There are far more water-resistant Bluetooth speakers on the market than fully waterproof ones, so it’s worth noting the Braven 105 falls into the latter camp. Throw in an included mount that’s compatible with most GoPro action cams, and the $49.99 105 delivers some serious value for thrill seekers who want to take their tunes on the road. Unsurprisingly, audio performance from this modest-sized speaker is, well, modest—it distorts on deep bass and doesn’t get terribly loud. But it at least delivers crisp, clear audio when deep bass isn’t in the mix.
Available in seven colors, including black, blue, gray, neon yellow, hot pink, purple, and red, the circular design measures 3.8 by 3.8 by 1.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 7 ounces. It has an IPX7 rating, meaning it’s waterproof, and its rubberized exterior and watertight front-facing grille do indeed look like they can withstand far more than a rainstorm. There’s a snap-shut cover on the rear panel that protects the 3.5mm aux input, a pinhole reset button, and a micro USB port for charging—that IPX7 rating goes out the window if you don’t secure this cover tightly. Also on the rear panel is a 0.25-inch threaded mounting insert and an elastic strap that looks like it could be secured to anything from an arm to a tree (one end of the band is removable to make this possible).
There are three buttons across the top panel, including a central multifunction button that controls power, playback, call management, and pairing, and plus and minus buttons that control both volume (which works in conjunction with your mobile device’s master volume) and track navigation, depending on how long you hold the buttons down for. We’re not huge fans of combining volume and track navigation on the same button—it makes it pretty easy to accidentally skip a track when you just meant to turn it up.
The included action mount will likely be a strong selling point for many users—between the strap, the thread mount, and the action mount, the 105 is well-outfitted for active outdoor use. As for cables, you get a micro USB charging cable, but no 3.5mm audio cable for the aux input. It also doesn’t ship with a protective carrying pouch, but it hardly needs one.
Braven estimates the 105’s battery life to be roughly 8 hours, but your results will depend on how loud you play your music and your mix of wired versus wireless playback.
On tracks with powerful sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the 105 delivers a decent sense of bass at moderate volumes, though if you want anything resembling true deep bass, you need to spend more money on a larger, more powerful speaker. At top volumes, this track distorts pretty noticeably—this is true of plenty of small, portable Bluetooth speakers in this price range, but there’s now a decent number of speakers that manage to avoid distortion, or that at least avoid distorting so noticeably. (The similarly shaped, sized, and priced JBL Clip 2 is one example.)
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track without much deep bass in the mix, gives us a better idea of the 105’s sound signature. The drums on this track, which can sound thunderous on bass-heavy speakers, almost get lost in the background. Callahan’s baritone vocals get a decent sense of low-mid richness and even more high-mid presence, giving the vocals and guitar strums a crisp treble edge. Generally speaking, this is a very mids- and highs-focused sound signature, which is no surprise, considering the speaker’s size. Given its treble tendencies, it could be tinny or harsh, and it’s not—but anyone expecting appreciable bass response will be sorely disappointed.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop gets plenty of high-mid presence, highlighting its sharp attack and allowing it to pierce through the layers of the mix. There’s little in the way of low frequency thump, so the loop sounds a little less powerful despite its prominence in the mix, and the synth hits that punctuate the beat manage to at least imply some of their sub-bass power, but mainly we hear the higher, raspier top notes. The vocals on this track are delivered clearly, front-and-center in the mix, but at times there seems to be some added sibilance.
The speaker also has the annoying habit of lopping off the very first half-second or so of tracks that you newly navigate to. Again, this isn’t anything we haven’t run into before with affordable Bluetooth speakers, but plenty of the competition has figured out how to avoid this issue.
The Braven 105’s bright, crisp sound signature and waterproof design are well-suited for outdoor listening, but it doesn’t get quite as loud as some other speakers we’ve tested, and it has some distortion issues on deep bass tracks. The aforementioned JBL Clip 2 is our current Editors’ Choice at this price for its versatile design and stronger sound quality, while the Nyne Edge and EcoXGear EcoCarbon are both solid, though pricier, alternatives. If you’re looking to spend as little as possible on a waterproof speaker, the Polk Boom Swimmer Jr. gets the job done for cheap.