Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Braven BRV-1 Sounds Portable Tough

As someone who enjoys portable speakers and has a home with a wireless sound system, I've been  wondering when the next generation of portable speakers might arrive. It arrived in step with summer.

The Braven BRV-1 delivers better-than-expected sound from a portable bluetooth speaker that was designed like a tank for travel. You can literally take it anywhere — not only every room in your house, but also places you wouldn't take any speaker that hadn't already earned some thrasher moniker.

Take the Braven BRV-1 to a surf beach or a mountain biking camp. It doesn't care.

The basic introduction for the BRV-1 is that it was built for the outdoors. You can drop it, kick it, splash it (IXP5) and never shed a tear. While I don't recommend you go out of your way to break it, you won't be afraid to take it anywhere. You'll want to get out and take it everywhere.

The shape, rubberized casing and water-resistent shell all lend some credence to its rugged reputation. The front grill is metal, electric blue, black, or blue with a thumbprint if you want to pay more for making a donation to clean drinking water. And it's surprisingly small: 4.75 x 3.25 x 2.25 inches.

Despite its small size and weight, the BRV-1 delivers on sound. It provides 3 watts per channel from two 40 mm drivers and houses a 70 mm passive subwoofer. While it doesn't have nearly enough power to support a party, it provides some solid better-than-expected sound, maybe even the best in its class.

The Braven BRV-1 does a little more than play music. 

The 1400mAh battery can play wireless audio for around 12 to 15 hours, storing enough power to charge other external devices (like smart phones with USB or mini-USB connections). You can also connect your speaker to any device that supports a headphone.

Another interesting feature is its built-in mic that you can use as a speaker phone. While it's not nearly as good as the speaker phone on a smart phone, it works well enough in a pinch. And, unlike many portable speakers, the makers of BRV-1 were smart enough to include a means to check for battery life with a 5-point LED array.

All of these connections are protected under a cap, best closed up when not needed. Most of the time, once you set it up, the simple carved-in volume control buttons, shuffle buttons, and power buttons are enough. Considering its face is approximately the size of an iPhone, there isn't anything else to fit.

About the only thing missing is a solar charging station.

If you are willing to trade out some sound quality and durability, the Eton Rugged Rukus is probably one of the best alternatives. Measuring 6.5 inches across the front, the IPX-4 rated Rukus can accompany you to some destinations too — the pool, playground, and anyplace a little less punishing.

It's chief benefit is its solar capability (plus an 8-hour battery), which makes it perfect for back country camping. But the downside is you do need to be careful. Despite being durable, Eton specs suggest that the speaker is drop proof from 3.3 feet and that varies depending on how it's dropped. So as long as you unpack it near the tent, it ought to be safe enough.

The Braven BRV-1 Drops 8.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Between the Eton Rukus and the Braven BRV-1, I lean toward the latter, which is the more durable of the two. Otherwise, there is another way to size them up. Eco-tourists might like the Eton; extremists might like the Braven, and then pack a solar charger too for anything longer than a day.

You can find the Braven BRV-1 at Amazon in black or blue. (Mine is blue.) The Eton Rugged Rukus is available there too. Wal-Mart carries it as well. The Braven BRV-1 is slightly higher, but also comes in a rare orange color. It also carries the original Eton solar design.
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