Companies have been trying to create the perfect speaker/light combination for years now. Sengled, for example, offers a number of products that have ultimately landed on big box discount shelves. It seems like a good idea, though, so can’t someone get this right? We believe that Lithonia Lighting has with its SL6 Wireless Speaker Downlight. Lithonia’s 6SL is a Bluetooth speaker-light combo that you can install in a standard 6″ recessed lighting can.
The 6SL combines a Bluetooth speaker surrounded by a dimmable ring of LED light. What sets this apart from the competition? Two things: (1) the speaker is battery-powered and (2) it operates independently of the light, which is controlled by the existing switch or dimmer for the fixture. The light doesn’t require an app to operate and doesn’t portend to be “smart.” It’s simply a dimmable light that works on line power. Meanwhile, when the light is on—even dimmed—it charges the speaker battery.
The fixture offers 650+ lumens of light in three different color temperature SKUs—2700K, 3000K, or 4000K—allowing you to match the light to your environment. It’s designed as a retrofit kit for an existing 6″ lighting can, using torsion springs to hold it in place. The product includes a screw-in adaptor to install into the light bulb socket in the housing.
Setting up the 6SL is simple. First, you need to enable the speaker. Lithonia includes a standard electrical cord in the box that can be slipped into the snap-on connector to power the fixture for configuration. You can pair it with one or more Bluetooth sources—phones, TVs, or what have you. For playback, you’ll need the source to be no further than 30′ from the speaker. Like all Bluetooth devices, that range is a maximum theoretical distance. You can also pair the 6SL with multiple (up to 8) additional SL6 speakers for synchronized (but not technically stereo or surround) audio.
Installation is also a breeze, thanks to the built-in torsion clips. You’ll want to examine your existing ceiling light housing to ensure it has torsion clips. The easiest way to tell it to pull down your existing fixture, cover, or baffle from the housing. If it appears to be hanging from the fixture with two metal rods on each side, then it’s probably using a torsion spring mount. Check inside for the clips on the side wall of the can housing.
Pull out the old fixture. If it’s torsion mounted, you can just hold the arms from each spring together to pull it out of the clips. Before inserting the SL6, install the screw adaptor in the socket. Then couple the orange connectors on the adaptor and speaker. The 6SL slips back onto the torsion clips the same way the old fixture came out—hold the spring arms together and slide them into the clips. Finally, just push the speaker up into place. When you flip the light switch, the speaker should wake up with a few audible tones.
We’ve been testing the 6SL for months now in a real-world environment—a shower. This may actually be the perfect use case for this product. It sports a 5 watt speaker that has far better sound quality than any portable shower speaker we’ve tried. But it’s 5 watts. You don’t want to be installing these around your home as built-in speakers. You’re not going to be happy. In an enclosed space like a bathroom or shower, it’s kind of perfect. The light is quite bright. We have ours on an Insteon dimmer, which works fine with it despite not being listed as a tested, compatible dimmer.
One nice feature is that when you turn the light on, it wakes up the speaker. So if you have a device, like your phone, paired to the speaker, it reconnects automatically. One less convenient feature is that you need to explicitly disconnect when you’re done—it’s kind of like the Echo in that way. It tries to keep connected whenever your phone is in range…until it times out 30 minutes after last seeing the Bluetooth source. It’s easy enough. You can just go into your Bluetooth settings and disconnect it (disconnect…don’t forget the device). On iOS 12, you can even create a quick shortcut that can disconnect it by cycling the Bluetooth service on your phone off and on again.
Our Final Verdict
Lithonia’s SL6 is a solid Bluetooth speaker-light combo that manages to get around the pitfalls of its competition by forgoing “smarts” and bundling a battery for the speaker. It functions on standard line power—even with a dimmer—and delivers solid sound for small spaces. We recommend this product as a good solution for bathrooms, showers, and small porches, where it might otherwise be difficult to run speaker wire. And with three different white color temperature options, you’re sure to find the fixture that fits with your environment. Costing between $75 and $85, depending on which model you choose, it may seem a bit pricey, but we think it’s worth the price for what you’re getting