There’s been a growing shift of manufacturers introducing higher-quality audio in smaller, portable products. With the market practically saturated with smartphones and tablets, it’s any wonder why there are so many players in the game of compact wireless speakers.
Braven has had a year full of successful releases, with one of the recent ones being the Braven 710 wireless speaker. In the lineup of its siblings, the 710 is sort of like the middle child. It’s neither the smallest nor largest (although all of them are portable), and although not shy to be outdoors, it’s not quite as rugged and sturdy as the Braven 855s or Braven BRV-1.
Design & Controls
Right out of the box, the Braven 710 speaker gleams with cool brushed aluminum exterior that gives it an essence of premium. The style and color are right – we’re talking sleek. The rubber-covered buttons on the right side are easy to press and have a good feel to it. The left side rubber panel pops off to access the Braven 710 features.
Under the “hood” we find 3.5mm aux in/out ports, USB in/out ports, and a 5-LED battery life indicator. The layout is clean and everything is labeled.
The feature that stands out the most is the 3.5mm aux out port, which effectively turns the Braven 710 into a wireless Bluetooth adapter for another audio system.
I’ve been able to connect the 710 to my Onkyo shelf system for wireless music streaming. Though not very useful to my situation, I can see how this can come in handy for many others. If you really love the Braven 710, you can daisy-chain a bunch of them together. Two of them can wirelessly pair together to present as left and right speakers for more sound and lateral imaging.
Identifying tones emit from the Braven 710 when powering on/off, in pairing mode, and maxing out the volume on the speaker. You’ll hear a beep when it connects to a device as well. These are worth mentioning, since not all speakers do the same, and I find it handy.
Battery & Microphone
The USB port for charging mobile devices is an interesting feature that appears to be growing in popularity on speakers. While it’s handy to add some critical power to a smartphone, the 1400mAh battery has its limitations.
The standard efficiency rating of an external battery is 70%. One should expect the Braven 710 to deliver an effective 980mAh, which enough to charge a dead iPhone 5 up to 63% battery life. The speaker, however, only averaged an effective 892mAh.
Considering a fully-charged 710 lasts for 12 hours of wireless playback (it’s pretty exact too, dying within minutes of the 12-hour mark), siphoning off some energy doesn’t impact the flow of tunes too much. You can charge up a typical smartphone about 25% and still have over 5 hours left of music from the Braven 710. Not too bad.
I only used the built-in microphone once, but it tested where it counts. I was listening to music while taking a hot shower with the Braven 710 (and connected Galaxy Note 2) on the sink counter. I answered the phone and had a conversation with my wife, with the shower still running the entire time. When asked to guess where I was, her response was “outside” since there was no echo and my voice was clear.
The Braven 710 is one of the very few speakers that won’t lie to you about max volume; for the most part. Many speakers can’t reach their peak volume level without adding in distortion or a piercing quality to the music output. The 710 can max out, though on occasion it needs to be dialed down (to minimize distortion, of course), depending on the type of music and recording quality.
With that being said, the Braven 710 doesn’t achieve the decibel levels that other speakers in the same bracket do. While it can’t really project sound to fill outside spaces, it’s adept at blanketing cozy inside spaces well.
Something the size of a dining room. To me, this demonstrates how Braven chooses restraint and control in order to provide a better and more level listening experience.
Especially considering the small size, the Braven 710 speaker handles instrumental complexity like a champ. Part of it may be due to the smart cap on the volume, but you can’t ignore the results. It faithfully reproduces the burstiness that comes with listening to marching bands, and it even holds it together through an orchestra swelling to a crescendo.
I’m impressed with how far the highs can reach without turning brittle. Vocals in the upper registers are also of exceptional quality, sounding crisp and distinctive. However, I do notice a subtle hissing that accompanies many words starting and/or ending with consonants C or S.
Words like “forces”, “as soon as”, “condition”, and “stand” all have an extra “sssss” with it. This aspect is prominent in the songs “Oh No”, by Gogol Bordello, and “Thinking of You”, by A Perfect Circle. This light sizzle also affects some cymbals and gives sort of a halo effect to chords here and there.
The mids showcase forward vocals that are strong and maintain a good separation from the instrument layers. So long as the volume is kept in check, the Braven 710 handles explosive complexity in the mids with a distinction. While listening to Modest Mouse’s album, Good News for People Who Love Bad News, I was able to pick out wonderful timbre from the song “Bukowski.” Even with multiple instruments and vocals within the same range and volume, the timbre underlines the song’s hauntingly-beautiful tone.
After listening to the Braven 710 through a wide variety music, I feel that the mids are lacking in aspects. First, the mids are not as pronounced as the highs and lows, leaving some music sounding slightly hollow in the middle. But more importantly, the mids lack an energy and excitement, especially when the Braven 710 is compared to peers in the same bracket.
Although the mids are very technical with great detail and definition, it comes out sounding anemic, without bark.
When you’re accustomed to speakers delivering mids with energy and character, the Braven 710 ends up being attributed as clinical and sterile by comparison. This is a big deal, as those with ears tuned enough will immediately pick up on it.
The lows are probably my favorite, as it rounds out and helps to redeem the mids. Drums and bass have excellent weight and drive behind it. The tone is spot-on, and notes are articulate with a proper pitch. You won’t find any boomy or muddy here. The drums have a solid kick with a quick attack – you can feel and hear it from the Braven 710 speaker.
I find the bass strings in the lower registers to be very exciting. It totally beats out the drums in terms of depth, and the drums are already great to begin with! Bass guitars are punchy, and you can hear the vibrating “thrumms” as fingers flip through the strings.
Those who listen to music heavy with drums and bass may crave more output from the Braven 710. I appreciate how the lows are balanced, though I totally understand that “need” when it comes to hip-hop, dub step, jungle, and of the like. While using an equalizer to boost the lows isn’t perfect, it certainly satisfies my desire for “more.”
Despite the criticism regarding the mids and highs, the Braven 710 wireless speaker still presents a very enjoyable listening environment. Not everyone will pick up on the nuances energy and hissing, and those with discerning ears might not necessarily care.
Keeping the overall sound quality, onboard controls, and versatile features in mind, it’s hard to find a reason why the Braven 710 can’t be used anywhere. The Bluetooth range is strong, can permeate through walls, and isn’t bothered by passing bodies. The speaker also plays nice with older devices that lack wireless capability.
Given the portable size and stylish looks, the Braven 710 provides a lot to like that fits in the palm of a hand. Throw in construction that can stand up to outside elements, and it’s easy to see why this speaker is a popular choice for everyday music.