I’ve always been curious about getting a pair of Bluetooth speakers for personal use, but the good ones have typically been pricey. So when I got a bunch of audio gear from Digits Trading to review, it was the Braven 855s Bluetooth Speakers I opened up first.
To be honest, I didn’t expect the Braven 855s to be as big as it is. Just unboxing it can be an intimidating experience and its weatherproof rubber exterior adds to the intimidation factor even more. However, sound quality should be the most important consideration when reviewing any sort of audio gear. So does the Braven 855s measure up? Find out in my full review.
Design and Construction
The Braven 855s is one massive mother of a portable Bluetooth speaker. It measures 9.5 x 2.8 x 4 inches and weighs about 2 and a half kilos, which is pretty hefty. The front and back of the speakers are covered by metal grills in a gunmetal shade that most Braven fans should be familiar with already. the top, bottom and sides of the speakers are covered by thick, black rubber.
Basic controls for the power, calls, play/pause, and volume can be found on top. They can be very hard to see in even in normal indoor lighting because there’s no color differentiation between the hardware buttons and the rubber material. It should be fine for most cases since you’ll be controlling the speakers from your phone or other Bluetooth-enabled device, but on those rare occasions that you’ll want to use it as a hands-free loudspeaker, you’ll often find yourself pressing the wrong button.
On the side, you’ll find access to the LED battery level indicator and the battery check button hidden under a flap. There’s also a proprietary charger port, 3.5mm aux port, and a USB port that allows you to charge an external device. The LED battery level indicator isn’t on by default. If you want to check the battery level, you have to press the battery check button to activate the LED battery indicator.
Overall, the construction of the Braven 855s is about as solid as you’ll ever find on a set of speakers. The black and gray combo of the rubber and metal speaker grills is easy to match with most decor. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it doesn’t have any handles to make it easier to move around. The Braven 855s is one massive mother and it’s heavy too. Some handles or a shoulder strap would’ve made it easier to move from one room to another. Still, that didn’t stop me from using it in my room, in the living room and in the car.
The Braven 855s allows you to wirelessly stream music from your phone, tablet, or any other Bluetooth-enabled device. It supports Bluetooth 3.0 EDR, so older Bluetooth-enabled devices might not work. I tried pairing it with a Cherry Mobile Titan TV and SKK Mobile Radiance but neither phone could detect the Braven 855s. An iPad 4 and Cherry Mobile Flare HD were able to work with it just fine though. Anyway, if you have an audio source that doesn’t have Bluetooth or support the newer Bluetooth 3.0 standard, you can still connect it via an aux cable.
The Braven 855s also comes with an internal 8,800mAh battery. According to Braven’s internal numbers, the 855s can last up to 20 hours on a full charge. I had it playing most afternoons in the living room and it was able to last 3 days before I had to charge it again. What’s interesting is that you can even charge an external device via the USB port on the side, making it a massive mother of a power bank too.
To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed by the sound quality of the Braven 855s at first. I don’t like turning the volume up at home because I don’t want to disturb anyone else here, and the audio sounded pretty muddy at low volumes. However, I did a bit of reading through the manual and found that the Braven 855s has SRS WOW HD that can be activated by pressing the volume (+) and (-) buttons simultaneously. I figured it was weird that it wasn’t enabled by default, but what the hell, I turned it on to try it out.
“Holy hell, wow!” just about sums up my reaction to hearing the impact of SRS. The change is that drastic. When SRS is turned off, it’s like sound struggles to pass through the thick rubber that encases the Braven 855s, resulting in muddied highs and mids. However with SRS turned on, the highs are rich and the bass is boomy, creating a clarity that seems to enhance whatever audio source you might be listening to.
One good reason that SRS is turned off by default is because the speakers just won’t be able to handle it at high volumes. The bass and treble starts to distort when SRS is enabled at high volumes. Thankfully, using it without SRS at high volume produces pretty balanced sound, although nowhere near as great as it should have been with SRS enabled. At this point, I would just do some creative equalizer tweaking on Power Amp.
The audio is also nice and boomy when the volume is turned up. Despite its comparatively small size, the sound can easily fill a 40 square meter room and then some. The bass was strong enough to replicate a home theater experience and there was very little distortion even at the loudest volumes. All in all, it’s quite impressive even if it already is one of the larger Bluetooth speakers you can get.
The Braven 855s is easily one of the best Bluetooth speakers in the market right now. The sound that it produces it nice and balanced with SRS enabled, while using it at high volumes even with SRS disabled will allow you to replace a decent set of home theater speakers. If you live in a condominium, apartment, or other small space, I would easily recommend the Braven 855s.
However, it is quite expensive. The SRP is Php13,950, which kind of saddened my uncle who had come to love the Braven 855s and had been using it to play music from the Tune In app on his phone. Hopefully, the price won’t scare you off, because it can easily replace any and every other speaker you might have in the house. It will even outlast your next 2 or 3 smartphones because of the sheer ruggedness of its construction.
If you’re just moving into a new place, make the Braven 855s your first and last set of speakers. It’s that good.