Review: LifeProof Aquaphonics AQ10 Waterproof Speaker
As we mentioned last month, LifeProof has been branching out beyond its well-known rugged iPhone cases into new areas, including not only external power packs, but also a new line of rugged speakers, dubbed Aquaphonics. These maintain the company's focus on gear for the outdoor adventurer, providing water, dirt, snow, and drop protection so you can take them just about anywhere. Today we look at the company's mid-size offering in the new lineup, the $200 AQ10
Unlike most Bluetooth speakers, the Aquaphonics AQ10 charges directly from an AC outlet, rather than via USB; it comes packaged with an external 12V/2A power adapter, which should provide for faster charging, but at the same time lacks the flexibility of USB charging. The included adapter, however, does save the trouble of supplying your own power source — something that we’ve seen a lot more Bluetooth speakers omitting lately. Although LifeProof doesn’t divulge the battery capacity in milliamp-hours, it promises 13 hours of play time on a single charge, as well as the ability to use the speaker as a power-bank to power or recharge other USB devices.
The speaker is 8.5 inches long and around three-and-a-quarter inches on each side, and weights just under two pounds. While LifeProof doesn’t specifically mention an IP rating, the company promises that it can withstand immersion in over 3 feet (1 meter) of water for 30 minutes, and that it’s also dust-proof, suggesting it’s basically equivalent to an IP67 rating. LifeProof also notes that the AQ10 can withstand drops of four feet, and it floats so that it can be easily retrieved if you drop it into a pool or knock if off the side of your boat.
One end of the AQ10 houses the charging port, a 3.5mm aux in port, and a USB port concealed under a protective flap, while on the other side you’ll find the power button and a switch for locking the controls. On top are seven backlit buttons for controlling Bluetooth pairing, source selection, and the usual collection of music playback controls. The Bluetooth button remains illuminated whenever a Bluetooth source is connected while the others automatically light up when you place your hand on the speaker; we’re not sure what type of sensing technology the AQ10 is using for this, but we found the behaviour a little bit odd, as it seemed to require us touching the speaker in certain specific places that weren’t necessarily intuitive, although the buttons will also illuminate when you actually press one.
The AQ10 sports one particularly unique feature on the underside: A small “dry box” storage area is included as a place to stash small items like cash, credit cards, or keys. Interestingly, however, the dry box also includes a USB power port and 3.5mm auxiliary in port, so while it’s too small for even an older iPod touch, you could keep a device like an iPod nano inside if you wanted to use the AQ10 as a self-contained music player.
Unfortunately, the AQ10’s sound quality didn’t particularly impress us. While it’s a competent speaker, we found the sound output to be a little flat and unrefined, especially for a speaker in this price range. While the speaker isn’t bass-deficient, it lacks richness and depth. While we have to give credit to the AQ10 for being completely free of distortion even at maximum volume, at 88 db the maximum volume level was a bit lower than we expected for a speaker of this size, particularly with its obvious focus on use in outdoor settings. In listening comparisons, speakers such as Braven’s Stryde 360 provided noticeably better fidelity at half the price.
Although we think LifeProof has made a decent attempt here at an outdoor speaker, it’s obvious the AQ10 plays to the company’s strengths — creating highly ruggedized products for the outdoor adventurer — while lacking in more important areas such as sound quality. While one could make the argument that great audio isn’t necessarily key for every outdoor speaker, particularly stacked up against great water, dust, and shock resistance, we still think that most users will find the AQ10’s asking price is too high for what it actually delivers.