Nothing elevates a gathering like music from a portable Bluetooth speaker on the patio, alongside the pool, or at the campground. These devices have revolutionized the scene from the days when carrying a boombox meant lugging around an extensive cord loop or a heap of D-cell batteries that drained within hours. However, most portable Bluetooth speakers are modest in size and sound production. After all, their portability stems from their small size. Are you seeking something more substantial yet still capable of operating for hours on a rechargeable battery? Then the subject of this critique is tailored for you: SOUNDBOKS 4 Bluetooth Performance Speaker.
Upon unboxing the SOUNDBOKS 4, the initial impression is that a band has misplaced a part of their stage speaker stack. Describing this as a colossal portable speaker is no exaggeration. It stands over two feet tall, boasting a construction akin to a professional speaker—including a poplar cabinet (not plastic), a steel grille, and a powder-coated aluminum frame—weighing over 35 pounds.
Barely qualifying as portable, its silicone ball corners not only ensure the speaker stands firmly, but they also offer the necessary protection against impacts when transporting the speaker through confined spaces. For extended journeys, SOUNDBOKS offers an optional backpack attachment.
Though it barely qualifies as a portable speaker, the SOUNDBOKS 4 makes exemplary use of its substantial cabinet. Once activated and music streamed, you promptly recognize the endeavor required to transport the speaker. Easily unforgettable.
Most portable Bluetooth speakers feature plastic casings and, due to their size, incorporate a small array of 2-inch or perhaps 3-inch full-range drivers, along with a passive radiator to attempt to enhance the bass. Amplification is likely to fall within the 10W to 20W range, and the average battery life is typically around 10 hours these days. In most instances, the music played outdoors on these speakers is satisfactory but not outstanding, particularly upon close proximity.
SOUNDBOKS 4 surpasses the norm with its exceptional sound, featuring a substantial sonic upgrade from the previous three versions of the flagship speaker.
The immense speaker cabinet accommodates a pair of 10-inch woofers and a 1-inch compression driver tweeter, powered by three 72W Class D amplifiers. Poplar cabinets impart a warmer sound than plastic, featuring a pulse reflex port that further enhances the low end. The battery, a secure and long-lasting Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) formulation, offers up to 40 hours of playback and is swappable.
Soundbox 4 Key Specifications:
- 2 x 10-inch woofers, 1 x 1-inch compression driver tweeter with 40Hz – 20kHz frequency range, custom pulse reflex port
- 3 x 72W RMS Infineon MERUS Audio Eximo Class D amplifier, next-generation adaptive DSP with bass enhancer, custom EQ (app-based) plus stage, dancefloor, lounge sound modes
- Volume control knob goes to 11
- bluetooth 5.0
- Pro panel inputs for guitar, DJ mixer, microphone, or active instruments (2 x 1/4-inch inputs, 3.5mm input and 3.5mm output)
- SoundBox Wireless TeamUp supports multi-speaker connectivity
- IP65 rated electronics coating
- User-replaceable/replaceable 12.8V, 7.8Ah Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) battery with 5-step LED power indicator, rated for up to 40 hours of playback at mid-volume
- Operating Temperature 14°F to 100°F
- 25.6 x 17 x 13-inch poplar cabinet with silicone ball corners, powder-coated aluminum frame, power-coated steel grille and handles
- weighs 35.5 pounds
- lower pole mount
- Black cabinets with black grills, or black with metallic gray grills
- Extra batteries and accessories such as backpack frame sold separately
- Some features are controlled through the SOUNDBOKS mobile app
- 45-day return policy, 2-year warranty (additional 1-year if registered)
- MSRP $999
The Soundbox 4 is claimed to deliver “significantly better” audio performance and quality than the original (and the followups Soundbox 2 that I reviewed here and the Soundbox 3). SOUNDBOKS states that improvements encompass a more potent DSP, redesigned speaker drivers, reworked audio routing, new firmware, and enhanced battery life.
When I evaluated the Soundbox 2 a few years ago, I found that playing music at a volume level of 6 (out of 11) could be heard up to a block away. The Soundbox 4 maintains the same power. Working in the yard for several days with the 5, the speaker about 50 feet away, and it was loud.
Not only loud, it sounded remarkably good, a feat not easily achievable from a distance and in an open setting. The high notes were clear, the midrange was robust, and the bass was vigorous and resonant. Many of the details that typically get muddled or lost at a distance with a standard portable speaker remained discernible, and then some. You can utilize the Soundbox 4 indoors with the new Dancefloor and Lounge Sound mode, which regulates the output to suit indoor settings. The mobile app also features a custom EQ for personalized configurations.
I don’t have the Soundbox 2 for comparison, but if my memory serves me well, the Soundbox 4 is equally loud while delivering more refined sound and even more impressive bass.
Extended Battery Life, But Charging Attention Required
I appreciate the utilization of swappable batteries in the Soundbox speakers. Not only does it promise extended longevity (most portable speakers are designed to be portable until their built-in batteries deplete after a few years), but it also saves the cost of acquiring a second battery, should the need arise for an extended event. It also enables longer usage.
However, charging this speaker necessitates attention. Initially, it’s not as straightforward as directly plugging in the power adapter to charge. The included charger employs a T-jack, which is slightly more complex to connect – you cannot connect the charger directly to the speaker (except for the battery) – and SOUNDBOKS also advises against charging for over six hours, as the charger should not function as a power source. During charging (taking roughly 3.5 hours), the power output must be maintained at half the capacity.
The bottom line is that while using this speaker indoors, you will still rely on battery power…
For me, the swappable battery outweighs the inconvenience. And in terms of battery life, the SOUNDBOKS 4 excels. Cranking up the volume to 11, you can draw from up to 40 hours of battery life drain, while at a more moderate volume of 6 (which still eclipses most portable speakers), the playback duration extends. I can take the speaker out for a few hours daily, play music at medium volume, and only need to charge it every two or three weeks.
SOUNDBOKS 4 is somewhat distinct in its supplementary capabilities, rendering it an excellent option for larger events in general. Its “Pro Panel” incorporates inputs for a microphone or even an electric guitar or other active instruments – some portable speakers feature a mic input, but finding one for a guitar amp proves challenging. It also facilitates powering and mixing multiple external audio sources simultaneously.
If you possess more than one of these speakers, the SOUNDBOKS 4 is SKAA-compliant. This enables wireless connection of up to five speakers using TeamUp for genuine concert-level performance. The designers have simplified this process with a dedicated on-speaker button for the task.
Seeking to personalize your Soundbox 4 further? The company offers a variety of grille colors. Additionally, Soundbox encourages creativity. The grille can be easily detached and custom spray-painted. The user manual also furnishes comprehensive instructions.
For absolute dominance of external sound in a portable format, the SOUNDBOKS 4 is challenging to surpass. It’s sizeable, robustly constructed, resilient, rapid (yet with high-quality audio performance), boasts up to 40 hours of battery life and a replaceable battery, and can double as a guitar amp or PA system. While priced at $999, it’s not inexpensive, but you’re receiving considerable value for the money. Just bear in mind that its indoor use still relies on battery power, not wall plug-in.
If you desire more substantial sound and embrace the notion of interchangeable batteries, yet find the Soundbox 4 to be an excessive speaker, I recommend the Soundbox Go (reviewed here) as a marginally more manageable, yet potent alternative. See alternative.
Disclosure: Soundbox provided a speaker for evaluation purposes but had no input into this review.