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LAS VEGAS -- If you want some thick skin around your portable audio gear, Cobra Electronics' new line of Bluetooth speakers can definitely take a tumble. Making their debut at CES 2014, the AirWave Box and the pint-size AirWave Mini combine hands-free Bluetooth audio connection with a durable construction.
Available in several colors, the AirWave Box will come in black, white, and orange at launch, with more colors to follow. Upon first glance, I wasn't able to tell that the device was rugged (compared to the Mini's hefty and obvious rubber exterior). However, it is encased in a layer of soft-touch rubber, which reportedly ensures the Box's toughness.
The speaker's ports come sealed with a small rubber door, and its large control buttons for playing music and controlling audio volume are completely flush with the rest of the device's surface. While this keeps its aesthetic to a minimum, the buttons can be difficult to "feel for" when you want to operate it without looking directly at it.
Meanwhile, the Mini is indeed mini. Measuring about three inches tall, it can fit inside a small coat pocket. From the front, it looks like a small toy car tire, but along its sides are numerous small patches that vaguely remind me of Dutch Crunch bread.
Despite its portable size, however, the speaker felt quite heavy and dense when I held it. A small hole on its side allow you to clip the Mini to your backpack or belt, but keep in mind it's not going to be light as a feather when you attach it.
Key components and features
Both speakers are designed to withstand more than your usual amount of wear and tear, so you won't have to worry too much about being a bit rough with them the next time you want to have a dance party in the woods.
Though the Mini was designed with a splash resistant exterior, the Box goes one further by being able to survive a dunking in water for 30 minutes in up to a meter of water. However, if you were to lose hold of it while, say, inner-tubing, it is designed to float.
Both Bluetooth speakers have a reported music playback time of 10 hours and a standby time of 120 hours.
During my brief time with the AirWave Box, I was able listen to some music as it was connected to an audio source. The volume range was impressive, as it can be very loud, and music came off full and robust.
Those who have an active lifestyle or spend a lot of time outdoors will find the AirWave series a handy al fresco accessory. And given their rather sleek design, the speakers won't prove too unwieldy to carry around. The Mini will be available in February for $39.99, while the Box will retail a month later in March for $79.99.