I’m partial to having a speaker in almost every room of the house. There is no particular reason why and, after thinking about it, I am not really that into music. However it is nice to always have some jams going in the background. Thanks to Outdoor Tech, I can have music going in one room, but still hear it in the next. Or, if I am rocking out in the neighborhood pool, I am loud enough to get in trouble.
After meeting with Outdoor Tech at CES, I was really excited about both the Big Turtle Shell and the Turtle Shell 2.0. If you can recall, I reviewed the Turtle Shell gen. 1, and was pretty impressed. In fact, the Turtle Shell has not left my kitchen, except for a couple of roadie tours, for a complete year. I have access to a lot of gear, so it is definitely a credit to the product for any one to make it a full year.
I must admit, the Turtle Shell has been de-throned, in favor of the 2.0 version and the big brother, Big Turtle Shell.
Big Turtle Shell
According to Outdoor Tech, thanks to the Big Turtle Shell, you can “play music longer than you can party!” This is thanks to the onboard 7800mAh battery, which according to ODT, is around 3x larger than other similarly classed Bluetooth speakers. At 16 hours of playback and 325 hours of standby, this is quite the power house. Thanks to the large capacity, a USB charging port is included because the speaker will almost certainly outlast your iPhone battery. At 7800mAh, it can charge an iPhone approximately four times.
An additional two ports include 3.5mm in/output for non-Bluetooth devices. It can also save you a little on battery to hardwire your connection. If you really want, the output can connect a pair of headphones.
Touting an IPX-5 rating, the Big Turtle Shell is water resistant and will take a small beating. Don’t drop it off your third floor apartment balcony or drown it in the pool, but you can certainly sit it next to the pool deck by the high dive. With Bluetooth 4.0 or (BTLE) there is a lower strain on your iPhone’s battery when paired, and provides 110 decibels at 30 feet. The sound level is adequate, even for a sizable outdoor backyard BBQ, but the quality isn’t incredibly crystal.
Side mounted controls include multifunction button to play/pause or answer/end wireless calls. The direction control buttons can raise/lower volume or skip forward/backward if held for two seconds. Voice prompts also make for easy usability, with connection and on/off confirmation. The device will re-pair with known devices and can remember multiple devices for easy pairing.
Hardwarewise, it is a little over one foot long and eight inches broad with aggressive lines and surfaces. It is smooth to the touch, but not just a simple hard plastic. Two bottom mounted handles let you drag it around or strap it to something. Omnidirectional sound makes the player ideal for placement in the center of your gathering, or tilt it on the side for a flat surface. The sub is bottom mounted, but does not require direction by nature. All ports are covered by a snap-tight flap to keep water away and a single dual colored LED confirms power and connection status.
Turtle Shell 2.0
As I gave an in-depth review of the original Turtle Shell, I will forego a complete repost of the specific details. It is important, however, to determine the differences in the first gen and the 2.0 version. Foremost, the Bluetooth capabilities and button controls are the same as the Big Turtle Shell. However, the Bluetooth technology is upgraded to 4.0 or BTLE for lower energy consumption. The larger battery core also helps, with a rated 16 hours of playback.
I mentioned the first gen hopping across the count when turned up really loud. Instead of capping the sound output, ODT made the four little feet suction cups. Genius! It isn’t going to stick to a wall or anything crazy, but it will keep it in place on a flat, sealable surface. This is useful, considering the volume was increased by enhancing output, but no watt increase. It is pretty feisty.
High volume is no problem, but clarity can become an issue. If you are just looking for a knock-around Bluetooth speaker than can handle the elements and your big dumb friend that always breaks your nice things, get yourself a Turtle Shell. This is not designed for an audiophile that will sit comfortably in a leather chair, sipping a glass of wine and nit-picking the violin sounds on a concerto.
Quality is forgone for loud sound, with a decent bass beat and destruction-resistant design. Like I said, the Big Turtle Shell is your outdoor go-to for the weekend camping and canoeing trip. The Turtle Shell 2.0 is perfect for indoor use. It cannot charge your devices, but it will last a solid amount of time. Obviously, don’t expect such a loud product, but if budget is your main concern, opt for the little guy.
The Big Turtle Shell is available for $200. The Turtle Shell 2.0 starts at $110.75 in Electric Blue via Amazon, where you will find a wide assortment of colors. No matter which you are considering, it is on the high end price range for a portable Bluetooth speaker. You will need to determine if the ruggedized design and capability is worth the extra coin, because the extra dollar does not get you sound quality. These products are for the guy who is rough on his stuff and needs a travel companion.