Let’s face it, we can’t always drown out the world with our portable players and headphones. Sometimes we need to open up our sound to everyone around us. The beach season (or outdoors) is coming up, and what better time to share the audio love than now? Grace Digital Audio wants to help you out. They have come up with a rugged portable speaker system that’ll keep your valuables safe from the elements, and still put out some tunes for you and your friends. Let’s see how it stacks up.
Design and Build Quality
The Grace Eco Extreme case is pretty large. There isn’t a way around it. It dwarfs the Fiio S9, and most other portable speakers. This isn’t for any weaklings out there, and that’s the way it was designed to be. Grace used excellent materials throughout, using a nice textured plastic for the front and back, and wrapping the edges in durable rubber. The bottom of the case has some feet to stand the Eco speakers upright, as well as a carabiner clip hooked onto the top with a rubber strap to hang it on your backpack or anything else you can think of. The volume knob and a pressure outlet are located on the front of the case, with the 3″ speaker positioned on the top half of the case. My only real issue with the case are the hinges to open the case. They are built well, but are often a pain in the rear to open up.
The interior is lined with a neoprene stye material where you would put your mp3 player, wallet, or any other small junk you carry with you. It’s pretty spacious inside, and can even hold my wallet and my Dell Venue Pro phone without a hiccup. Basically, this should take care of any portable player and some video players. This is also where you have access to the battery compartment (3 AA batteries) and the universal headphone jack for your DAP’s.
As far as this thing being rugged, it definitely looks the part. I’ve tossed it around plenty, and the thing still manages to not skip a beat. The plastic tends to be scratched up pretty easily, so this ain’t gonna be a looker down the line. Something tells me if you use this the way it was intended though, it’ll be more scratches of pride than pain. With that said, the volume knob did get stuck to the point I thought it was toast after a trip to the beach. Some sand must have worked it’s way in, and the next time I tried to use the Eco, it took me forever to even budge the volume knob. It did end up loosening up with some elbow grease, but it took plenty of effort to get it spinning again.
What good is a portable speaker if it comes out sounding tinny and hollow and crap? Not much (at least most readers here think that). Luckily, Grace did their homework when designing the speaker case. The sound comes our very well rounded throughout the whole spectrum. There is actually real bass output, something you usually don’t get to say about portable speakers. Of course this only works with the case closed. Think of a subwoofer box in a car, and imagine the same idea used here for the lower frequencies. It’s nothing overwhelming, but very sufficient and present, much more than just a crackly sound you think is bass.
The rest of the sound spectrum is pretty well represented. There is a warm feel to the sound, giving pretty solid detail throughout. There isn’t anything to really complain about from a sound quality standpoint (it being a portable speaker and not focussed on detailed listening). One thing to note, Grace says not to max the volume on your DAP, and leave it sitting around 80% for the best sound quality (I found this to be accurate). The big complaint I have with the case is the sound doesn’t come through loud enough. Sure, you won’t have any problems using it in your bedroom or kitchen for some group listening. But when you bring it out to the real world, it can’t hang with the environment. At the beach, it gets silent when you venture a couple of feet away (off the towel). For a portable speaker, that shouldn’t happen. This will vary depending on your use, but understand it’s not the loudest speaker out.
The Grace Digital Eco Extreme case is a pretty rugged portable speaker that will bring you good sound quality at a good price. It isn’t a perfect system considering it plays a little quiter than most will like in outdoor situations, but still delivers a nice listening experience. It will store some of your junk for you at the same time. I’d like to see a 2 speaker set-up from them next time, as the case is surely big enough to justify it. Regardless, this should satisfy most with the solid sound quality and rugged looks.
company: Grace Digital Audio