This is a review of Braven 855s wireless speaker. BRAVEN 855s Portable Bluetooth Speaker
2013 is not over yet, but I can tell you with certainty that portable wireless speakers and external battery supplies were among the top popular gadgets of this year. A smartphone is a heart of today's portable entertainment system that holds our music, our pictures, connects to our TV, plays popular video games, and does so much more including actually making calls
Such entertainment system needs a way to deliver the sound where using built-in speaker just doesn't cut it. Furthermore, it consumes a lot of juice which drains your battery fast. The solution? Braven 855s which combines these two functionalities plus much more, and does it in STYLE!!!
Before starting with my review, let me get something off my chest. Yes, this speaker is on a pricey side with a tag of $300, and No, it's not intended for audiophiles. So let's take a look at what you are actually getting for this premium price, and why you should seriously consider 855s if you are looking for a high quality portable wireless speaker and considering either Big Jambox (I'm making a very bold statement here) or any other wireless speaker with famous rapper name attached to it.
Even before you open the box, you can already get your first impression by noticing the weight of this speaker. At almost 4 pounds this is not your average light-weight speaker with wimpy drivers to make it sound just a bit louder than a speaker on your smartphone. This is heavy duty wireless speaker crafted on a front and a back with perforated aircraft aluminum grade material and wrapped around with a quality rubber bumper that will let you withstand a serious outdoor activities while also attracting considerable amount of lint
With a dimensions of 9.75" in length, 4.25" in height, and 3" in depth - it's still very portable, although the weight going to be very noticeable when you carry it around. It would have been great to see some kind of a collapsible handle that stores/hides into the bumper, but the non-slip grip was adequate to hold it with one hand for me. The speaker itself is IPX3 rated which means it's water resistant, but not recommended to be submerged under the water. So in a situation where you are by the pool, or someone spills a drink, or you outdoors and light rain starts to drip - you will have a piece of mind knowing it shouldn't damage your speaker. In general it's optimized to work both outdoors and indoors.
The connection to your phone or tablet is a typical bluetooth procedure, pair up within seconds and you ready to go. If your source doesn't have Bluetooth connection, you can use auxiliary input with an included 3.5mm cable. Or if you have a friend with another 855s or 850 speaker, you can wirelessly pair them up to double the power of the sound. At $300 a pop I personally consider it to be too much to get a pair just for this purpose. The speaker is rated at 20W of RMS, this is serious power! The sound is delivered by 2 front facing speakers hidden behind the grill, with a passive bass ports firing from the rear mesh grill of the enclosure. The sound has a signature heavy bass profile which is very popular with a lot of the today's headphones and speakers. To bring up more high frequency content, you can easily activate SRS WOW HD mode which widens the sound and bring up more mids/highs up front. I would personally only use it with SRS setup. Also, support of Apt-X codec helps to deliver sound context with minimal loses typical for Bluetooth connection. I'm still standing by my statement - this is not a speaker for audiophiles because it does color the sound, and you need to crank up the volume while taking a few physical steps back to really enjoy it. But don't crank it up too high because you start noticing the distortion. The sound is very powerful and loud, enough to fill in a big party room or to take your party room outside and still enjoy the sound in the open area.
Here is where it gets more interesting. I have noticed with a number of wireless speakers a trend of not including playback controls. You have a gadget that streams music 30+ feet away from your "entertainment system" and you have no way to play/pause or skip the track? With Braven 855s - you have full control of playback and volume! Buttons are at the top of the unit, rubberized and sealed to go along with it's rugged functionality and IPX3 water resistance. The speaker pairs up with both the audio output and the phone, and works great as a speakerphone. You play music, get a call - seamlessly switch between both, and once the call it done it fades back into the music. With noise canceling speakerphone people had no problem hearing me on the other end, and commented it was loud and clear. Also, you get about 20 hours of wireless play time which is above and beyond any other wireless speaker I have seen or tested. So, where do you get all this juice? From a built-in 8800 mAh rechargeable battery. Oh, and to take it to the next level - the output of this battery is made available as an external battery source to charge any of your phone or tablet or other gadget. There are no guess work here, you get 5-led indicators which partition battery reading into increments of 20% so you know exactly how much power is left when you discharging or the progress of charging the speaker. The actual charging is very fast thanks to AC/DC adapter which is rated at 12V/3A output. True, it's not your standard micro-usb connector, but you have to keep in mind we are dealing with 8,800 mAh battery that you want to charge fast rather than waiting half a day before its up.
Overall, I was very impressed with a high quality of it's built and the amount of technology packed into this compact speaker. One can argue about it's weight which is not exactly portable, but overall footprint is portable. It does come at a premium price, but I found it to be aligned with other premium speakers in this category. Considering all the additional features including ability to charge external devices, SRS WOW HD and Apt-X support, rugged design, and IPX3 water resistance - it actually makes Braven 855s a bargain if you were already planning to spend this amount on competitive speakers.
Here are the pictures.