Braven has impressed me previously with quality craftsmanship and better than average quality drivers but have often fallen in the pricing department.
The newly-released Braven balance promises to provide a compact offering to its otherwise historically hefty speaker range while still offering a degree of water and dust protection. Can the Braven Balance provide the big Braven sound we have come to love, but in a smaller package?
Sporting a 33ft (10m) Bluetooth range and an internal battery rated at 4,000 mAh for 18 hours of playback time, the Braven Balance offers a slightly larger battery than most that sits within its IPX7 resistance rating.
There's a handy battery indicator on the rear, sitting alongside a single 5V 1A USB-out port for optional charging (almost useless due to the small size of the battery on offer), with both of these options sitting behind a rubber flap that helps hide internals from prying water and dust.
The driver information isn't listed in marketing or on the official website, unfortunately, but we'll discover what's inside when we review it. For those not wanting to connect through Bluetooth, the Braven Balance further offers an AUX 3.5mm connection. With the device as a whole measuring in at a small 4.96 x 8.23 x 1.85 inches, Braven also tells us that it weighs a hefty 1.79lbs - quite heavy for such a small device.
Pricing & Availability
Priced at $120 with free shipping on Amazon, this speaker can be categorized into the mid-to-high range of compact portable speakers. Although, it's hard to cement speakers into one area as they vary widely in price, performance, features and more.
I've placed this product into a similar category to my previously reviewed LEPA BTS02 water resistant speaker, while offering a slightly higher cost, a larger battery and a bigger brand name, the Braven Balance contains similar features and claims.
What's in the box?
While most speakers come packed with a carry pouch, often the Braven models haven't had the need for one. Previous reviews have shown that the sturdy design, rubber coating and water resistance rating means that the product itself becomes the carry pouch, offering handles for easy transport.
The Balance doesn't fit this 'norm', providing no easy way store or carry the product. This is possibly due to Braven's apparent anti-bag stance and this speaker being much smaller, but it always helps to have an extra buffer when taking your speaker out and about.
The speaker comes with a wall charger, and there is no micro-USB charging option to be seen. There's not much else here to say besides it's yet another Braven disappointment in the charging area. If you're an Android-based device owner, a micro-USB charging port on the speaker is a handy addition, allowing you to charge your device.
While this section of the review has been mostly negative, it is worth noting that this speaker is tough and resistant, so it doesn't particularly need to be nursed by a carry pouch. There is also an included (albeit short) AUX 3.5mm cable for those who don't wish to drain their battery by using Bluetooth.
Let's dig deeper
The rubber coating on the Braven Balance makes the speaker feel soft to touch but won't vibrate or rattle along your desk when pumping tunes at maximum volume.
The buttons are also extremely solid, almost too much so. Requiring quite a bit of force to depress, sometimes you will find yourself pressing things twice by accident, misjudging when the button will actuate and send your command.
As I mentioned in the introduction, this speaker is much smaller and lighter than other Braven models reviewed previously. This makes for an excellent flight travel companion, compared to the previous editions that were suited only for things such as home barbeques, beach visits, and similar activities involving a car and storage.
Being smaller and lighter doesn't mean that it's short on features or build quality. The back rubber flap helps hide all exposed electronics and ways that dirt or water may make its way into your device, providing a solid and well-built buffer to the external elements. The rubber coating is well sealed and designed, ensuring that you won't have any peeling or disintegration over time - a sign of quality design and materials.
Although the charging connection isn't my favourite, it has a secure fit and charges the product in a reasonable timeframe, offering a claimed output of 3A to power up the 4,000mAH battery faster than many competitors.
It's time for tunes
So, can the Braven Balance provide the big bad bass in a smaller package? The short answer is no, but there's much more to it than that.
Loading up some hard-hitting songs it becomes obvious that this speaker is much more about clarity than it is about booming bass. Previous Braven models have handled bass heavy songs better, providing larger frames for it to resonate and oversized drivers to deal with this type of music easily – something you simply can't get in this small package.
That's not saying that small speakers can't have bass at all – one listen to the SoundBlaster Roar 2 will prove that, but it seems the Braven costing has gone more so into the design and materials of this product, rather than focusing on the drivers.
In saying this, songs that require clarity perform better than the others – listening to artists and bands like Twenty One Pilots and Pink Floyd will provide a better experience than hardstyle or hardcore outfits like AudiofreQ or Amity Affliction. One of the major reasons for quieter songs being so great is the lack of Bluetooth buzz or whine – there's none to be heard here - a major positive over competing models.
Pumping music at 100% causes no distortion but slightly lowers the bass that is already limited in nature. Each punch and kick in 'Work' by A$AP Ferg can be heard loud and clear, but it's just not booming like you may want.
Some of the music I tested this product with included:
It's built extremely well: Take it to the moon and back, it will survive all that you throw at it.
The clarity: Quieter songs perform extremely well.
No buzz!: There is no 'Bluetooth Buzz' to be heard here, showing quality manufacturing.
Lack of full bass: As seen with many speakers of this size, there's no booming bass.
Difficult buttons: Start working your finger muscles now, these buttons are hard to press.
Accessories: I would enjoy a carry pouch here, plus charging with a wall charger only sucks.
Great with quieter tracks that require precision in the clarity department, lovers of hard-hitting beats will be ultimately let down.
While the accessories are light and charging through a wall-plug only is annoying, the sheer quality of craftsmanship and design help make this speaker something brilliant for many. There are some positives, and there are some negatives here, but overall it's worth knowing that this speaker is brilliant at what it does, but won't be for everyone.
Chris' Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: GIGABYTE Z170X-GAMING 3 - Buy from Amazon
- CPU: Intel Core i5 6500 - Buy from Amazon
- Cooler: be quiet! Dark Rock 3 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Memory: Apacer BLADE Series DDR4 8GB (2x4GB) 2800MHz
- Storage #1: Kingston HyperX Fury 240GB SSD - Buy from Amazon
- Storage #2: Corsair Force 3 120GB SSD - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage #3: Western Digital Black 6TB HDD - Buy from Amazon
- Storage #4: Apacer PANTHER 240GB SSD
- Case: be quiet! Silent Base 800 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Power Supply: be quiet! Dark Power Pro 10 850W - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Monitor #1: BenQ XL2420T - Buy from Amazon
- Monitor #2: Acer X233H
- Keyboard: Tt eSPORTS MEKA G1 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Mouse: Tt eSPORTS Talon Blu - Buy from Amazon
- Mousepad: Tt eSPORTS White-Ra Black - Buy from Amazon
- Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster ZxR - Buy from Amazon
- OS: Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit - Buy from Amazon
|Quality including Design and Build||90%|
|Bundle and Packaging||70%|
|Value for Money||70%|
The Bottom Line: Lovers of clarity should consider the Braven Balance portable bluetooth speaker, bearing in mind the lack of booming bass and buttons that require strength to press.
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