Anker's Soundcore Rave Neo review: This sub-$100 portable party speaker sounds surprisingly good
Anker has been making some surprisingly good portable Bluetooth speakers for $100. Not too long ago I reviewed the Soundcore Motion Plus ($100), which is a little bigger than your typical compact wireless speaker, but delivers bold sound for its size with plump bass. The Rave Neo is a different beast -- it's referred to as a "party speaker" and has a built-in handle and LEDs -- but it, too, costs $100 and packs some good punch.
Anker describes the sound as "colossal." I wouldn't go quite that far, but it can play pretty loud -- it's rated at 50 watts, for whatever that spec is worth -- and pushes out a good helping of bass (it sounds best with the BassUp bass boost mode always activated). The sound isn't exactly refined, but the sound profile works well outside or in a bigger space because the bass gets dispersed and loses a lot of its bloat. In other words, it's a speaker that sounds better if you're not standing right next to it. A bit of distance is better. That said, Anker does have an Indoor listening mode in the speaker's companion app along with other EQ settings, so you can play around a bit with the sound.
This is a mono speaker with a 4-inch woofer, 2-inch tweeter and a passive bass port. It weighs 7.7 pounds and is easy to lug around, thanks to its integrated handle. With a IPX7 water-resistance rating, it's waterproof and can be fully submerged for a short time in shallow water (in case you happen to drop it in the pool). Battery life is rated at up to 18 hours at moderate volume levels. That number will drop substantially should you crank things up.
If you're so inclined, you can link with up to 100 other Rave Neo or Soundcore Flare 2 ($69) speakers and sync the audio as well as the lights to create a clubby atmosphere. The LEDs can be programmed from a companion app for iOS and Android and there's also a button on the speaker itself for tweaking the lighting. An audio input and USB charge-out are hidden under a gasket and the speaker charges via USB-C. It's equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, and I had no trouble pairing and re-pairing with the speaker.
Anker has released other lighted portable party speakers, including the Soundcore Trance ($150). There was supposed to be a version of this speaker without lights (not everybody likes or wants them) called the Trance Go, but that model appears to be shelved and probably won't come out. You can turn the lights Rave Neo's lights off if you do find them irritating.
Other companies make "party" speakers with LEDs, and I've tested some from JBL and Sony. They tend to be more expensive than this model and don't sound any better. I haven't tested Sony's new SRS-XB43, which is an Extra Bass model that retails for $250, but the concept isn't so different from this: big sound in a relatively compact package with an emphasis on bass and the inclusion of flashy lights. The Sony may be built better -- and possibly hold up better over time -- but it's obviously a lot more expensive.
The long and short of it is that the Soundcore Rave Neo is an excellent value if you're looking for an affordable speaker that you can use on the patio, take to the beach or tailgate with. It also works just fine inside, but, as I said, its sound profile is a little more geared to outdoor use.