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The Anker Soundcore Rave Neo is a lot of speaker for $99.99. It’s portable, waterproof, has built-in LED mood lights, and most importantly, delivers impressive audio for the price. It isn’t the most attractive speaker we’ve seen, but it’s a powerful, bass-forward option that delivers audio on par with pricier models, making it a solid choice for your next beach day or pool party.

Design

Measuring roughly 11.0 by 7.0 by 5.8 inches (HWD), the Soundcore Rave Neo has a black exterior with a built-in handle. Much of its shell is a hard, glossy plastic that looks sturdy but a bit cheap. Its front face is a curved grille that protects a woofer and tweeter that combine for 50 watts of mono audio. An LED ring encircles the woofer, and its light show can be programmed (or disabled) in the Soundcore app. Perhaps one of the strongest selling points of the speaker’s design is its fully waterproof IPX7 build—it can be splashed, submerged up to a meter, and rinsed off without issue.

Up top, there’s a control panel housing backlit buttons for power, Bluetooth pairing, volume up/down, Bass Boost, LED lights, and Partycast mode (in which the Soundcore Rave Neo can be linked with other Soundcore speakers). A multifunction button handles playback, track navigation, and call management. There’s also a battery life indicator on this panel.

Pressing the LED button cycles through the various, somewhat entertaining LED light show options (there are three modes accessible via this button, but more in the app, though they all seem fairly similar). You can also turn the lights off, which should aid in preserving battery power. If we don’t sound overly enthused about the lights, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with them, but the implementation feels very simple compared with, say, the JBL Pulse 4. The lights do seem to react to the music somewhat, and the app allows you to fine-tune their performance to a degree.

The back panel houses a connections port at the bottom, which has a snap-shut rubber cover. The panel houses a USB-C port and a USB-A port, as well as a 3.5mm aux input. The speaker ships with a USB-C cable, which can be used both to charge the speaker and to charge mobile devices using the speaker’s battery. The Soundcore Rave Neo is compatible with Bluetooth 5.0, but it can can also play MP3 and WAV files via the USB port.

The free Soundcore App for Android and iOS allows you to adjust the various LED light show modes and apply variations to them. More useful, perhaps, is the nine-band user-adjustable EQ, that comes with presets as well. Annoyingly, the app asks you to log in to save your custom EQs. That’s not standard, and seeing as you already paid for the speaker, you shouldn’t have to give Anker any more info in order to use the basic functions of the app. Regardless, downloading the app is recommended for the expanded controls it offers.

Anker estimates the speaker’s battery life to be roughly 18 hours, but your results will vary with your volume levels and LED usage.

Performance

We recommend leaving Bass Boost mode on. The speaker sounds thin and weak without it, to the point that it’s not clear why a non-Bass Boost option exists. We tested the speaker in both modes, but the results described below are with Bass Boost enabled.

On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Soundcore Rave Neo delivers impressive bass depth. At top volume levels, the speaker gets quite loud for its price, and doesn’t suffer from any distortion issues. The bass thins out a bit at top volumes thanks to DSP (digital signal processing) that prevents distortion, but it still sounds plenty powerful. Even without Bass Boost enabled, the lows are impressive on a track like this.

How We Test Speakers

Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Soundcore Rave Neo’s general sound signature. With Bass Boost on, the drums sound thunderous and can produce some serious vibrations on tabletops. The baritone vocals are delivered with strong low-mid richness, and the high-mids and highs are dialed up and sculpted, too. The result is a balanced (but not too accurate) sound signature, rich in the lows and crisp in the highs, pushing the treble edge of the vocals and the acoustic guitar strums forward along with the thunderous drums.

On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives an ideal amount of high-mid presence, allowing its attack to retain its punchiness while the sustain gets some extra thump to it. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with decent gusto, but the woofer doesn’t quite go down to the depths a subwoofer would be able to—nor would we expect it to at this price. This means that the strongest bass presence ends up being the drum loop itself. The vocals are delivered with solid clarity without things veering into overly sibilant territory. Again, it’s a sculpted sound signature, but Anker does a good job of delivering bass-forward audio with high frequencies to match it without things sounding wildly unnatural.

Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get some extra bass push, bringing the lower-register instrumentation forward in the mix a bit. But the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals maintain a clarity and brightness that prevails over all else in the mix. Without Bass Boost activated, this track sounds brittle and overly treble-focused.

The mic offers average intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 8, we could understand every word we recorded, but the mic’s signal is somewhat weak, and there’s typical Bluetooth audio fuzzing up the edges. Regardless, callers should be able to hear you on a solid mobile connection, assuming you’re near the speaker.

Conclusions

For $100, the Anker Soundcore Rave Neo delivers impressive bass rumble. It’s closer in size to models that often cost more, and as is the case with speakers, more size tends to bring more bass, so this is a bargain in that regard. Its waterproof design is also an excellent value for the price, and the LED lighting is a nice bonus. Ultimately, the Rave Neo is a good buy for anyone looking for a waterproof, bass-boosted portable speaker on a budget. If you have more money to spend, however, there are stronger-sounding and better-looking water-resistant speakers out there. For $150, we like the JBL Charge 4 and the Sony SRS-XB33, and for $250, the Sony SRS-XB43 can really get a party started.

Anker Soundcore Rave Neo Specs

Channels Mono
Bluetooth Yes
Wi-Fi No
Multi-Room No
Physical Connections 3.5mm
Portable Yes
Water-Resistant Yes
Speakerphone Yes
Voice Assistant None

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