Brane X Review: A Smart Speaker With Physics-Defying Powerful Sound

One of the biggest problems facing speaker manufacturers is getting sufficient bass out of a less-than-sufficient space. Good, deep bass sound requires a lot of space to push sufficient amounts of air to hit those low frequencies. That’s just how physics works. Hoffman’s Iron law (PDF) basically says if you want good crisp, bass, you need to consider three factors: the size of the speaker enclosure, low frequencies, and high sensitivity, but you can only have two of those three.

Brane, as it turns out, has something to say about that — in what it claims is an industry first. Brane uses a set of permanently fixed magnets to achieve all three desirable factors in a single device. Put more simply, the Brane speaker is relatively small, gets amazing bass sound, and doesn’t use a ton of power to do it.

If you’re looking for a great compact speaker that can produce really clear and deep bass, you usually have to have a powerful amplifier or a huge speaker. Brane manages to pile great bass (and great sound overall) into a package that is relatively small and portable. The technology behind that is proprietary, and a little hard to wrap your head around, but suffice it to say, it works and it works extremely well. We saw (and heard) Brane at CES and it was enough to make us want to see more. This review was written after two weeks with a Brane X Smart Speaker review sample provided by Brane Audio.

If your computer has a set of speakers attached to it, there’s a good chance those speakers came with a subwoofer that you set on the floor and forgot about. Hoffman’s Iron law is the reason for that — a speaker with really good bass would have to be as big or bigger than your computer tower to give you the clarity you want. Instead, a dedicated subwoofer comes with your midrange/high-end speakers/tweeters.

Meanwhile, the Brane X Smart speaker is smaller than the subwoofer. Plus, it has midrange drivers, high-end tweeters, and a 12-hour battery besides, all in one package. On top, there’s a touch-sensitive area with controls for Bluetooth, Bass level, volume up and down, microphone muting, and Smart Assistant summoning. All of those buttons are super easy to brush by mistake.

On the front is a small “Brane” logo and a set of LEDs to indicate various statuses such as Bluetooth connectivity, Wi-Fi connectivity, and power status. On the back are the power button, barrel charger inlet, and 3.5mm aux jack. Roughly 3/4 of the sides of the speaker are the grill giving you about 270 degrees of sound. Theoretically, it’s supposed to be 360 degrees, but you do lose quite a bit of fidelity from behind the speaker. Finally, a rubberized handle across the top of the speaker gives it its portability.

Powerful sound

The result of all of this is a remarkably powerful sound that absolutely fills a room if you let it. This speaker gets quite loud, but the bass in particular can rumble your seat from across the room. It’s easy to imagine that the sound is coming from a stack of speakers, but it’s actually just a small box. It accomplishes this with what Brane calls a Repel-Attract-Driver (R.A.D.) which, according to Brane, “delivers a 10x increase in sub-bass without any sacrifice in size or power consumption.”

What that amounts to is a powerful bass signature with really great sound across the rest of the spectrum, but it’s especially desirable if you happen to like a whole lot of bass in your music. Artists like Ariana Grande and Lindsey Stirling benefit from the low frequencies; metal bands like Metallica and Anthrax can get some deep bass going, especially in the kick drums which sound particularly crisp. That does not sacrifice the high-end or midrange either. But there is a caveat.

The Brane speaker sounds much better at higher volumes. If you listen to music at lower volumes, like in a home or office setting where there are other people around, then you won’t get the full range of benefits from these drivers. This speaker is much like a muscle car; it just wants to be cut loose so it can fly. That’s not to say you don’t get robust sound at lower volumes, but if you want to hear the full breadth of deliverable sound, have a screening of “Top Gun: Maverick” and be prepared to apologize to your neighbors (or invite them over for it).

Limited inputs

Brane also says that you can use this speaker as a soundbar, which you absolutely can. As a matter of fact, this speaker fulfills that capacity admirably, but you’ll be limited to Bluetooth or 3.5mm aux input only. What’s noticeably missing is an optical input, HDMI, and even RCA. Even cheap soundbars can have an optical input which gives you high fidelity sound with virtually no lag.

At its asking price, it’s not unreasonable to ask for those inputs, even if they defeat the portability aspect. Put simply, this is designed to be a speaker that can be a soundbar, but it’s really meant to be just a speaker. It excels greatly at the latter, but it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity in this case, especially since it works so well as the former.

Another thing that’s missing is a play/pause button on top of the speaker. Bass adjustment is nice, but bass is typically a set-it-and-forget-it proposition, while play and pause are necessary for basic operation. When you’re working in the basement with tunes playing and someone calls you from upstairs, you’re usually going to paw at the speaker to stop the music, not your phone.

Limited app

The Brane X Smart Speaker comes with an app that is fine, but not amazing. When paired with an iPhone 15 Pro, you can configure various aspects of the speaker such as the bass level, connect it to Wi-Fi, adjust the LED brightness, and set a single EQ. The app can be tricky to connect to the speaker, but as long as the phone is connected to the speaker via Bluetooth and they’re both connected to the same Wi-Fi you shouldn’t have trouble — but it can take a few seconds to register once you open the app.

The app also enables you to set up groups of speakers, so if you have more than one Brane X Smart Speaker you can group them together. We only had a single speaker, so we weren’t able to test this feature, but it exists.

One other addition to the speaker is built-in Alexa, which is also set up in the app. Log into your Amazon account, and you can summon Amaozn’s assistant by speaking the wake word, or by tapping a button on the top of the speaker. You can also set up Spotify if you subscribe to the service.

Some misses

While the hardware exudes a premium experience, there are a couple of misses that could easily be addressed in a second-generation product. What’s noticeably absent is an indicator showing you what volume level the speaker is at. When you connect the speaker to a device, like a TV or phone via Bluetooth, the system volume of the attached device takes over control. When you turn your phone up or down, whether it’s on the speaker or on your phone, they increase together.

However, if you are letting the speaker play on its own, or if you connect to a device via Bluetooth, there’s no such mechanism to gauge how loud your media will be. Put simply, when the Brane is at 20%, you have to blast your TV to get any sound. The problem is that there’s no indicator to show where the Brane’s volume is. Even a series of LED pips showing volume level would be great. As it is, it’s guesswork. You can tell Alexa to set the volume to a given level, but that’s an extra step and when you do that, you have no idea if the volume is about to go up or down.

Likewise, the strap across the top that acts as a carrying handle is rubberized from side to side. That makes it comfortable to hold, but the fit is pretty tight around the back of the speaker when you flip it down, so it can be troublesome to pull it up or set it back down.

Brane Smart Speaker X Price, Availability, and Final Verdict

The Brane Smart Speaker X is available from Brane’s website for $599. That’s not inexpensive for a portable speaker, but it’s also competitively priced considering the sound quality you get, which is really exceptional. But it’s not a perfect product, and there are a few minor points that could be improved in a Gen 2 product. That being the case, it’s hard to ignore those downsides at this price. You will ultimately have to decide where your priorities lay.

If you’re looking for the best sound you can buy in a speaker that’s the size of a baseball glove and weighs less than a gallon of milk, stop looking because here it is. If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, that checks all the boxes, this isn’t quite that, but it’s still really good. 

Brane Audio is a company that knows sound, and it’s put great sound into this little box that fits inside your carry-on luggage. The final product could use a little bit more spit and polish, but the essentials are there. Plus, to be perfectly frank, once you hear it, you won’t care anymore.

By Admin

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