Mobile accessory manufacturer Mpow has taken travel-ready ruggedness to the next level with its ultra-durable Bluetooth speaker, the Armor Plus. This brick-sized speaker features an iron outer shell that makes it nearly indestructible. The speaker is able to survive drops from several feet onto concrete with only minor scratches to show for it. Couple that with shock-absorbent TPU rubber sides and IPX5 water-resistance, and you’ll be ready to climb Mt. Everest while playing your favorite tunes — during a blizzard.
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In addition to playing your music wirelessly, the speaker has a 2.1A USB port for charging your mobile devices during playback. The speaker has a huge battery with a 5200 mAh capacity, enough for over 20 hours of playback or about 2 full charges for your smartphone. All that power and protection adds up to extra weight, however, and the speaker tips the scales at a hefty but still sort-of portable 2.25 lbs. It’s compact enough to pack in a bag or suitcase, though probably not the best choice if you have to lug it around all day. The microUSB charging port, output USB port, and AUX-in port for wired connections are sealed behind a watertight rubber door on the right side of the speaker. That’s where you’ll also find the speaker’s battery life indicator LEDs, so you can decide whether to top up your phone’s battery or listen to more music.
Connecting to the speaker over Bluetooth is straightforward and the unit audibly announces when it’s in pairing mode and when paired successfully. Oddly, some of the status announcements clip the first syllable, so ‘paired’ comes out as ‘aired.’ While this doesn’t affect functionality, it is somewhat of an annoying oversight. Behind the metal front grille, the speaker packs two 50mm 8-watt drivers that pump out a lot of sound. The sound quality is clear and accurate for a variety of genres though lacks deep bass definition in general. When using the speaker via the AUX-in port, the volume levels are more muted, and you won’t be able to get the sound up as loud as you can over a Bluetooth connection.
There are two EQ modes for the speaker, ‘Indoor’ and ‘Outdoor.’ With EQ is set to ‘Indoor,’ the focus is on the mid and low ranges which tends to make bass heavy tracks feel overweight, making vocals sound thin and muffled. At the highest volume, some graininess enters the sound as well. Fortunately, the speaker gets plenty loud before this point, and you can fill a room with sound even if you back off the max volume a little to avoid the distortion. For use outdoor use, press the EQ button to extend the treble and let up on the bass for heavier emphasis on the upper ranges. The difference isn’t dramatic, but the greater focus in the treble helps bring out vocals in wide open spaces. Frustratingly, when switching between Indoor and Outdoor EQ modes, there’s no clear indication which mode you’re in, since the tone that sounds is the same for both modes. However, since there are only two modes, listen closely for the change in balance and stick with the setting that sounds best to you.
In general the sound is clean and full, but lacks super crisp detail. The sound on the Armor Plus is still plenty good considering its size, and its $80 price tag, durable construction, and extended battery life make it a tough competitor for other speakers in its class.