Truth be told, I've had a sample of Braven's 855s in the office for several months -- it came out in 2013 -- but I'm just getting around to reviewing it now.
The reason I've been tardy reviewing it isn't because I don't like it. I do. It's built like a brick (and at almost 4 pounds, it weighs almost as much as one), is water-resistant, delivers decent sound, and has strong battery life. It also has a built-in speakerphone and a USB charger to juice up your smartphone or tablet.
The only problem with it is its price. I was hoping that it would come down a bit, but it's pretty much hovered near its list price of $300. And with all the competition in this category, especially when you consider there are very good options out there for less than $200, it's hard for me to recommend the 855s enthusiastically.
But that doesn't mean I don't like it.
Design and Features
Currently, the 855s sits at the top of Braven line up of portable Bluetooth speakers. It's the weatherized version of the 850, which costs $20 less and offers similar performance.
Clearly, one of the 855s strong points is its build quality. As noted, feels very solid and has rubber covering on the top, bottom, and sides along with a removable rubber gasket that covers all the ports.
Underneath that gasket, you'll find the power connection, an auxiliary input for non Bluetooth devices, a battery life indicator, and a USB charging port for juicing up your cell phone or tablet. Wireless range is the standard 33 feet or 10 meters.
Beyond the USB charging port, the speaker does feature a few other extras. There's the aforementioned built-in speakerphone and AptX for devices that support it. AptX is supposed to make Bluetooth audio sound better, but it's really hard to tell if it actually makes a difference. For better or worse, since this is a larger portable speaker, you have to charge it using its own AC adapter not a Micro-USB cable.
The interesting thing I've found about the handful of Braven speakers I've reviewed (I wrote up the BRV-1 and have also been testing the new $200 BRV-X) is that they sound good in the grand scheme of Bluetooth speakers, but they have their flaws, particularly when you throw complicated music at them and raise the volume.