We've previously looked at the Jambox and Big Jambox. Now comes another portable, battery-powered Bluetooth speaker that claims to offer even better quality than Jawbone's brilliant devices.
This speaker is made from aircraft grade aluminum, looks superb and has some interesting speakers. The question is, can it do enough to part you from a substantial amount of your cash?
If you're a Mac Pro owner - we hear there are still some out there - then you'll want to grab a Braven 650 to go with it, as the two look like brother and sister. That's a good thing though, as the 650 is finished in a smart aluminium case, with numerous holes drilled in the front and back to let sound out.
On the right-hand side, you'll see a little switch, flip it up and the power is on. You'll be treated to a boot-up sound that is, we think, pretty similar to that of the Jambox, it has the same high-pitched tone, that becomes a very low-frequency bass sound at the end. It's great, and pretty impressively loud and bassy.
You'll also find a dual purpose button here. When the speaker is on, and playing music it will pause the audio when pressed. If you're in a call, it will also hang up for you. It's also the way you pair a new device to the Braven 650, simply press and hold, and wait for the tone. There are also volume controls here and a USB input for charging.
On the other side, you get a USB output, line-out and a battery meter button. There are no other controls or buttons anywhere. And the speaker itself is a unibody - if you will - design, with no breaks in the surface. Cunning, and stylish.
Not just a pretty speaker
There are two really nice features of the Braven that we haven't seen on other speakers, most notably the Jambox. The first is a line out. This allows you to take audio received on the player, and send it on to another speaker. In theory, this would allow you to connect a couple of Bravens when you're out with friends. We also connected it to a Jambox to see how the two sounded together.
The second nice touch is that there's a USB output too. This is designed to allow you to charge another device, such as a phone, while you listen to music.
Also included are a set of power adaptors, which will be great for travelling, as it will cut down on the need to take nasty universal adaptors. There's also a protective slip case, which will allow you to chuck the 650 in a bad and forget about it.
It has to be said, we do think the quality of the Braven is exceptional. Crank it up a bit too much, and there's distortion there, but nowhere near as much as we got out of the Jambox. We suspect that this is because the Jambox tries to give more low frequency sound, which is harder to control at high levels.
Whatever the reason, there is more clarity to the Braven than the smaller Jambox, in our opinion. It sounds smooth and pleasant, and there's just enough bass to make it sound well-rounded, but not so much as to overwhelm the rest of the experience. To us, it felt more like a high-end sound, rather than one trying to impress with bass. Of course, there's nothing wrong with devices that impress with bass. We are routinely very impressed by it.
The 650 doesn't have a huge amount of volume. Turning it up full yeilded different results depending on the music source. We used high-quality MP3s - as that's what most of you will be using - and while it always sounded good, there were times when we wanted a little more power.
We tested the audio quality of Bluetooth calls, and were very impressed. We think audio quality here is much better than on the Jambox, which has always felt a bit weak to us. While the Jambox does do well with normal phone calls, if you're trying to use Skype for higher-quality audio, then you'll get better results with the 650, in our experience.
It may not be as loud or as bass-heavy as the Jambox, but the Braven 650 does sound very nice indeed.
We love the construction quality. It's built better than the Jambox, and that thing is tough enough to survive almost anything. So the Braven really should last and last and last.
The speakerphone quality is another bonus, and overall we can fault it for quality. Our only real concern is the slightly low volume output, and the cost of buying one, which is pretty substantial.