Their tagline — “stuff you probably want.” Can Outdoor Technology back it up? Well, probably – this company has some serious spunk. A tour through their homepage reveals photos of dogs in sun hats, bonfires on the beach, a terrifying surfer dude wearing a horse mask and their ubiquitous walking yeti. Everything about their homepage screams, “we’re really hip!” Well guess what folks – I own several flannel shirts and a pair of Ray Bans. I know hip. Outdoor Technology is hip. We’re reviewing their hip Bluetooth speaker, the Turtleshell 2.0.
Turtleshell 2.0 Features:
- Connect to any Bluetooth-enabled device with easy one-touch pairing.
- Reconnects automatically to previously paired device
- Rechargeable lithium-ion battery with 16 hours of play time, and over 700 hours of standby time
- IPX-65 dust-proof and water resistant
- External controls allow you to adjust volume, change tracks, play/pause
- Standard camera thread and extra strong metal leash clip for multiple mounting options
- Wireless range: 32 feet
- Item weight: 0.65 Pounds
- MSRP: $130
Money can’t buy you happiness, only coolness
Technology and the outdoors have had an ever-changing relationship; people at both ends of the spectrum vying for either total connectedness or outdoor freedom. Outdoor Technology is driven by the need to blend technology in the modern lifestyle with the age-old drive to be outdoors. Their answer is a range of design-driven products that offer sleek, functional lifestyle solutions with all of the quirkiness of a boutique Los Angeles brand. We got ahold of the Turtleshell 2.0, ODT’s flagship outdoor speaker that promises hifi audio, premiere Bluetooth performance and all the rugged durability that adventure demands.
The design of the Turtleshell’s body itself is striking: built off of triangles and simple geometric shapes, the speaker places a much higher emphasis on esthetics than its competitors. It’s an eye-catching design that manages to catch peoples’ eye while still looking like something durable enough for a camping trip. The speaker is advertised as shock proof, water resistant and small enough to take with you anywhere; we’ve had around two months with the Turtleshell and we made sure to put the speaker through the mill.
The speaker has been dropped, rained on, showered with, used in games of Monkey in the Middle and generally been disrespected. The long-suffering Turtleshell has come out shining, but there are a few caveats: in wet environments, since the speaker’s grille faces upwards it’s prone to becoming plugged up with water. For example, if you take the speaker into the shower and set it on a shelf, all of the little holes that let sound out will fill and substantially muffle the audio until it dries out again. It should be noted that this is, in essence, only a cosmetic issue – the actual function of the speaker is unimpaired and it holds an IPX-5 water resistance rating, which is equivalent to resisting a pretty substantial jet of water for three minutes. So, even if the audio suffers substantially when its grille is saturated, the speaker keeps on kicking. Just don’t submerge the thing. Also, it passed our drop test with flying colors – besides being dropped from six feet several times on purpose, it’s taken lots of other tumbles in everyday life. The sound quality hasn’t changed since Day 1.
Now we turn to the audio performance itself – always a tough thing to quantify and usually not quite what the company would like us to believe. Such is the case with the Turtleshell 2.0: it produces solid, balanced audio with a slightly anemic bass and clear melody range, and you can’t overcome the fact that the whole speaker weighs less than a pound. The actual rating is for 96 decibels, which according to this nifty chart from the American Academy of Audiology, is equivalent to things like a handheld drill, a blender or a hair dryer and can cause hearing damage if exposure lasts more than 30 minutes. The Turtleshell can definitely reach that range, but it doesn’t always get up there gracefully – fuzzing is a fact of life with many small speakers and this is no exception. The speaker has another idiosyncrasy: the charging port is covered by a flap that needs to be firmly shut, otherwise the bass suddenly becomes substantially distorted.
It’s important for the speaker to have a firm place to sit for optimum sound quality: a sandy beach would be bad, a tile counter top is excellent. For that matter, the four pads that the speaker rests on can act like weak suction cups to hold on to a smooth surface, which is cool. I tested the audio with a dizzying array of music – Sibelius, Bon Iver, the Black Keys, Paul McCartney, Count Basie, Sufjan Stevens – they all highlighted various strengths and flaws in the Turtleshell. Classical music will never play well with a speaker this small, and bass-heavy dance hits are going to sound a trifle forced. However, my meat-and-potatoes garage rock and lo-fi hipster bands brought out the Turtleshell’s penchant for that sort of acoustically moderate music.
The Turtleshell is designed to be simple and intuitive to operate; there are only three buttons and (except for the pairing function, where you hold down the middle one for six seconds) it’s simple to figure out what they all do without reading any sort of manual – a short press adjusts volume, a long press changes the track. The only trick is that it’s tough to know when the buttons are completely pressed. The latest Bluetooth 4.0 really enhances the speaker’s overall functionality, with its low battery consumption translating into excellent battery life; admittedly, the battery does take around six hours for a full charge. I generally leave the speaker on so that I can instantly play music and, in two months of testing, I’ve only charged the battery three or four times. The Turtleshell has 32 feet of range from its source device and it seems to cope with one or even two walls in between, though this varies tremendously from place to place.
Finally, the Turtleshell has a built-in mic for voice commands or taking phone calls. Audio quality from the mic is definitely a bit strained, but no one uses speakerphone for its clarity.
- Light weight, water resistant and can take hard knocks
- Designed to be eye-catching – they nailed it
- Solid audio performance outside of the bass range
- Quite loud at maximum output
- Reasonably priced compared to competition
- Excellent battery life
- Distortion is an issue at maximum output
- Bass performance is only middling
- Speaker grille spaces fill up with water, muffle sound
- Button press should be more distinct
The Bottom Line
We like the Turtleshell 2.0 — it looks good, sounds good and can take a serious beating. I’m a fan of the design and it delivers acceptable sound for the price range. This is an excellent speaker for outdoors folk who want to take their music in a lightweight package that can play for a long, long time on a single charge.
Buy Now: Available at Backcountry.com