The Bluetooth speaker market is very crowded, so it’s quite difficult to decide what speaker to go with. Well, the portable speaker that has now jumped to the top of my list is the Grain PWS (Packable Wireless Speaker). This compact Bluetooth speaker measures just 7″(W) x 2 3/8″ (D) x 3 1/8″(H), but it packs a punch, and looks great doing it.
The first thing you’ll notice about the PWS is just how substantial it looks and feels. Its case is made from solid walnut, so right there it’s got a big advantage over other portable speakers. Wood is just a much better material for speaker enclosures than plastic. There’s a reason that high end audiophile speakers are made of the stuff. Grain is quick to point out that the wood will change color with time, which just adds to its design panache. In addition to the wood enclosure, the speaker has metal grilles with a soft rubberized bezel which just looks sharp.
Of course, a case does not a speaker make. Inside, you’ll find a pair of 2″ drivers and a passive radiator, backed by a stereo amp and Waves award-winning MaxxAudio sound processing. While the wattage of the amplification system isn’t specified, the speaker pushes out sufficient volume to fill my 15′ x 20′ living room. At full volume, distortion was inaudible to my reasonably well-trained ear, and at normal listening volumes, audio was well-rounded and warm, without the tinniness usually associated with small speakers.
Connecting your wireless device to the PWS is brilliantly simple too. Just press the power button for five seconds, and a voice will announce “pairing mode”. Then select the PWS with your mobile device’s Bluetooth settings and the voice will announce “pairing complete”. The Other than play/pause, the speaker forgoes any sort of remote track control feature like some Bluetooth speakers, but this is okay by me. I use the controls on my mobile gadgets to choose tracks and playlists anyhow, and I’m pretty sure that most of you do too.
Naturally, the PWS has a built-in rechargeable battery too, so you can take it wherever you go. Battery life for the PWS is rated at eight hours, and I had no problem achieving (and slightly exceeding) this in my testing at medium volume levels. A handy LED indicator inside the rubberized power switch changes color to indicate when the battery is at 25% remaining, and then again when it’s at 10%. When you plug it in to charge, a voice announcement says “charging” and then “charge complete” when it’s done. Charging an empty battery takes somewhere between two to three hours.
Not only does the Grain look and sound great, its packaging is top notch. Inside the box, you’ll find a soft carrying pouch, a matching dark grey Grain USB power adapter, a MicroUSB to USB cable and a 3.5mm stereo cable for directly connecting audio sources.
To sum up, I’m impressed with this little speaker, and it’s currently my favorite Bluetooth travel speaker. While other speakers may be more rugged or waterproof, or offer more bells and whistles, I’m giving the Grain PWS the win on sheer sound quality and aesthetics.
The Grain PWS is available for order now, and sells for $249(USD).