DemerBox Big Bang review: This all-terrain Bluetooth speaker doubles as a waterproof lunchbox

James Demer had the idea to build a Bluetooth speaker into a Pelican case, and Kickstarter paid the bill to launch it. Check out our full review of the Big Bang Bluetooth boom box.

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Justin Yu
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Justin Yu

Associate Editor / Reviews - Printers and peripherals

Justin Yu covered headphones and peripherals for CNET.

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James Demer makes a living as a sound mixer for films and his job takes him to remote locations where wiring a delicate, traditional sound system isn't always an option. He had the idea to build a Bluetooth-enabled boom box into the lid of a rugged Pelican storage case and asked Kickstarter to help him with the initial funding necessary for development and testing, and now the DemerBox Big Bang is ready for mass market.

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7.8

DemerBox Big Bang

The Good

Ultra-durable Pelican shell seals internal compartment from wind, dirty, and water, port hole on the front produces tons of bass, 40+ hour battery life with internal USB port for charging smartphones, reaches significantly louder volumes with better clarity than competing Bluetooth speakers.

The Bad

Expensive, there's no way to tell how much battery life remains in the speaker.

The Bottom Line

The DemerBox Big Bang Bluetooth boombox is at the top of its class in bass response, loudness, durability, and battery life. It's not the cheapest device on the shelf, but if you can afford it, the Big Bang is well worth the cost for a hand-built wireless speaker built entirely in the USA.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Big Bang is the toughest-looking Bluetooth speaker I've ever tested, and that's a good thing because it also happens to sound great, too. When the latches are sealed and the port plug is installed, the inside of the case acts as a bass reflex box that opens up space for air to redistribute, which in turn produces a serious bass boost that punches much harder than any traditional Bluetooth speaker I've heard.

Each unit is is built by hand at the DemerBox offices in Portland, Maine, and that means you can expect the company to stand by its product, even if you're not taking it to the furthest corners of the Earth. The speaker is water resistant for all weather conditions, and the lithium ion internal battery even lets you recharge your own devices with a USB port located underneath the lid.

Demerbox Bluetooth Speaker

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Priced at $399, the DemerBox Big Bang is certainly a "premium-priced" Bluetooth speaker; larger Bluetooth competitors like the UE Megaboom cost $299, but keep in mind that the Big Bang is a boutique product built from parts sourced exclusively in the USA. Additionally, its sound is unrivaled for its size and the extra tough shell means you don't have to worry about it getting banged up, no matter what.

Design

The speaker comes in royal blue, orange, yellow, and matte black color schemes, all with black speaker grills and a small rectangular DemerBox logo on top of the lid. The cool thing about in-house design and manufacturing is that Demer can also make small, limited runs of different colors available to customers too, and right now you can buy a special-edition camo Big Bang in muddy girl, true timber and white digital camo colorways for $100 extra.

Sarah Tew/CNET

DemerBox made the right decision to use a Pelican hard case as the vessel for the Big Bang boom box. Pelican's high-impact Copolymer Propylene cases are used around the world by photographers, military, law enforcement, and anyone else that needs an indestructible container.

They can easily withstand extreme temperatures and there's a small pressure equalization valve built into the lip that seals its contents from dust, dirt, and water. In this application, that means you can safely store your iPhone, chargers and valuables inside it while you use it in less than ideal conditions.

The company really means it when it says the Big Bang is built to last. The DemerBox YouTube channel shows the speaker surviving various stress tests: it gets left outside in a snowstorm for 24 hours, encased in a block of ice for a day, and dunked in a fish tank.

It survives all of it and continues to play music at full volume with no difference in playback, so I'm confident it can withstand anything you might encounter with it in tow.

Size

The Big Bang is bigger than the average Bluetooth speaker, roughly the size of a basketball so it's not in the same category as smaller, luggage-friendly devices like the UE Boom 2 . While you probably won't want to hike several miles to a camp site with it tied to your backpack, there's a handle on top of it that makes it easy to grab and take around with you on shorter trips.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Plus the benefit of storing things inside makes it feel like a lunch box that happens to have a high-powered speaker built into it -- I didn't find it too heavy to bring to the beach or on a car-camping weekend trip while I tested it out. In fact, the extra weight was totally worth it once my friends and I all heard the impressively high volumes and super bass kicks. This thing can easily drown out several loud conversations if you turn the volume all the way up.

