Review: Rocking the beach with the crazy loud New Soundboks speaker
Bluetooth speakers. They come in all shapes and sizes, from portables you can hold in your hand to mains-powered table-top belters. And then there are those from Denmark's Soundboks – suitcase-sized beasts with concert-level output. We've been rocking to the third generation Soundboks, and we're impressed.
The New Soundboks speakers were first announced back in August, and it's taken a while for a pair of review units to wing their way to us – but it was worth the wait. But before we go into that, let's have a closer look at these absolute monsters.
The Danish startup behind the Soundboks speakers first hit the headlines in early 2016 with a Kickstarter to fund production of "the loudest battery-powered Bluetooth speaker." Back then, it was capable of 30 hours of playback at 119 dB per charge of its LiFePO4 battery pack. The first gen speaker featured Bluetooth 3.0 and had one 3.5 mm aux input to cable up a non-BT music source. The campaign was successful, raising over US$784,000, and backers got the finished product later that year.
The following year saw the release of the Soundboks 2, again running Bluetooth 3.0 but this time managing to go all the way up to 11, or 122 dB. It featured a 1-inch silk dome tweeter and two 10-inch woofers, and could go on for up to 40 hours per charge.
The New Soundboks makes even more noise. It features three Class D amplifiers rated at 72 W driving two 10-inch woofers (at 96 dB each) and one 1-inch compression driver tweeter (at 104 dB, up from 96 dB in the previous version). The frequency range runs from 40 Hz to 20 kHz, it has a bass-enhanced sound profile, and is reported capable of throwing out 126 dB.
Bluetooth has been updated to version 5.0, and one speaker is now able to wirelessly daisy-chain with up to four others thanks to something called TeamUP functionality via the bright orange button on the user interface panel. This panel is also home to the power on/off button and a large volume dial circled with an illuminated level indicator.
At the bottom center of the status ring is a Bluetooth LED indicator that flashes in pairing mode, and stays solid when wirelessly connected to a source device.
On the opposite side, the 12.8-V/7.8-Ah LiFePO4 removable battery unit with LED charge status lights is slotted in and connected to the speaker. If you're streaming music at mid-volume, you won't have to worry about finding a wall outlet for 40 hours per 3.5 hour recharge time. But if you crank it up to full volume, that goes down to 5 hours.
Users have more cabling options with this model. In addition to the 3.5 mm stereo input. there's a 3.5 mm stereo output too. And there are two combo XLR/TRS input jacks that allow you to plug in microphones or instruments.
Each New Soundboks measures 25.6 x 17 x 13 in (66 x 43 x 32 cm) and tips the scales at 34 lb (15.4 kg). The cabinet is made from poplar instead of the birch ply of old, and is held within a powder-coated aluminum frame. There's a pulse reflex port running through the middle, a 35-mm pole mount for hoisting onto a PA tripod, and the powder-coated steel grille can be removed, custom painted and re-attached for that groovy personal touch. The ball corners are now silicone instead of aluminum, and the side handles fashioned from steel. Finally, the electronics have a weather-resistant IP65 coating.
So that's what landed on our doorstep a wee while back. Initially we were sent just one New Soundboks, but then a second arrived a little later – so we could appreciate stereo sound while also testing the TeamUP functionality.
Let's hit the beach
Despite being relatively lightweight for a speaker of such dimensions, it still took two of us to carry one a few hundred meters to the sand without being completely out of puff. A half volume burst of tunes from a Bluetooth-paired digital audio player proved pleasantly clear and detailed, but didn't carry much beyond the steep cliffs about 50 m away. So we cranked it up to 11 and (briefly) rocked out in the rocks.
The New Soundboks is loud. Very loud. Stupid loud. Folks around us commented that they thought there was a rock concert going on somewhere nearby. Friends out walking up the cliff path could clearly hear the music from about a kilometer (0.6 mi) away. A bit closer in, the slightest sliver of distortion could be detected at full volume on the DAP playing a high resolution MP3 and with the speaker also at full tilt.
That said, the sound quality was excellent for a battery-powered Bluetooth speaker at this kind of volume.
Back on home turf, we cabled a music source to the 3.5 mm audio jack around back. The overall output levels when physically connected were notably lower than over Bluetooth, but the speaker handled high resolution FLAC and WAV playback with confidence. Oddly, if we already had music playing from a cabled source and launched a new track from a paired device over Bluetooth, the latter didn't override the cabled source but just bled over the top.
There's no EQ adjustment available on the slightly bass-heavy New Soundboks, so that kind of thing needs to be undertaken on the source device if desired.
We couldn't really jam along to backing tracks, fed over Bluetooth or via cable, when plugged directly into the combo port in the back panel. The output volume of the dry signal just wasn't powerful enough. Looping in effects and/or feeding the signal through a mixer gave a helpful boost though. We had a similar experience when directly plugging in microphones.
Daisy-chaining our two review speakers together proved very straightforward indeed. The New Soundboks used to stream music over Bluetooth or cabled to a source player or instruments/mics was simply set to Host on the user interface panel, and the other set to Join. Job done.
We've been using the New Soundboks on battery power alone, at different volumes, in different playback configurations, and both inside and outside, for a couple of weeks now and have yet to charge the battery units. We're not remote enough to be able to test the 5 hours at full power claim, but these babies simply hate being plugged into the mains so users should only have to worry about such things periodically. A flush, push-in button to the top of the battery box lights up the LEDs for a quick status check.
The bottom line
The New Soundboks is the loudest battery-powered Bluetooth speaker we've heard so far. It's not only loud, but throws out rich, clear and detailed audio. It ticks quite a few mixed use feature set boxes and there's a companion mobile app on the way too, which will offer different sound profiles to be enabled, as well as other sonic tweaking.
It's well suited for outdoor parties, indoor gatherings in small or large rooms, cook-outs on the beach, and even doubled up, mounted to tripods and used as a Bluetooth-enabled PA system for a DJ set or band performance, with the help of a mixer. If you have friends with units, or you're fortunate enough to be able to afford it, up to five wirelessly-connected New Soundboks can be arranged around the campsite for one helluva loud dance party.
But at $999 per speaker, you may need to be on real friendly terms with your bank manager. Especially if you're looking to snag more than one. Highly recommended though.
Product page: New Soundboks