We've tested our fair share of outdoor speakers here, ranging from small shower-friendly models to more robust, outdoors-proof models. Today we're going to check out another one, one that is designed to be your camping companion, your poolside pal, or just a bedside listening station: the Braven Balance.
Out of all the Braven products we've tested at this point, we're probably most drawn to the design of the Balance. It's an attractive little speaker that comes in at just under two pounds, has a soft, easy to grip rubberized coating on the outside, and comes in a crazy amount of colors. We managed to snag one in sunset (a bold orange color,) but it also comes in periwinkle blue, raven black, electric lime, raspberry pink, and alpine white. All speakers, save for the all-black raven, are accented on the top and bottom with an attractive gray color.
Not only is the Balance stylish, it's also a great workhorse as well. Think of the Balance as your companion in the great outdoors. It's IPX7 waterproof, allowing it to be dropped into water up to three feet deep for up to 30 minutes, which means that if it takes a tumble into a puddle while you're hiking or gets splashed while you're poolside, all you'll have to do is give it a wipe down with a towel at some point and you'll be good to go.
Power for days
One of the coolest things about the Balance is that it has one of the longest battery lives we've seen in a portable speaker thus far: 18 hours. During our test over three days, we managed to get slightly over 18 hours of play time before the speaker shut off for charging, though there was a noticeable degradation of quality about halfway through hour 17.
Because this speaker also doubles as a 4000mAh battery bank for charging your electronics on the go from the single 5V/1A USB charging output. Naturally, if you use it to charge your smartphone or tablet, you'll get less overall playtime. It's also worth noting that this speaker requires the included AC power supply to work. International friends should be happy to know that not only does the Braven include US plugs, but also Australia, United Kingdom, and European adapter plugs as well.
Capable of utilizing both Bluetooth and 3.5mm stereo inputs, the Braven Balance is a speaker that should work comfortably with all of your audio-producing devices to give you great sound wherever you go. Is it a high-end listening experience? No, and it's not designed to be. It is, however, a good listening experience for what it is. It's got a decent bass response, especially for its size, and it's never tinny or blown out. The midrange is flushed out, making the speaker enjoyable to listen to. The Balance is a solid speaker for listening to music just about anywhere, and we think it'd be equally at home sitting on a shelf in a dorm room as it would be in a tent on a weekend camping trip.
Originally, when we had first tested this speaker, we were confused about something. Even at maximum volume, it just didn't seem very loud. We tried it with several devices, including our projector, our iPhone, our turntable -- no matter what we tried, it just seemed far too quiet. It turns out that this seems to be the intended design, as there's a somewhat "hidden" Boost Mode. Boost Mode is intended for outdoor venues of sorts, such as parties or any notably large space that you may want to fill with sound. You can access Boost Mode by holding down both the power and the volume up -- or what Braven refers to as the "plus" button. Boost Mode is noticeably louder than the unboosted maximum volume, and we assume that this mode is "hidden" in an attempt to artificially bolster battery life times. At maximum volume, there's a bit of a distortion on bass-heavy songs, but less than we were expecting overall. We honestly wish that we just had the ability to turn the speaker up on our own, rather than having a mode that jumps the volume to "too loud" that needs to be unlocked through special button combinations.
We've got one more critique for the Braven Balance before we wrap up this review. The speakerphone on this speaker is not terribly great, which seems to be a problem for most Bluetooth speakers that we've tested. It's fuzzy on both the sending and receiving end of calls, and while we'd still call it "serviceable," we wouldn't call this feature "desirable" at all.
Potentially our favorite outdoor speaker yet, the Balance manages to, well, balance both quality of sound with quality of build. The result is a hardy speaker that you actually want to take with you. We were also very impressed at the price point for the speaker, considering the extended battery life, waterproof rating, and overall quality of construction. If you're interested in getting your own Braven Balance, you can head over to the Braven website and pick one up for just about $130.
Who should travel with the Braven Balance: If you're looking for a fantastic first-time outdoor speaker that is equally at home on a bookshelf as it is at the back yard barbecue, we think this is a reasonably priced speaker that will meet and exceed your expectations.
Who can leave the Braven Balance on the shelf: If you're looking for a speaker with a better volume range or the ability to take a little bit more of a beating, we highly suggest you check out the moderately more expensive Scosche BoomBottle+.