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Grace Digital Ecoxgear Ecorox Bluetooth speaker review: A mini waterproof speaker that floats

While the Grace Digital Ecorox could sound a little better for its price range, it's a decent-enough little speaker that has the added benefit of being fully waterproof.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

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With the introduction of its Ecoxgear line, Grace Digital has quickly made a name for itself in the waterproof portable mini Bluetooth speaker arena. I previously reviewed the Ecoxgear Ecoxbt, and while I thought its name was poorly rendered, I considered it a good deal, though its price has risen since I gave it a positive review.

12Grace_Digital_Ecoxgear_Ecorox_35799144_35799143_35799146_35799152.jpg
6.8

Grace Digital Ecoxgear Ecorox Bluetooth speaker

The Good

The <b>Grace Digital Ecoxgear Ecorox</b> mini Bluetooth speaker is very compact and fully waterproof, and has built-in speakerphone capabilities. It also offers good battery life.

The Bad

Bit pricey for how it sounds; tends to distort at higher volumes with bass-heavy material; vibrates at higher volumes and will move around on smooth surfaces.

The Bottom Line

The Ecorox is a decent-enough little speaker that has the added benefit of being waterproof, making it a good choice for use in the shower. But it could sound better for its price.

The Ecorox is the Ecoxbt's little brother and its shape is very reminiscent of such speakers as the $99 UE Mobile Boombox. However, the Ecorox is truly waterproof and can be fully submerged in water, making it a particularly good shower speaker. It also can be mounted on a bike with an optional accessory, it has speakerphone capabilities and decent battery life, and, like a lot of these tiny Bluetooth speakers, it plays bigger than its size would indicate. My only problem with it is that at $129, it's pretty pricey for what it is, and it just can't handle bass-heavy material, distorting at higher volumes.

Design and features
Design is one of the Ecorox's strong points. For starters, it's a better-looking speaker than the larger Ecoxbt, and is obviously very compact, weighing 11 ounces and measuring 5.3 inches wide, 2.5 inches high, and 3 inches deep.

The speaker fires from both the front and the top. Its two ports on back -- a Micro-USB connection for charging and an auxiliary input for non-Bluetooth devices -- are sealed by a rubber gasket that you lift to get to the ports.

Available in a few different color options, the Ecorox is fully waterproof and even floats. Sarah Tew/CNET

All the physical buttons are well placed on top of the unit, with dedicated buttons for power, Bluetooth pairing, volume control, and track skip forward/back, and a call answer/end button for making speakerphone calls. Nothing to complain about here, though speakerphone performance is OK but not great; you have to sit or stand pretty close to the speaker for people to hear you well.

On the bottom of the unit you'll find a threaded tripod mount, which is where the optional accessories come into play. You can use a tripod, of course, but you can also purchase optional bike and car mounts (that suction-cup car mount is a dashboard mount for the interior of your car). You could potentially use the suction-cup mount to mount the speaker in a shower at home.

The controls are on top of the unit along with a passive bass radiator. Sarah Tew/CNET

On the back of the unit you'll also find a little strap and you can attach the included carabiner clip to the strap and clip the speaker to a backpack (or whatever you want).

Clearly, one of the Ecorox's big extra features is the waterproofing. As I said, this is a full-on waterproof speaker. It's IPX7-certified, which means it's submersible in a meter of water for 30 minutes, and it floats; we dropped it in a fountain and it worked fine after we pulled it out.

The back of the speaker with the ports sealed off. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance
Let's start with the good stuff. First of all, the speaker plays pretty loud for its small size. That's now becoming fairly standard for these types of mini speakers. It also has decent battery life. There's a built-in 1,800mAh lithium rechargeable battery that Grace Digital says will deliver 10 hours of battery life, but it actually did better than that in my tests playing my music back at more moderate volume levels. (Battery life will vary according to volume levels and the unit takes about 2.5 hours to fully recharge.)

The ports revealed. Sarah Tew/CNET

While I don't expect all that much from tiny speakers, with one that costs $129.99, I tend to be more critical, and the Ecorox doesn't rock quite as much as it should for its price level. My main issue with it is that it distorts bass-heavy material, so you really can't crank the volume on the speaker without running into some problems. It also vibrates quite a bit at higher volumes, so you have to be careful what you set it on. For instance, I had it on a small glass table outside and it moved around quite a bit, to the point where I had to put a magazine underneath it and lower the volume.

There's a threaded tripod mount on the bottom of the speaker (you can mount it on a bike with an optional accessory). Sarah Tew/CNET

I found the speaker a little inconsistent in its sound. Sometimes sound would be distorted badly and then sometimes it would sound relatively decent. The odd part was that it would sometimes distort on mellower tracks that I didn't think pushed the speaker that hard. I preferred its sound outdoors to indoors, but I also thought it worked well as a shower speaker when I kept it at moderate volumes.

It's also worth noting that due to the placement of the bass radiator, it's best to keep the speaker on a flat surface and not have the bass radiator facing you because the speaker sounds worse if its two front speakers aren't pointed at you. I hung the speaker from a tree and had mixed results with the sound.

Anyway, if the Ecorox cost less, I would feel better about its sound. That said, a lot of people will think it sounds pretty good. But I've listened to a lot of these speakers and I'd much rather pay the extra $70 and step up to something like the UE Boom, which offers much bigger and better sound. I also would choose the larger Ecoxbt over this model. It costs a little less, plays louder, and sounds clearer, with significantly better bass. Yeah, it's less portable and won't fit too well in a suitcase, but of the Ecoxgear speakers, I think it's the better option right now -- until the price of the Ecorox dips below $100.

The speaker in hand. Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion
The Ecorox is a decent enough little speaker that plays pretty loud and has the added benefit of being waterproof. It also has speakerphone capabilities. My main gripe with it is that it's a bit overpriced at $130 because it sounds like a $50 mini speaker that's simply been ruggedized.

Sometimes what happens with these speakers (and other products) is that they get some distribution in Best Buy or the Apple Store and the retail outlet takes such a big cut of the sale that the company has to raise the price just to make a little profit for itself. I understand how it works, but with the market so competitive for these types of speakers, it's hard to fully recommend one at this price unless it's really good.

Alas, the Ecorox is just good. So while it can certainly take a splash (and even float on water), I'd wait till it comes down in price before taking the plunge. When it does, I'll consider raising my score.

12Grace_Digital_Ecoxgear_Ecorox_35799144_35799143_35799146_35799152.jpg
6.8

Grace Digital Ecoxgear Ecorox Bluetooth speaker

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Sound 6Value 6
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