There are wireless speakers, and then there are outdoor speakers. The former are often classy, cylindrical affairs, occasionally adorned with color-changing LED lights and often built to integrate with your assuredly vast collection of smart home devices. The latter are forces of nature, seemingly indestructible boxes crafted to withstand the harshest elements Earth brings to bear.
Braven’s outdoor speaker series — and, more specifically, the recently launched Ready Elite — qualifies in the latter category. Waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, and designed like the freaking Batmobile, the $300 Ready Elite (it is wireless, for the record) had our curiosity. After taking it for a spin, though, it has more than our attention — it has our recommendation.
Ready to rumble
The Braven arrives in style, encased within a Popemobile-esque plastic enclosure with a jagged, nonfunctional carabiner affixed to the top (amusingly inscribed with the phrase “Not for climbing”). Hidden at the bottom of the box in a plastic chamber are a nylon hang strap, a small quick-start guide (full manual here), an AC adapter, and four different power cables — Types A, C, G, and I, according to this chart — a nice touch showing consideration for customers across the world.
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
The speaker itself is oblong, about the size of a football, but more angular. Everything is black except for two small nameplates on the ends and the four hang strap anchor points in cobalt gray. The speaker’s grilles — located on the front and ends — are crafted with “aircraft-grade aluminum” in true Braven form, and the anchor points are reinforced alloy, while the rest of the Ready Elite’s housing is matte thermoplastic, apart from some glossy black accenting. Overall, it looks like the sort of speaker Batman would use (or, at least, the Batman we’ve been seeing in movies since 2006).
All the onboard controls — volume, power, play/pause, Bluetooth, voice activation — are on the top of the speaker. Inside, the Ready Elite is equipped with twin full range drivers and dual passive radiators for enhanced bass response.
Getting set up is about as easy as it could possibly be. Charge it up, turn it on, select “Ready Elite”. Boom, done.
On the back are four heavy duty screws and, in the center, a large rubber flap which protects all the ports from water. Thankfully, the flap’s size makes it easy to open and close, even without fingernails to spare. Underneath, you’ll find a USB port to charge other devices, ports for power, aux input, and firmware servicing, a battery indicator button with an LED, and a factory reset button.
The four anchor points are located, more or less, on the speaker’s corners (it doesn’t really have corners, but we digress).
Getting set up is about as easy as it could possibly be. Charge it up, turn it on, check your device’s Bluetooth list, and pick “Ready Elite.” Boom, done.
Element-ary, dear Braven
Braven has made some bold claims about the survivability of the Ready Elite (and the rest of the Ready line, which comprises the $99 Solo, the $150 Pro, the $200 Prime, and the Elite). Each of the Ready speakers are IP68 rated for water and dust protection, they’re shockproof, and they float. Of course, we had to test these claims out!
We dropped the Ready Elite into a sink full of water. Nothing bad happened (though, once submerged, the Bluetooth signal cut out until it resurfaced), and it did indeed float. We dropped the Ready Elite on the floor, on the grass, on concrete, all from chest-high. Nothing happened. If you drop it on the wrong surface, the finish will certainly scratch and scuff, but it seems pretty difficult to do any real damage to this sucker. Maybe extreme heat or extreme cold could do the trick? We didn’t feel like throwing it in the oven or the freezer.
Out of all the dedicated mobile apps from speaker companies, the Braven Outdoor app is … one of them. If you’re not already connected via Bluetooth, it’ll quickly walk you through that step, then you can get to listening. The app also features six different preset equalizers which make a pretty big difference; as the default “Braven Audio” EQ is fairly bass-heavy, you can use the Treble Boost setting to balance things out.
From the app, you can control volume, skip forward or back (it imports metadata from whatever music app you’re using), change audio sources, and check the speaker’s battery level, which is a nice touch. If you own another Ready speaker, you can pair the two together for stereo playback using the app as well.
Ready? Absolutely. Elite? Not quite.
In terms of actual sound quality, the Ready Elite is generally impressive. Throw on some uptempo EDM like Galantis’ Runaway (U & I) and you’ll have a hard time not moving to the beat, thanks to the aforementioned passive radiators pumping out some serious bass. The same goes for most hip-hop; Flume’s On Top sounds great, an arrhythmic, sci-fi beat perfectly setting the table for T-Shirt’s raps.
Even less party-suited tunes play well on the Ready Elite, like Twenty One Pilots’ Fairly Local, where Tyler Joseph’s vocals reverberate creepily above booming kick drums, or even John Mayer’s Gravity, where snare drums sound sublime and the slow-whammy solo echoes gorgeously.
The app also features six different preset equalizers which make a pretty big difference.
At higher volumes, though, some songs can sound garbled, a result of some digital signal processing which produces a slight hiss. For example, Lana del Rey’s Lust For Life became nearly indecipherable at more than 5-10 feet away, even with the Vocal EQ on. Meanwhile, Ginuwine’s Differences sounded great at medium volume, but the bass got a little boomy and created some distortion when we cranked it up.
Compared to the UE Megablast (also $300), the Ready Elite offers a more bass-forward sound signature, and lacks clarity up top. If it were a home speaker, we would dock more points here, but let’s be real: This speaker is for hiking, swimming, picnicking, and the like. The Elite does a great job of cutting through ambient noise, and the DSP hiss is nearly imperceptible in such situations.
The Ready Elite does feature voice control, routed through your phone. This worked fine in our experience, though you have to press a button on the speaker itself to use it. In terms of battery life, the Ready Elite lived up to its claimed 12 hours. Its 4400mAh battery did a passable job of charging our other devices (read: phones), if not exceptional.
All Braven speakers come with one-year limited warranties.
Don’t get it twisted: The Ready Elite is a niche speaker. Neither its aesthetic nor its sound signature are the best fit for most bedrooms or living rooms, and you can’t precisely tailor an equalizer — something we value in a speaker.
That said, this might just be the best speaker for its outdoor niche. It’s almost like a miniature Soundboks 2. You’d be hard-pressed to find an all-weather speaker as durable, portable, versatile, and reasonably priced anywhere. The Megablast sounds a little cleaner, but it can’t charge your phone.
Braven’s own BRV-XXL offers more power for the same price, but it’s too unwieldy to lug around on a backpacking trip. The Ready Elite is lightweight (around seven pounds) and rugged, and it performs well enough to earn our stamp of approval.
DT Editors’ Rating: 4/5
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