REVIEWED: Philips BR-1X SB5200 rugged Bluetooth speaker

A rubber brick with slick bassy sound and a handy carry strap that can re-charge a phone, too

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For most trips, a pair of decent earphones or – if you have the money – some awesome noise-cancelling earphones (the Bose QuietComfort QC20 & QC20i acoustic noise cancelling earphones are unbeatable) will do, but rugged and waterproof Bluetooth speakers like the Philips BR-1X definitely have their place in travel tech.

Build quality

Ideal for short camping trips, beach parties, BBQs or work jaunts that will likely involve long stints of work in a hotel room, Bluetooth speakers have long been billed as outdoorsy, travel-proof gadgets, but they’ve just not had the build quality. Step forward the sturdy, rugged and rubberised Philips BR-1X. You could hurt someone with this.

Outdoors sound

Measuring 210x100x80mm and weighing 500g, the headline act on the Philips BR-1X isn’t Bluetooth but Philips’ own wOOx loudspeaker tech, which offers two sound modes for both indoors and outdoors. Toggled from one to the other by a button on the back, both work well, too, with the former high in treble detail and latter slightly more bassy. Volume buttons are on the front – the BR-1X goes very loud – and there’s even a standard tripod mount screw on the bottom  if you want to get professional about your beach party. It’s so easy to use; once you’ve paired-up with the BR-1X over Bluetooth, it remembers and automatically connects the next time it’s switched on. However, if you do get a new phone, there is a button on the rear to blank its memory.

Hands-free calls & phone charging

The unit also allows hands-free calling thanks to a special mic; pair your smartphone to the Philips BR-1X using Bluetooth and any calls you get can be heard through the BR-1X – the smartphone becomes irrelevant. The BR-1X also acts as an emergency smartphone charger, though thanks to the use of a micro USB jack, that only applies to Android devices. Surely a standard USB slot would have been more suitable?

Daisy-chain

With a thoroughly respectable six hour battery (it recharges over microUSB), the BR-1X also has a 3.5mm stereo jack for inputting any device that don’t have Bluetooth, and comes complete with a shocking red cable. An output jack nearby can be used to daisy-chain multiple units to create a bigger sound; in this configuration, all units synchronise with each other to keep volume the same. Nice idea, though we’re not convinced anyone will buy more than one of the BR-1X.

Not waterproof

Available in Khaki and Grey finishes, the Philips BR-1X is a decent option for short trips and not especially heavy, with sound quality above average. The hands-free calling option will suit business travellers better, but it’s the tough build quality that – while not completely waterproof – does make this a travel-ready product. If only Apple users could get a quick charge from its battery it could be an all-rounder for the outdoors.

Price as reviewed: £99.99

Buy the Philips BR-1X 

See also:

TravGear – How to buy noise cancelling headphones