Braven's compact, water-resistant BRV-1 Bluetooth has been out for a while, but it's now come down in price to the point where it's a reasonable value at a little more than a $100 -- or about $50 less than its list price. Soundwise, it compares favorably to some the better small Bluetooth speakers out there, including the UE Mini Boom, and is nicely designed, with a couple of different color options to choose from.
If you turn the BRV-1 around, it does look a little like a night-vision scope, but all this thing does is stream your music from any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone from about 30 feet away.
On top of the unit there are volume controls along with a power button and pause/play button. Aside from the water-resistant design, you get a few extra features. There's a built-in microphone for speakerphone calls and under a screw-on cap on the back of the unit, you'll find an auxiliary input for non-Bluetooth devices, a battery life indicator, and a USB charging port.
That port allows you to charge a cell phone from the speaker's internal rechargeable battery, which is rated to power the speaker for 12 hours on a full charge at modest volume levels (it charges via a microUSB connection). Naturally, the battery life will dip if you crank the speaker for long periods.
The speaker plays pretty loud for its size and sounds comparatively good -- by that I mean it manages to avoid having a harsh edge so long as you don't crank the volume too much. It doesn't play as loud as JBL's Flip 2 or the more expensive UE Boom (that speaker sounds significantly better). And like most mini wireless speakers, it does have its limitations, particularly in the bass department -- it just doesn't come across as a fuller-sounding, large speaker -- and is strongest in the midrange (it sounds best with mellower acoustic tracks).
On a more critical note, the model I tested didn't pair automatically after I paired it the first time (a lot of Bluetooth speakers today offer automatic pairing after you pair it once). That said, I didn't have any problems pairing -- I just had to find it again in the Bluetooth setup and manually pair it.
There's also a little blue light on the front of the unit that pulsates when the speaker is paired. You barely notice it if you're using the speaker outside in bright sunlight. But at night, pulsating lights can be irritating.
I also encountered a few moments when I lost the wireless connection a bit, although that tends to be par for the course for Bluetooth speakers.
It is worth noting that I was testing a sample that I received a year ago. Since that time, Incipio has bought Braven. The product doesn't look like it's changed at all, but you can sometimes find it listed online as both the Braven BRV-1 and the Incpio Braven BRV-1.
I wasn't all that enthusiastic about the BRV-1 when it was selling for closer to $150, but at its new, more modest price online, it's recommendable.