Bluetooth speakers are a no-no in the wilderness. But there’s nothing wrong with jamming out when you’re car camping by the lake. To find out which ones have the best sound, and can handle the occasional spilled beer and drop, we tested six of the most popular models. Here's how they stacked up.
Sound: To judge the sound on each speaker, I called in my snobiest audiophile friend, Jason Brooks. (He once drove 200-plus miles to pick up a specific pair of vintage Sansui speakers for his wedding reception.) We set all the speakers in his office, where he closed his eyes and then critiqued audio quality. To test the speakers full range, we listened to Jack White’s Icky Thump and Dawn Landes’ Desert Songs.
Waterproofing: To see if the speakers were as waterproof as the companies claimed, I turned them on, started playing music, then dropped them into my hot tub and let them soak for sixty seconds. I checked each one for any differences in sound quality as soon as I pulled them out, and then tested them again an hour later to make sure they still worked.
Ruggedness: I knocked the speakers off my four-foot-high outdoor table three times, as it seemed like the most realistic test. When all six were completely unfazed, I took the test a step further by chucking them off my 12-foot roof.
#1: Braven BRV-PRO ($150)
Weight: 1.45 lbs
The Braven was our overall favorite because it performed well in each category and is also relatively affordable. In terms of audio quality, Brooks said it was “decently punchy,” with highs that “were well separated” and an overall warm sound. It didn’t blink after being submerged or tossed off my roof, and we also liked the easy-carry straps and sticky, rubberized feet.
#2: Fugoo Sport XL ($300)
Weight: 4.29 lbs
“Whatever this one is, it’s expensive,” is how Brooks reacted when he first heard the Fugoo. And he’s right. The Fugoo costs twice as much as any other speaker we tested, but you get what you pay for. He called the audio quality “10 times better” than that of any other speaker on this list, and we both agreed it was the perfect backyard BBQ companion. Submersion and the throw test were no problem, and the only reason this speaker didn’t take the number one spot was because of the high price $300. Unless you're a complete audio snob, go with the Braven for $150.
Weight: 1.46 lbs
The audio on the BoomBottle wasn’t quite as crisp as the Braven's, but it still thumped plenty hard. And the submersion and drop tests were no problem. We both liked the round, tube-like design of the speaker, but were annoyed when the device occasionally took up to five minutes to connect to a phone.
Monster Superstar Backfloat ($150)
Weight: 10.4 oz
We loved that this lightweight speaker didn’t even scratch during the toss test, and, unlike the other models here, it floated in the hot tube. But it comes in fourth because the highs sounded tinny and it delivered very little punch. I wouldn’t want this speaker on my picnic table at a camping spot, but it will definitely be my choice for summer river trips or backyard hot-tub parties.
Ecoxgear EcoCarbon ($130)
Weight: 1.88 lbs
A super hearty build means this speaker will take repeated beatings and dunkings, but Brooks didn’t like the sound. “I would just use my iPhone. I am not being facetious, your iPhone would sound better,” was his main comment.
Hercules WAE Outdoor Rush ($130)
Weight: 11.4 oz
The Hercules comes in last because of poor sound quality and a failed water test. Water got in the power source despite a heavy duty screw-on gasket designed to protect the batteries. Three hours after the test, it started turning on and off erratically. On the plus side, we did like that the speaker plays FM radio so you can keep dancing even if your phone dies.
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