As with any Bluetooth speaker, the Braven 650 is a cinch to setup, with a long hold of the phone button setting the Bluetooth into connection mode and the usual ‘0000’ code finalising the connection. Once connected the speaker will take-over calling duties with its noise-cancelling microphone.
We were impressed by the quality of calls. Obviously the speaker far outperforms that of a phone while the microphone did a good job of picking up our voice and scrubbing out background noise.
But of course the most crucial thing is how the Braven sounds when playing music, and the answer is pretty good. Although only totalling 6W of output, the two drivers pump out surprisingly loud audio that will easily be enough to keep you bopping in a hotel room or bedroom. There’s also a good impression of bass that gives raucous tracks a reasonable amount of oomph.
As ever, the Pasce minirig still stands head and shoulders above all other portable speakers for sheer power and bass extension but for this style of stereo, Bluetooth speaker the Braven 650 is at least on par with its peers.
Audio quality is good too thanks to the use of the higher quality Aptx Bluetooth codec. Although you’re unlikely to notice the extra fidelity through the speaker itself, it’s of benefit when using the audio output.
One of the major advantages of these types of Bluetooth speaker compared to mono portable speakers or those devices that stick to other surfaces and turn them into speakers, is that you get a proper stereo presentation. This, combined with their compact shape, makes them a great audio upgrade for watching a movie on a laptop, as well as simply blasting out some tunes.
Braven’s claims of 20hours battery life seemed well founded in our experience and, crucially, the battery remains charged for long periods between use so you can just pick it up and go even if you haven’t touched it for weeks. You’ll only get one full recharge of your phone out of the Braven 650 but that’s easily enough to make this a really useful double-duty accessory.
The biggest thorn in the side of the Braven 650 is its price. Costing a whopping £159, it’s nearly twice the price of the Jawbone Jambox and a good £40 more than the Jabra Solemate. But, neither of these offers the phone recharging and audio output abilities of the Braven, and only have half the battery life. What’s more, if your budget simply can’t stretch that far, Braven also offers the cheaper Braven 600 and 570, which offer similar features just with less battery life.
The Braven 650 is expensive but then it also offers the most comprehensive set of features we’ve seen on a Bluetooth portable speaker. It has double the battery life of most competitors, audio output and the ability to charge your phone, all of which are genuinely useful additions. Add in sound quality that is easily enough for most travel purposes and you can colour us impressed. As ever, if you’re just after no frills powerful, portable audio the Pasce Minirig is your best bet, but for a great all-round travel accessory, the Braven 650 looks like a good buy.