Gadling Gear Review: Braven 600 Portable Speaker

A month or so back we posted some suggestions for tech and travel gifts for dads and grads with the Braven 600 portable speaker earning a spot on that list. This small, yet powerful, sound system is so impressive that we thought it was worth a full review as the compact speaker has a lot to offer travelers beyond just listening to their music on the go.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Braven 600, even before you take it out of the package, is how attractive it is. Wrapped in anodized aluminum, this speaker has a clean industrial design that is simple and elegant without drawing undue attention to itself. Measuring 6.25 inches in length and weighing just 12 ounces, it won’t take up too much room or add extra weight to your bag either.

The speaker manages to pack quite a lot of technology under its metal shell. As with other wireless speaker systems, the Braven 600 uses Bluetooth technology to easily connect to smartphones, tablets or mp3 players. It also features a built-in microphone, which gives it the ability to act as a hands-free speakerphone and its powerful battery not only keeps it operating for up 12 hours on a single charge, but also has the ability to recharge other devices as well.

As a lightweight, portable sound system it is hard not to be impressed with the Braven 600. It pumps out surprisingly crisp and clear sound with plenty of volume, particularly for a speaker of this size. Bass levels are solid but don’t overpower the mid and high ranges, which gives listeners a satisfying audio experience over a variety of musical genres. I’d be willing to bet that even audiophiles will find this to be an acceptable portable wireless sound system.While overall audio quality is excellent, I wasn’t quite as impressed with the device’s performance as a speakerphone. The built-in mic does serve its purpose at an adequate level but voices still sounded a bit muddled on both sides of the conversation. It is hard to fault Braven for including the functionality in their speakers and I’m sure there are some who will find the option useful, just don’t expect to be blown away by this feature.

Battery life on any portable device is of the utmost importance and the speaker doesn’t disappoint in that area either. Braven says that the device can be powered for up to 12 hours on its rechargeable battery alone but I found that it actually exceeded that time by nearly an hour. Performance will vary some based on volume, speakerphone usage, devices connected and other factors, but for the most part the 1400 mAh battery is a real strength of this speaker.

That powerful battery can be put to use for more than just cranking out music and podcasts. Braven included a USB port on the speaker giving it the ability to actually charge your mobile devices while on the go. Doing so will obviously put a hit on the overall battery life of the speaker itself but it is a nice option to have when you’re traveling and need to top off the battery on your smartphone. I tested the feature on my iPhone and found that it was a fast and efficient way to recharge the device, although it wasn’t quite as useful with my third generation iPad, which has a much larger battery to fill.

Braven has included a number of other nice touches on its 600 speaker that will surely be appreciated as well. For instance, the device uses audio cues to let users know when the Bluetooth capabilities have been activated making it easier to connect their devices. This simple addition may seem like an obvious choice but competing products don’t always include this option. It is also possible to daisy-chain several Braven speakers together providing an even more well rounded portable sound system. Travelers will appreciate the included carrying case and audio and USB cables, which make the Braven 600 road-ready right out of the box.

If you’re in the market for a lightweight, durable sound system that works great at home or on the road, it’s tough to beat the Braven 600. It packs a great deal of functionality into a compact package that offers fantastic sound, a speakerphone, great battery life and the ability to recharge your devices on the go. For me personally, this is the best portable speaker I’ve ever used and with a price tag of just $149, it won’t exactly break the bank either.