do more when you pull yourself away from the stereotypes of mainstream car culture and SEMA show floors (which have an air of coolness in their own right).
Big and grandiose is the nature of this namesake; it really does look like a concert speaker with an inwardly curvaceous front, almost the real deal if it weren’t for its plastic build with select metallic bits. The size also helps portray with dimensions of 8.9” x 19” x 9.2” that’s meant to pump out a lot of sound, but probably more suited to living rooms than bedroom dressers. But this is what 9.8 pounds of two 50-watt full-range speaker power, along with a 6”x 6” square reflex subwoofer gets you.
Appropriately, a remote is included and is good for basic control of audio devices. Basic playback options such as bass and treble adjustment, track navigation, and source selection doesn’t need explanation. Volume control are there too, but operate independently for the BTL itself, a compromise when connecting via USB (which has a charge mode) and a trusty 3.5mm auxiliary jack around back. There’s also the usual power switch, power port (AC), and a pinhole reset button.
This Amphitheater BTL in particular is about the Lightning dock, a no-brainer necessity if you own an Apple device. It’s basically another convenient way to directly connect to the BTL with no setup or scrounging for another cable needed elsewhere, working the instant you dock your iPhone or iPad, and set the BTL to the correct audio source. It also helps that it’s the cleanest connection as well,
If you like burly sound then the BTL eagerly delivers, with an strong impression that exhibits minor rattle at the highest volumes. Take “Moses” by French Montana feat. Chris Brown and Migos where the bass is prevalent and tempo retains a nice syrupy flow, the midrange frequency is equally on-point without smothering the vocal lyrics. Taking Kanye West’s “Devil in a New Dress” was a prime combination of Hip-Hop, soul, and synth-rock, the BTL is well defined as the song starts at the midrange and goes to the mid-highs as soon the guitar solo hits.
But that isn’t to say the BTL is only for loud and intense sessions, tracks like City and Colour’s “Waiting…” are handled with an agreeable balance that fits a personal atmosphere. Soothing vocals and consistent melodic guitar strings are surprisingly rich, in a weighted and enveloping nature and calming warmth of the music. The attention on treble gives each element its own presence without overcompensation, the same thing can also be said of Curtis Mayfield’s “You’re So Good to Me” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by The Animals.
Another feature is the optional Kickstart app (iOS/Android), which serves as another and seemingly more intuitive way of controlling the Amphitheater BTL. You can customize preferences for Bluetooth auto-connect, 8-band EQ (equalization), and even the occasional firmware update. But there isn’t much cohesion between the included remote, which only has basic functionality compared to the smartphone-derived tool. If you must do acute adjustments or major tweaks to the bass and treble levels, the app is more robust and opens up additional imaging depth settings.
As a first-time or generally powerful home speaker, the Kicker Amphitheater BTL is a respectable pick despite some higher level rattle. But these faults aren’t make-or-break because this system gets very loud without noticeable distortion, and is appropriate for most genres that’s not limited to Hip-Hop. There are other picks that are more composed but we haven’t found many that cost below $200 brand new, so we can forgive the smaller faux pas.