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TDK Life on Record TREK Max A34 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker review: A splashproof indoor/outdoor speaker that plays big and is priced right

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MSRP: $249.95

The Good The well-priced TDK Life on Record Trek Max A34 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker offers slightly improved sound over the earlier A33 and delivers very good sound for its size. It has a sturdy, water-resistant design, speakerphone capabilities, and a USB charging port to charge your smartphone or tablet. It also has transport controls on the unit itself, as well as NFC tap-to-pair technology.

The Bad You must recharge the speaker with an AC adapter rather than a common Micro-USB cable. While battery life has improved to 8 hours, it still isn't stellar.

The Bottom Line The TDK Life on Record Trek Max A34 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker delivers very good sound for its size and affordable price, and it's well suited to both indoor and outdoor use with a sturdy, splashproof design.

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8.2 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8

Review Sections

The Trek Max A34 is the successor to TDK Life On Record's highly rated A33 Wireless Weatherproof speaker , which I thought was an excellent value at $150. (Availability outside the US hasn't been announced yet, but that price converts to just over £87 or slightly less than AU$160, for purposes of comparison.) This new Trek Max A34 looks very similar to the A33 and costs the same, but it has slightly improved sound and adds a few new features. Those include NFC tap-to-pair technology, as well as a pause/play button and transport controls on the speaker itself.

Like the A33, the first thing you notice about the Trek Max when you pick it up that is that it's got some heft to it. It weighs in at 2.7 pounds (1.2 kg) and measures 3.7 inches high by 2 inches deep by 9.5 inches wide (94 mm x 51 mm x 241 mm), which makes it more of a midsize wireless speaker than a true mini Bluetooth speaker. If you're looking for something really portable, this isn't it, but the extra size -- at least in this case -- means better sound.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features

While it has a pretty straightforward, boxy design, I liked it. It's got clean lines, and the buttons on the top of the unit are nicely indented and clearly labeled with LED lighting. As I said, this model has some extra buttons on top, and that's where you'll notice the main difference in design between this and the older model.

The speaker is equipped with two 1.5-inch drivers plus a 2.5-inch subwoofer on the front and two rear 3-inch passive radiators on back. It's splashproof, has speakerphone capabilities, and its ports are covered by a removable rubber door that keeps moisture and dust out. Behind that rubber cover you'll find an audio input for non-Bluetooth devices, a USB charging port (for charging your smartphone from the speaker's internal battery), a power on/off switch, and a 12-volt DC-in charging port. Alas, like some of these more powerful compact speakers, you have to charge the unit with a separate AC adapter and not with a standard Micro-USB cable.

The speakers adds a pause/play button along with transport controls. Sarah Tew/CNET

It's worth noting that I initially found it a little tricky at first to power on the speaker. If you're using the speaker off the AC adapter (in battery mode), you have to flip the aforementioned power switch up to "on." You then just need to gently press the power button on top of the unit for a second and let go (you have to wait a second or two for the lights to come on). After you pair your device once with the speaker, it should automatically pair again henceforth (or, if you have a phone that supports NFC pairing, you can tap the phone on the speaker to pair it).

There's built-in speakerphone capabilities (the speakerphone worked well so long as I stood near the speaker) and the unit has rubberized feet on the bottom to help keep it from moving around when the vibration kicks up when you play louder music. The previous model (A33) has a little kickstand that allows you to prop the speaker up at a slight angle and fire upward a bit. This new model doesn't. Neither the A33 or Trek Max ships with a carrying case or cover.

The ports are hidden under a rubber gasket. Sarah Tew/CNET

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