TDK Life on Record A33 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker review: An impressive, modestly priced Bluetooth speaker

There's built-in speakerphone capabilities (the speakerphone worked well) and the unit has rubberized feet on the bottom to help keep it from moving around when the vibration kicks up when you play louder music. On the bottom you'll also find a little kickstand that allows you to prop the speaker up at a slight angle and fire upward a bit. The speaker doesn't ship with a carry case or cover.

A rubber door keeps moisture and dirt away from the speakers ports. The speaker is splashproof but not waterproof. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance
All of these smaller Bluetooth speakers have their limitations as far as sound quality goes and the A33 is no different. But it acquitted itself better than a lot of speakers in our tests.

It had some punch to its bass, offered decent clarity, played loud for its size, and sounded fairly natural, which is one of the more important traits you can ask for in a Bluetooth speaker.

It was able handle most of today's simpler pop and techno music without distorting and had a pleasant enough vibe to it with relatively well-balanced sound. However, it fell down a little bit with certain tunes. For instance, with Nirvana's "All Apologies" there was a little background buzzing and it became apparent that speaker simply lacked the dynamic range to be able to handle more nuanced/complicated tracks gracefully. That's par for the course for these types of speakers, but as I said, the A33 fared better in our tests than many speakers in this price range and higher.

I put it up against the new Jabra Solemate Max , which is a bigger speaker that lists for $399.99. The Solemate Max could play louder and certain tracks had more depth, but the A33 had the overall more appealing sound signature. It just sounded more natural.

The buttons are all on the top of the speaker except for the on/off switch. Sarah Tew/CNET

If you're wondering how this compares to the Bose SoundLink Mini , the Bose is smaller and has slightly smoother sound with slightly deeper bass. But sound quality is subjective, and to some, the A33 will be right there with the Bose and such speakers as the UE Boom ($199.99), another weatherproof speaker that I like a lot.

The advantage of the UE Boom is that you can pair two of them together, and it does offer better battery life -- 15 hours compared to the A33's 6 hours (battery does vary according to volume level). In other words, if you're cranking the A33 at the beach or by the pool, don't expect to get through a full day unless you have it at lower volumes.

If you're willing to give up something in the sound quality department, TDK also makes the newer and smaller A26, which weighs in at 12.2 ounces and features Bluetooth 4.0 technology (the A33 uses Bluetooth 2.1). It charges with a common Micro-USB cable rather than an AC adapter (battery life is also rated at 6 hours). I haven't tried that speaker yet but I have a feeling I'd opt to spend the extra $30 on the A33.

To recharge the speaker's internal battery, you have to use this AC adapter. Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion
While the A33 has a few small shortcomings (battery life isn't great, must be charged with an AC adapter, no pause/play button on the unit), it delivers very good sound for its size and price. Combine that with a sturdy, splashproof design, and the inclusion of speakerphone capabilities, and this becomes are solid speaker for the money. It may not be a steal, but it's a good value.

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Where to Buy See all prices

TDK Life on Record A33 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker

Part Number: 77000018653
MSRP: $119.99 Low Price: $129.00 See all prices