Connectivity

The internal storage container is only a small piece of the Big Bang recipe. All the electrical action happens inside the lid: DemerBox designed and produced its own circuit board and coated it themselves to protect it from corrosion and liquid, which powers the music via two 3-inch speakers with an impedance rating of 8 ohms each.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You can easily pair it by Bluetooth to your phone via the simple power button on the front control panel, or you can plug non-Bluetooth devices into the speaker using the 6-foot (2-meter) 3.5mm auxiliary audio cable included in the box. Of course, you can also store the wire inside the box when you're not using it.

Battery

The hallmark of the Big Bang, in my opinion, is its supremely long battery life. The company managed to squeeze a 2,600mAh lithium ion battery in there that the website claims can last up to 40 hours of play time using a hard-wired connection.

Sarah Tew/CNET

To test it out, I brought the DemerBox with me to visit a friend for an extended four-day weekend in Maryland. Before I left, I charged it up to full capacity overnight and left the wall charger at home.

I should note that unlike most "portable" Bluetooth speakers, you can't recharge the Big Bang using a USB cable. You have to use the AC adapter they include to plug it into a wall, which would normally be a drag to carry around if the speaker itself didn't already have storage built into it.

We spent most the weekend outdoors, all day long and well into the evening and the Big Bang lasted the entire time without needing a recharge. We also took advantage of the female USB port inside the lid and charged our phones up several times while simultaneously using the Bluetooth connection.

DemerBox relays that the battery can power high current devices like most smartphones and will "drain the internal battery at different rates depending on the device and the battery level."

At this time, there is no way to view how much battery life remains in the charge -- that's a big limitation despite the impressive battery life. I hope future versions of the Big Bang will include an indicator or at least enable an icon to show up on connected smartphones like other modern Bluetooth devices.

Sound quality

The problem with most portable Bluetooth speakers on the market right now isn't the fidelity of the audio itself, but rather the lack of dimension and the rough distortion you hear when the volume is at the maximum level.

The Big Bang doesn't struggle with either of those issues -- its dual speaker design is one of the only portable boom boxes I've tested where I didn't wish it could go louder, because it reaches that point and higher, especially if you're using it indoors where the sound is amplified as it bounces off the walls.

The speaker is physically built to withstand the outdoors, but you won't hear a drop in sound quality when you take it outside, and that's where DemerBox gains a big advantage over the competition. Music radiates out of the speaker and has a wide dimensional spread, allowing you to easily hear your music even if you're not close to it.

The low end response is incredible for such a small speaker, and thanks to the porthole on the front you can actually feel the air pressure releasing as it rolls off with each drop.

The reason for this is because the extra volume inside offers more space for air to move around, thereby producing a deep boom as the pressure escapes. If you're playing music that doesn't require you to physically feel the bass (and you really can feel it), you can twist the plug back into the port to dampen it a little.

Bluetooth sound quality will always be a little less nuances than a hard-wired connection, but the Big Bang performed better than average across the board with a variety of music genres. From the sizzling high hats of bebop jazz to the 808 kicks of hip-hop, the speaker remained crystal clear with full detail and a dynamic range of instrument definition.

Conclusion

Whether or not you're a fan of the industrial design of the DemerBox Big Bang, there's no denying the advantages of building a speaker into a Pelican case: it adds resistance to dirt, dust and water, offers extra storage for the accessories you'll need on a road trip and dramatically increases the sound quality to a lively, booming spread that sounds just as good indoors as it does at a campsite or a backyard party.

To top it all off, the internal rechargeable battery keeps the music playing for 40+ hours while recharging your smartphone at the same time. It does cost $100 more than the $300 Big Jambox or UE Megaboom , but if durability, sound quality (especially bass), and battery life are at the top of your "must have" list, the DemerBox Big Bang Bluetooth speaker is a better buy.

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7.8

DemerBox Big Bang

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Sound 8Value 7