Braven XXL Review: Big and Booming

When it comes to sound quality, bigger is almost always better. Bigger size allows for more and bigger drivers, which can produce more and bigger bass and treble. Braven took on the challenge of making a large speaker that's portable with its $350 Braven XXL.

Fortunately, Braven's supersized speaker sounds very good. And with its rechargeable battery, tough build and water resistance, the XXL could be the ultimate party speaker — if you're strong enough to lift it.

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Design

The XXL stretches the definition of a portable Bluetooth speaker. At 20.25 x 9.5 x 8.25 inches, the XXL could fit several 8.9 x 3.3-inch UE Megaboom speakers inside. It's not just big though — it's also really heavy. Weighing in at 18 pounds, it could substitute for a dumbbell during arm curls. By comparison, the $300 Fugoo Style XL weighs 4 pounds, 2 ounces, and the $300 Megaboom is just 2 pounds.

Credit: BravenCredit: BravenIn order to help you lug this speaker around, the XXL has a handle integrated into the top, and comes with a shoulder strap. While those are necessary additions for a speaker this size, I still found the thing awkward to move from room to room. Hiking with it would be out of the question, but I could see myself using it for car camping.

Serious Durability

With its hard, black shell and silver grills on the front and back, the XXL could have been a prop in Batman v Superman, and it looks tough enough to withstand a punch from the Man of Steel. With an IPX5 rating, it can handle being sprayed with jets of water — a rainstorm is no problem — but it shouldn't be submerged in a pool. The Fugoo XL has an IPX 67 rating, which means it can be dunked underwater

The XXL has the best bass performance of any portable speaker I've tried.

Controls and Features

On the right side of the XXL, you'll find the power button along with a play/pause button and volume controls. You can also adjust the bass and treble levels with these buttons. Like most larger speakers, the bass opens up at higher volumes, so you may want to boost the low end when listening at lower volume.

Under a protective cover on the left side, you'll find a DC power port for charging the battery, an auxiliary input for wired connections and a microphone jack that turns the XXL into a portable PA system — a neat trick I haven't seen on other Bluetooth speakers. You can also use the USB port to charge your mobile devices.

Performance

The XXL has the best bass performance of any portable speaker I've tested, and it delivers crisp treble tones, too. It doesn't sound better than a nonportable wireless speaker like the $300 Sonos Play:3, but it leaves most other speakers with batteries in the dust.

The XXL doubles as a portable PA system, a neat trick I haven't seen on other Bluetooth speakers.

The thumping bass on Kanye West's "Famous" vibrated my table with much greater force than Fugoo's XL. The XXL also shines with distinct treble tones, whether heard through Miles Davis' trumpet on "Summertime" or Lindsey Buckingham's fingerpicked guitar on Fleetwood Mac's "Never Going Back Again."

This speaker also handles vocals well — Rihanna's voice sounded full and rich on Kanye's "Famous" — though the XXL's midrange isn't superior to the Fugoo's. That results in a bit of brash sound on songs such as the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night."

The XXL's volume is as outsized as the speaker itself. It peaked at 95 decibels in my testing, though it started to distort above 90 dB. It also spreads sound widely, which makes it a welcome guest at big parties.

Setup

The XXL paired without problem with iOS and Android devices. It has a wireless range of 33 feet, which is average. I found that the connection remained strong at more than 25 feet.

The XXL it looks tough enough to withstand a punch from the Man of Steel.

Braven doesn't offer an app for additional features. The few adjustments you can make — bass and treble — are controlled on the speaker.

Battery Life

The thing that separates the XXL from other larger speakers is its battery. Units like the Sonos Play:3 are tethered to a power cord, but the XXL can play without being plugged in for up to 14 hours on a full charge. I listened for about 10 hours and still had about a quarter of the battery life left. By comparison, the Fugoo XL offers 35 hours of battery life, and the Megaboom goes for at least 20 hours.

MORE: Our Favorite Outdoor (Waterproof) Speakers

Bottom Line

The Braven XXL is an intriguing mix of sound quality, power and portability. Thanks to this speaker's rechargeable battery and ruggedness, you can kick out the jams without being near an electrical outlet. It's loud enough to fill a large room or be heard over the splashing of a pool party.

But it is neither very portable nor the best-sounding wireless speaker you can get for the money. The Fugoo XL doesn't sound as good but is easier to move and much more rugged. Sonos' Play:3 delivers better overall sound, but can't be taken on the road. However, if you crave superior audio at your parties and have the muscle to move this speaker around, the Braven XXL may be the best match you'll find.

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