Rock, talk, and charge with the Braven 650 (review)

Rock, talk, and charge with the Braven 650 (review)

Summary: With more and more smartphone use, there is a need for external speakers that provide audio output and speakerphone functionality. In addition, you can use it to charge up your smartphone.

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I previously looked at the Jawbone Jambox and was quite pleased with the speaker quality and functionality. The PR folks for Braven reached out to me with an opportunity to check out the new Braven 650 and at first I didn't consider it since it seemed to be a Jambox copy. After recently checking out some larger speakers I figured I should take a look and see if there is another option out there for consumers and boy am I glad I did.

The Braven 650 turned out to be a fantastic wireless speaker solution that I highly recommend you consider. In addition to the Bluetooth speaker capability (with APT-X technology) you can use it as a speakerphone, daisy chain it to multiple speakers, and even use it to charge up your smartphone in a pinch. Check out some photos of the speaker in my image gallery and watch the video below to see if you hear the difference in audio performance.


Image Gallery: Check out several photos of the Braven 650 Bluetooth speaker. Image Gallery: Braven 650 Image Gallery: Left side of the Brazen 650

In the box and first impressions

The Braven 650 comes in a clear plastic retail package with a fully removable back panel that lets you access the speaker and accessories. Inside the package you will find the speaker, 40 inch USB charging cable, A/C adapter, 24 inch 3.5mm audio cable, and a nice quality carrying bag. There is also a handy Quick Start Guide that shows you how to connect via Bluetooth and how to charge the speaker and your smartphone.

The speaker is encased in aluminum and feels extremely durable. The edges are all rounded off so it has great aesthetics too. There are two rubber feet on the bottom to keep it in place on the table as well. It is quite light and easy to pick up and take with you.

Specifications

There are a few key specifications that may be of interest to you, including:

  • Built-in microphone
  • aptX technology for superior Bluetooth streaming performance
  • Bluetooth 2.1 radio
  • 3.5mm headset jack for line in use
  • Line out for daisy chaining speakers
  • microUSB port for charging speaker
  • Full USB port for charging your smartphone
  • Integrated 2000 mAh battery to charge up devices too
  • 2 custom extended range drivers, left and right channel subwoofers, and 3W output
  • 4 ohm impedance, output level of 93 db at 0.5m
  • Battery life of about 20 hours of continuous play
  • Dimensions of 159 x 64 x 45 mm and 360 grams (12.6 ounces)

The Braven 650 is just a hair larger and heavier than the original Jawbone Jambox, but is still extremely portable. It has double the rated battery life of the Jambox at 20 hours of continuous play.

Walk around the hardware

There is not much going on visibly in the back, front, top, and bottom of the speaker as these areas are covered in aluminum. Behind the front and back aluminum grilles is where all the speaker action takes place, but the business ends are on the right and left sides.

The right side contains six buttons and ports. Starting with the top left and going clockwise we have the call button (answer/hang up/mute/Bluetooth pairing/music pause), power switch, volume up/music skip track button, microUSB port for charging the speaker, volume down/music previous track button, and 3.5mm audio in port. There is also a Bluetooth status/power indicator LED light next to the call button.

On the left side you will find three buttons and ports. The top one is the battery capacity check button, then we have the 3.5mm audio out port, and finally the full USB port to charge up other devices. There is a small battery capacity indicator LED above the check button too.

The Braven logo appears on the top and the device looks great in silver and black.

Daily usage and experiences

I have been carrying the Braven 650 with me for the last couple of weeks and thoroughly enjoying it as a music/podcast speaker and a speakerphone device in the car and office. The speaker automatically switches to your ringtone when a call comes in and music is paused. When the call ends, the music starts right back up again.

The Braven 650 was unable to charge my iPad 3, but I primarily stuck with smartphone and that worked well. If you use the 3.5mm audio line-in method to connect the external charging capability is disengaged. I primarily only used it to top off my smartphones and always connected via Bluetooth. Keep in mind that 75% to 90% of the 2000 mAh battery is available to charge other devices (generally one+ charges of a smartphone), but this will significantly reduce the ability to use the speaker for music and calls.

I couldn't believe how good the Braven 650 sounded and IMHO it easily beat the Jambox. My wife came in to the office while I was testing and immediately told me to buy one since it was the best portable speaker she has ever heard. I will be taking it along on our upcoming vacation to provide music in the hotel room and cruise ship too. I have to admit that playing Battleship on my Nokia Lumia 900 was made MUCH better thanks to the Braven 650!

While the new Big Jambox has media control buttons on it the original small Jambox does not. The Braven 650 lets you control your audio with long presses on the volume buttons and single presses on the call button so that makes it even more useful IMHO.

The Live Audio on the Jambox is great, but the sweet spot is small on the original Jambox and I did not experience it that much. The Big Jambox has a larger and more engaging sweet spot, but that is $100 more than the Brazen and really not comparable in terms of price or size.

Pricing and availability

The Braven 650 is available now for $189.99 and in my opinion it is one of the best portable speakers I have ever tried out. While I like my Nokia Play 360 speakers, this one is MUCH more portable and will be traveling with me on the road.

Topics: Smartphones, Hardware, Mobility, Wi-Fi

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1 comment
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  • What is YOUR portable speaker of choice!

    This looks like a very good offering but it is tickling the $200 price point. If you were using it for travel, the ability to daisy chain at $200 per petal is not really a feature I would use. The recharging capability would be handy at times. I like that there is no proprietary charging dock unlike the higher end competition. I however would take some convincing to move away from my current Mighty Dwarf BlueII Bluetooth vibration speaker that allows me to turn the furniture in my hotel room INTO the speaker. The size - being about the size of a baseball - is very packable and ultra convenient. Besides when I show people my speaker they think it is just plain cool. This speaker, well, it is just a good speaker.
    Brian_Kilbride