It’s tough to stand out from other Bluetooth speakers in the $100 price range, where the quality often seems modest and comparable speaker to speaker. The Braven 570, which is $99.99 (direct), doesn’t emerge as a clear winner, but it also does nothing to really take itself out of the running for your consideration. At top volumes, it doesn’t distort, which is nice—but deep bass makes the speaker shell rattle enough that it has more or less the same effect as distortion. That’s par for the $100 course, however, and at moderate volumes, the 570 delivers a crisp, clean sound. Throw in the ability to charge other mobile devices using the USB connection, and the 570′s speakerphone functionality, and it’s hard to complain about this solid contender.
Measuring 2.5 by 6.3 by 1.8 inches (HWD) and weighing 11 ounces, the rectangular Braven 570 is offered in six colors—blue, green, purple, red, white, or black. The front and back panels are grilles covering the built-in microphone and two front-facing drivers (and ported areas on the rear panel). On the left-hand panel, which is black, there’s a battery status button and LED, a 3.5mm Aux output, and a USB connection for charging smaller mobile devices, such as your phone.
The right panel houses the Power switch, a Phone button for answering calls using the speakerphone function, Volume controls (which also act as track navigation controls if you hold them for long enough), a micro USB connection for charging the 570, and a 3.5mm Aux input. (You can use the Aux ins and outs to daisy chain two speakers together.) Two rubber feet situated on the bottom panel help keep the 570 from dancing around tabletops when its volume is cranked.
The battery status button also doubles as the Bluetooth pairing button—the process of pairing the 570 with an iPhone 5s was simple and quick.
The 570 ships with a USB charging cable and a 3.5mm audio cable for the Aux input/output. Braven estimates the battery life at approximately 10 hours of playback, but your results will vary based on how loud you play your music.
The volume controls on the 570 work independently of the controls on your device, and with both of the volumes cranked to maximum, the 570, which can get fairly loud for its modest size, starts to rattle a bit. I say rattle rather than distort, because it seems that even deep bass tracks don’t cause speaker distortion on the 570. Instead, while the drivers deliver a fairly clean sound, the enclosure of the speaker itself tends to rattle at top volumes. Lowering the volume on either the sound source or the speaker itself usually solves issue. At moderate volumes, tracks with intense sub-bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” are delivered cleanly—but don’t expect much in the way of bass response, as this track’s deep low-end thuds are reduced to simple taps on the 570. This is, however, to be expected given the speaker’s small size and low cost.
On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” his baritone vocals are delivered with a nice mix of rich low-mids and crisp high-mids. The guitar strumming also gets a prominent place in the mix, receiving plenty of high-mid attention as well. Meanwhile, the drumming that can sometimes overwhelm the mix on bass-heavy speakers sounds balanced, or perhaps even a bit weak here, settling into the background of the mix.
Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild” receives a similar treatment through the 570—the kick drum loop’s attack is crisp and slices through the mix with ease, while the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are not terribly powerful—we hear the raspy top notes of the synth, but the ominous, deep low-end is not present, only implied. Again, that’s to be expected of a speaker in this range, and at top volumes, the track did not distort, which is a positive.
Classical tracks, like John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances,” sound predictably bright through the 570, with the spotlight firmly focused on higher register strings, brass, and percussion. The lower register strings that anchor this track are audible, but not a real force to be reckoned with. The track is delivered cleanly and clearly, and there’s a reasonable bass presence here, but nothing that’ll excite bass lovers.
If you love deep low-end, you’re going to need to spend more money to get anything resembling powerful bass response out of a portable Bluetooth speaker. The Bose SoundLink Mini is a strong option—and it delivers about as much bass response as you’ll find in a reasonably sized, portable speaker, although it weighs a lot more at 24 ounces. In this price range, the 570 does a laudable job with low-end, but it’s also worth checking out the Panasonic SC-NT10, which delivers comparable sound—without the rattling—in a very portable, if bland, design. If you’re looking for something a bit more rugged, consider the very tiny Outdoor Technology Buckshot, which is far more affordable, shock-proof and somewhat water-resistant. And if all you really want is a super-cheap Bluetooth speaker, the 808 Audio Canz Wireless Speaker is not going to blow your mind on the audio front, but it’s about as cheap as you can go without buying garbage. For $100, you can’t expect audio fireworks, but the Braven 570 is a solid speaker that comes with some nice extra capabilities, like USB charging for other devices and a speakerphone.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc