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Wireless Audio: Bluetooth Speakers made ‘Rugged’ for Outdoors

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Tiny package. Big sound. That sums up two wireless speakers we have been testing this month, both made with materials to be tough and “rugged” for the outdoors.

Syncing to an iPhone or other device via a Bluetooth signal, the speakers pump bass and clear notes for quality listening around a campfire, in a tent, or for other activities outside.

Braven speaker built ‘rugged’ for use in outdoor settings

My personal favorite of the two models, the Braven 625s, is a brick-shape speaker with audio so good I can use it at home during loud holiday parties.

Its case is shock-absorbing, including a rubberized exterior. I give it to my kids as they jump and dance to music with little worries of damage.

Outside, the speaker fits easily in a backpack pocket. It measures a little more than 6 inches long and weighs about 11 ounces.

Outdoor Technology speaker mounted on bike

The second unit, the Turtle Shell Boombox from Outdoor Technology, is a water-resistant speaker with a neat shape. It’s about the same size as the Braven and similarly easy to use, though its audio is less powerful.

Kickstarter video: Turtle Shell Boombox

Up close, including for listening in a car or in a tent, the audio quality from either of these speakers is good. Crank the volume for a crowd and the Braven is noticeably more prolific.

The Turtle Shell Boombox costs $150. The Braven is $180. For the extra $30, you get better sound and a more rugged case. (Update: For a limited time, during the holidays (2012), the Braven is on sale for $149. See link here.)

Braven also includes a couple camp-friendly extras — a small plug-in light and a waterproof bag. The bag closes with a roll-top and seals to protect the speaker in a storm or unexpected encounter with open water.

The tiny L.E.D. flashlight plugs into the side of the speaker via a USB port. It provides enough light to cook a meal or read a book in camp.

Braven comes with a dry bag and small L.E.D. light for wilderness use

Bonus: The Braven doubles as a backup power source that you can plug a low-battery phone into for an ad hoc recharge in the outdoors.

Both units are rechargeable, plugging into a laptop USB port to power up. Once full, they run for many hours of audio play.

Bluetooth signals reach about 30 feet for these speakers. Indoors or in an outside setting, you can stream music for hours with no wires and quick touchscreen control of playlists from a tablet or smartphone.

Bluetooth compatibility allows the speakers to work with a spectrum of devices

In the end, both of these easy-to-use speakers get my thumbs-up. They are quality products and so small you’ll be surprised by their big sound.

Good music can enhance almost any setting. For me, the Braven and the Turtle Shell have enlivened a few experiences already, indoors as well as out.

—Stephen Regenold is editor of GearJunkie.com. Connect with Regenold at Facebook.com/TheGearJunkie or on Twitter via @TheGearJunkie.

Unique ‘shell’ design with Outdoor Technology Turtle Shell Boombox

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