by Joe White
December 16, 2013
Company: BRAVEN Product: BRAVEN 710 Price: $169.99 Compatibility: All iDevices (using Bluetooth or a wired connection) Website: www.braven.com Date: Dec. 16, 2013 BRAVEN 710 is a surprising little speaker. It's a fair bit smaller than Cambridge Audio's super-portable Minx Go (which we reviewed last week), and it even promises to offer a degree of water resistance, too. But crank up the volume on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and you'll also be amazed at how high BRAVEN 710 can climb; it's a small speaker, for sure, but this product nevertheless packs a big punch.
The ProductFirst, however, let's talk appearance. After looking over a few images of BRAVEN 710 online, once the product arrived I was surprised to see how small the speaker actually is. The length of the product is around one inch or so off that of the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and iPhone 5c; it takes a rectangular shape, and the speaker's height is almost exactly the width of Apple's iPhone, too. This should give you a good idea of BRAVEN 710's palm-sized form factor. There's a dotted mesh-like material on both sides of the speaker, and at one end users can access a series of music controls (there is a power button, a play and pause button, and volume up and down buttons), while on the other access to BRAVEN 710's several ports is provided. Underneath the speaker is a rubber pad, which offers a degree of grip in slippery conditions; if you're planning on testing the product's claimed water resistance, this will certainly come in handy. On the top of BRAVEN 710 is the usual BRAVEN logo, and there's also a microphone here, too. Perhaps the earliest observation worth noting is that the product is definitely portable: if Cambridge Audio's Minx Go was the kind of speaker you could fit in a backpack or handbag, BRAVEN 710 is the kind you can practically fit in a pocket. But don't for one minute let the speaker's small size fool you into thinking it can't hold its own when it comes to playing big tunes. Because as soon as you switch BRAVEN 710 on (which can be done by holding down the aforementioned rubber power button), a bass-heavy “wake-up” tone is emitted from the product, giving users an early idea of how low the speaker can actually go. BRAVEN 710's access to this lower range of bass means music played through the speaker sounds full, round, and even. There's no tinny, treble-heavy tonality so common to portable speakers of BRAVEN 710's size; instead, the product really can perform well when it comes to reaching high volume and low bass. In this respect, I'm hugely impressed. Even better, however, is BRAVEN 710's water resistance. Though the speaker can't protect itself against full underwater submersion, the product is both water resistant and “splash proof,” meaning it's safe to bring the speaker with you into the bathroom while having a shower, for example. The music controls at one end of the product are sealed against water, and access to the speaker's ports is protected and sealed by a rubber plug (this must be removed, of course, in order to charge the product). Plus, the rubber grip that features on the bottom of BRAVEN 710 means the speaker is indeed less likely to fall off a damp surface, as mentioned above. BRAVEN 710 features the usual set of ports, plus one unexpected addition. There is an auxiliary-in port, an auxiliary-out socket, a micro-USB port for charging the speaker, and a battery life-indicator (which consists of a prompt button plus five white LEDs). However, included in this bunch is a USB-out port. This is because BRAVEN 710 can also double as a portable power bank for on-the-go recharging of one's iDevices. Of course, the power bank's battery isn't huge, but at 1,400 mAh it's enough to kick-start an iPhone or iPod touch into action while providing around 20 percent or so of charge (depending on your model), or it could be used to maintain an iDevice's battery life while using a smartphone or tablet to stream music to the speaker. Plus, BRAVEN 710 comes with its own 12 hours of battery life, which should be more than enough to keep users happy. To reiterate, then: BRAVEN 710 works really well as a speaker; its sound quality is great, and I've found its wireless Bluetooth connection to be strong. But what makes the product even better still is the inclusion of a number of special features that some users, rather than most, may appreciate. The first of these is BRAVEN 710's ability to work as a Bluetooth bridge. This means that if you have a set of speakers that aren't Bluetooth enabled (perhaps a nice system dating from a few years back), you can add Bluetooth support by connecting them to BRAVEN 710 using a simple audio lead. This is a great feature, and it makes it possible for users to create an impressive wireless sound system using BRAVEN 710 in conjunction with a set of less expensive wired speakers and a subwoofer, perhaps. You can enable this mode using BRAVEN 710's on-board music controls, and it's still easy to detach the speaker for portable, on-the-go use. Second, if you own more than one BRAVEN speaker, you can pair them together for a more immersive audio experience. As such, if you own a couple of BRAVEN 710 models, for example, pairing the two will create a left speaker and a right speaker. However, at $169.99 each, this could prove expensive. Third - and, we admit, this is less impressive for iPhone owners - BRAVEN 710 allows users to pair a compatible device using near field communication (NFC). Apple hasn't jumped on the NFC bandwagon as of yet (and at this moment in time, it seems just as well), but folks who own an NFC-enabled device can nevertheless pair it up with BRAVEN 710 by touching it against the speaker's NFC bridge. Though it's worth noting that BRAVEN 710 can indeed remember Bluetooth-paired devices, and will auto-connect provided you're in range when the speaker is powered on. As such, these features - combined with the product's internal power bank and its water resistance - mean BRAVEN 710 goes beyond what you'd expect from a conventional portable speaker, and it's pleasing to see so much offered by a product that really is so small and lightweight. Compared with BRAVEN's other speakers, the 710 is fairly mid-range price-wise. The least expensive speaker in this range is BRAVEN 570 at $99.99, and the most expensive is BRAVEN 855s at $299.99 (we hope to take a closer look at the latter product in the near future). In this respect, I feel that users get a lot for their cash with BRAVEN 710: not only can the speaker offer impressive playback while maintaining a super-portable form factor, but its water resistance, pairing capabilities, and use as both a Bluetooth bridge and power bank places the product above and beyond certain competitors. If these aren't features of interest, then Cambridge Audio's less expensive Minx Go might be a better choice; in terms of audio playback, Minx Go performs better than BRAVEN 710, but of course there's no taking Cambridge Audio's speaker in the bathroom with you while you take a shower, and due to its larger form factor it's also less portable. Either way, BRAVEN 710 is a great product and we'd highly recommend it to the right user.
- Impressive sound playback
- Small form factor
- Water resistant
- Can work as a Bluetooth bridge
- Can be paired with another BRAVEN speaker
- Can be used as a portable power bank
- Rubber grip for damp conditions
- NFC pairing (if you've got a compatible device)
- More expensive than similar-sized speakers due to features some users may not care for