Roughly one year ago, Braven released the $180 Braven 625s — a ruggedized but otherwise similar alternative to its $190 top-of-line model 650. The 625s was a handsome little speaker, mixing shock-proofed rubber edges with aluminum front and back plates, plus packed-in accessories such as a waterproof bag, wrist strap, and USB-powered flashlight to increase its outdoorsy appeal. Alone, the 625s wasn’t really waterproof, but thanks to the complete kit, it was still easy to see as a “go anywhere” travel companion.

Review: Braven BRV-1 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

At the 2013 CES, Braven debuted a proper sequel called BRV-1 ($180), and though it hasn’t eliminated 625s from the lineup, it’s clearly positioned as a possible replacement—for some users, at least. BRV-1 measures 4.75” wide by 2.5” tall by 3.3” deep, which is to say that it’s considerably narrower and a little shorter than the 6.3” by 2.6” by 1.8” 625s, but nearly twice as deep.


Review: Braven BRV-1 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

Part of BRV-1’s height comes from a set of four rubber feet that prop up and stabilize a bottom-firing 70mm bass radiator, and around 3/4” of its depth is due to something we’ve never seen on a Bluetooth speaker before: a screw-off rear cap. Unlike the 625s, which barely recessed its USB or audio ports and battery indicator features, BRV-1 packs all of those features inside an IPX-5 water-resistant compartment that you open only as needed. It’s a distinctive design touch that underscores BRV-1’s “brave the outdoors” marketing message. Note, however, that BRV-1 is not actually submersible; it’s pitched as “protected from rainfall, water jets, and water splashing,” but “not intended to be submersed completely in water.” It has more built-in splash protection than 625s, but doesn’t come with a waterproof bag, so you’ll still need to be somewhat careful with it.


Review: Braven BRV-1 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

There are plenty of other cosmetic reminders of BRV-1’s ruggedization—a complete rubber shell with integrated buttons on the top, edges that look as dimpled and capable of resisting shock as treads on a pair of sneakers, and a mix of colors (black, orange, and gray or black, blue, and gray) that look sporty. They tend to obscure a number of functional reductions Braven made to this model: the battery has dropped from 16 to 12 hours of play time, there’s no flashlight or wall adapter in the package, and similarly no carrying bag. While you still get a detachable wrist strap, a USB recharging cable, and a 3.5mm audio cable, the fact that BRV-1 sells for the same price as 625s and delivers less will be a deal-breaker for some people.


Review: Braven BRV-1 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

Review: Braven BRV-1 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

BRV-1 and 625s are roughly equally matched in the sonic department, though they don’t sound exactly like one another. By comparison with 625s, BRV-1 has a more mid- and bass-heavy sound signature, so you’ll hear a little more thump in low beats and a little less sparkle in the highs. They’re nearly identical in peak volume—enough sound at their peaks for near-field listening, but not enough to fill a small room—and the wider 625s has slightly better stereo separation than the squat BRV-1. Once again, we’d call BRV-1’s sound “good” rather than great; it doesn’t really stand out from the mass of recent $100 or sub-$100 rechargeable wireless speakers we’ve tested on sound, but then, the form factor and design are really the big selling points here. Speakerphone performance is similar to the 625s’s: not quite as clear as with an iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 microphone, but not hugely worse, with incoming audio sounding louder but not as clear as we’d prefer.


Review: Braven BRV-1 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

In summary, BRV-1 is another good rather than great Bluetooth speaker at a time when there are literally dozens of companies offering aggressively priced alternatives. To the extent that you’re looking for something that’s water-resistant, compact, and attractively designed, it’s certainly worth considering as an option, but as with earlier Braven speakers, the price is a bit steep for what you’re actually getting. The 625s remains viable due to its superior pack-ins, longer battery life, and wider stereo separation; BRV-1’s bass and form factor will appeal to other people. For these reasons, the BRV-1 is just as good of an option overall as its predecessor, and equally worthy of our general recommendation.

Our Rating


Company and Price

Company: Braven


Model: BRV-1

Price: $180

Compatible: All Bluetooth-Capable iPads, iPhones + iPods

Jeremy Horwitz

Jeremy Horwitz was the Editor-in-Chief at iLounge. He has written over 5,000 articles and reviews for the website and is one of the most respected members of the Apple media. Horwitz has been following Apple since the release of the original iPod in 2001. He was one of the first reviewers to receive a pre-release unit of the device, and his review helped put iLounge on the map as a go-to source for Apple news.