I have always wanted to have a quality sounding speaker that was portable that I could listen to when I am on the road with my notebook. When Braven announced the Braven 650 Bluetooth 3.0 Speaker, I was pretty interested in seeing if this would satisfy my needs for a good sounding portable speaker.
The Braven 650 is a $189 Bluetooth speaker system that is powered by a Lithium-Polymer rechargeable battery. The Braven 650 comes with an aircraft grade aluminum case that keeps it light, but durable and sturdy. It seems like it is basically indestructible.
After unpacking the unit, the first order of business was charging the device. The Braven 650 comes with a micro-USB cable and that is what is used to charge the device. There are two really nice points about this. First I can charge the device from a powered USB port that is on my notebook. Second, the micro-USB is a standardized cable that if I lose it, it is very easy to replace. For those that do like to plug into AC, the Braven 650 does come with a AC to USB power adapter. I tested out AC to USB power adapters that I had for other devices and those worked just fine also. I would just use one cable to charge both my smartphone and the Braven 650 when traveling. A really cool feature that I would have never thought of coming with a portable speaker system is the ability to hook your smartphone up to the Braven 650 and have it get a charge.
After a successful charge, which took a little over 4 hours for me, I anxiously wanted to see how the unit sounded. The first order of business was trying to get it to work with my notebook over Bluetooth. I have both a MacBook Pro and ThinkPad W510 Windows 7 notebook. The pairing process was as easy as hooking up a Bluetooth headset to your smartphone. While both machines were able to recognize the Braven 650, the ThinkPad would not play any music. The MacBook Pro did without any issues. I was also able to get it to work flawlessly with my Windows 7.5 smartphone. With the ThinkPad I was able to get music to play without any issue using the supplied 3.5mm cable.
I’m probably a unique case in that I always travel with my notebook, so I don’t really keep a lot of music on my smartphone. For non-business users, keeping all of the music on your iPhone is probably more prevalent. I talked to Braven technical support and they were aware of issues with some Windows manufacturer’s Bluetooth drivers not working properly and they are working with Microsoft to ensure more compatibility with Windows 8.
Listening to the Braven 650 was an impressive experience. The unit puts out 6W (3W per channel) via a Class D amplifier. I was amazed at the bass considering how small the unit is and that it is coming from a 40mm passive driver. The two 40mm active drivers can produce an output level of 90db at .5M. This would probably cause your hotel neighbors to file a complaint with management!
The variety of songs I listened had a well-balanced frequency range for a unit this small. It is definitely enjoyable enough for on the road traveling or even at your desk if you don’t have speakers hooked up to your PC. The Braven 650 sports about 20 hours of playtime at medium volume. I didn’t keep a stopwatch on how long the battery lasted for me as I was playing it on and off a variety of times. For me it would definitely last an entire business trip without requiring a charge.
I have a very high bar for audio quality, with my home theater being powered by Mark Levinson amps and Revel speakers. While the Braven isn’t targeted to compete with that, I definitely would have it for my portable speaker system.
In playing with the unit, I discovered another feature that I would never expect to find in a Bluetooth speaker system. The one that stood out for me was that the Braven 650 could become your speaker and microphone for your smartphone. Let’s say you are listening to music from your smartphone and a call comes in. The Braven will beep and the music will pause and your ringtone will play over the Braven. To answer the call you would simply press call button on your Braven and take the call. You could end the call from the smartphone or by pressing the call button on your Braven.
At the end of the day, this is a great sounding Bluetooth, portable, rechargeable speaker system. It is definitely being toted around with me for all my business trips!
To see the features in action, check out the video below.