The Saregama Carvaan series is unique, and the eponymous original Carvaan caught the attention of music enthusiasts all over India. While these products can be classified as wireless speakers, they're very different from others in that they're meant for a non-tech-savvy audience. The most enticing feature of these speakers is their preloaded music — 5,000 classic Hindi film and classical tracks that can be listened to with the press of a few buttons and the turn of a dial.
While the core functionality that we loved hasn't gone away, the company has made the Carvaan 2.0 a little more high-tech. The Saregama Carvaan 2.0 is priced at Rs. 7,990, and works just the same as the original Carvaan speaker, along with a big new addition — Internet connectivity. This new model can use Wi-Fi to access over 150 Internet radio stations and podcasts. Does this overly complicate a product that's known for its simplicity? We've had a chance to use the Saregama Carvaan 2.0 for a while and here's our review.
Apart from its ease of use and huge collection of preloaded music, the Saregama Carvaan also stood apart because of its looks. The device is designed like an old radio, which is a strong part of its appeal to older audiences. Saregama has sensibly (in our opinion) decided to stick with this aesthetic and has changed very little about the Carvaan 2.0. The speaker looks nearly identical to its predecessor, and the only real difference is the presence of a single additional button on the front, labelled Wi-Fi.
This is the big new feature of the Carvaan 2.0 — Wi-Fi connectivity gives users a new way to play music. The Wi-Fi mode is an extension of the Saregama mode on the speaker, which allows the user to play music collections curated by Saregama. While the ‘Artistes', ‘Specials', and ‘Geetmala' modes are limited to the speaker's built-in music, ‘Wi-Fi' mode lets it stream from a curated list of over 150 online audio stations, which play set tracklists and programmes. We'll go into further detail on this a little later in the review.
If you're familiar with any previous Saregama Carvaan model, the rest of the feature set is identical. Its collection of over 5,000 pre-loaded tracks is largely focused on classic Bollywood music spanning through the decades, but there are also devotional tracks and songs for kids. Additionally, you can play your own music by connecting an external source device using Bluetooth, USB, and Aux, as well as listen to FM or AM radio.
The front has a small monochrome display that shows basic information, and charging is through a Micro-USB port at the back. During our review period, we were able to get around 4 hours, 30 minutes of play time on a full charge, which included the preloaded music, streaming Wi-Fi music, and a bit of Bluetooth audio. The sales package of the Saregama Carvaan 2.0 includes a charging cable, a wall adapter, an antenna attachment to improve the radio signal, and a small remote which has all the buttons and controls present on the device.
The Saregama Carvaan 2.0 is designed to be used just like the original, and is still focused on simplicity. All buttons are physical and offer feedback. The buttons to switch between modes are on the left, while the Saregama selection buttons and dial are at the front, and the volume dial is on the right. The power button is a spring-activated button at the top, and there is also a headphone jack to listen to music from the Carvaan 2.0 privately.
The core functionality of the Saregama Carvaan 2.0 remains the built-in music and playlists, and that experience hasn't changed at all since the original Saregama Carvaan. It remains as simple as before; pressing buttons and turning the dial lets you browse through artistes and tracks on the device itself, and much of the fun of listening comes from not knowing what to expect next. Navigation is a bit slow and buggy, and the remote works as slowly as the physical controls, but the best way to enjoy music with the Carvaan 2.0 is to simply let the speaker do its thing, rather than try to control what you listen to.
That said, if you do want to be in control, the Saregama Carvaan app — available for iOS and Android — helps ease the process. You can use your smartphone as a Bluetooth remote to tell the Carvaan 2.0 what to play from its collection, and it worked well on Android for us. The app lets you browse through track lists and artistes a bit more easily than using the speaker's dial and buttons. You do also have the option to play your own music using Bluetooth, USB or Aux connectivity, or listen to radio stations.
The app is necessary to set up Wi-Fi connectivity for the Saregama Carvaan 2.0. The process to do so was a bit complicated and quite buggy; it took us a few attempts to finally get the speaker connected to a Wi-Fi network, with plenty of unexplained errors popping up along the way. However, we finally did get the speaker connected, after which it was able to stream without trouble. Once configured, the speaker automatically connects to your Wi-Fi network, and it worked perfectly for us. Users not comfortable with tech may have trouble with the initial setup process and may need help from someone more tech-savvy.
Online content for the Saregama Carvaan 2.0 comes in the form of audio stations that work exactly the same as the preloaded artiste and genre-based playlists, except that music is streamed from the Internet. The available audio stations currently number in excess of 150, and Saregama says that more stations are being added regularly.
For now, most of the stations centre around devotional content, as well as genre and mood-based playlists. There are also some talk shows and conversational programmes, covering topics such as cooking, finance, and health. Saregama refers to these shows as ‘podcasts', which we'd say is a fairly accurate description of what you can expect.
Furthermore, content is occasionally changed, with new tracks added to some stations and new audio shows being added to the list. Saregama claims that 6 to 60 minutes of content is added every day, and content on these stations covers genres such as devotional, health and wellness, lifestyle, and music both old and new. While it's possible to browse through the online content using the device itself, the app once again made browsing easier for us.
The online content does add a new dimension to the Carvaan, allowing users access to more specific genres over and above the preloaded tracks. There is some overlap between the online and preloaded music, but the other content offered through Wi-Fi connectivity is largely unique. The promise of regular updates to the online content also keeps things fresh, giving the Carvaan 2.0 much more utility than its predecessor.
Sound quality on the Saregama Carvaan 2.0 is similar to that of the original Carvaan as well as other products in the range such as the Carvaan Go. The tuning is focused on older music, and brings out the best in these tracks, many of which naturally have a lower recording quality.
That said, sound quality with newer music, the online content, and anything played over Bluetooth is acceptable for casual listening at home. The Carvaan 2.0 didn't sound as good to us as the typical Bluetooth speaker in this price range, but it's important to remember that this isn't an ordinary wireless speaker, and the appeal is in the content being offered. On the whole, the Saregama Carvaan 2.0 offers the same sound experience as its predecessor.
The Saregama Carvaan 2.0 is, at its core, the same as the original Carvaan in functionality. There is only one significant difference between the two speakers — Wi-Fi connectivity. That makes the Carvaan 2.0 worth the additional cost, and it works well for giving users additional ready-to-listen content without much effort. It isn't clear how long Saregama will continue to offer online content for, but the company does have plans to grow its scope and raise the number of online stations to around 1,000.
The aesthetics of this device and its preloaded music library continue to have strong appeal, and the Wi-Fi connectivity is a good bonus. If the extensive music collection (both preloaded and online) is what you seek, the Carvaan 2.0 might just be worth picking up instead of the more affordable Carvaan.
Price: Rs. 7,990