Reviewed by Louise Totton
We have just been lucky enough to have had the most beautifully warm and sunny Easter bank holiday weekend. Here in Yorkshire, we have basked in beautiful 23-degree sunshine whilst being off work and school – absolute bliss. Part of the reason it was such a treat is that it was entirely unexpected – the past few years, we have had either torrential rain or even snow throughout March and April, so this balmy weather caught us completely unawares at our house. I spend the week wondering how all my summer clothes from last year have magically shrunk in the wardrobe (absolutely nothing to do with my winter habit of munching crisps and binging on boxsets!) and realising how totally unprepared for the summer to hit we actually are!
The one thing that I love to do when the weather improves a bit is to spend time in the garden – I love being outside breathing fresh air, but the garden had been somewhat neglected over the winter so definitely wasn’t ready to fully enjoy. So, I got the bit between my teeth and spent some of my time off work sorting it out and trying to make it a more pleasant area to spend time. Our garden is only tiny – we live pretty close to the centre of our village and space is at a premium so sorting the garden basically consisted of jet-washing the patio, replanting the hanging baskets and tubs and stringing up some new fairy lights. This done, we got out the table and chairs, the kids got some of their paints out and I sat back with a book and an iced coffee – perfect! That was until my daughter wanted to listen to her music outside, so connected her phone to the big soundbar in the kitchen, left the back door open and pretty much turned the volume up as loud as it would go so she could hear it from her spot in the garden – less than ideal when your other half is trying to concentrate on working from home and you’re living in close proximity to your neighbours who don’t share your nine-year-old’s taste in plastic American pop music!
Enter what I hoped would save the day – the Lava BrightSounds 2 Bluetooth Speaker. Except to call this just a speaker really doesn’t do it any justice at all – what this device is, is a portable Bluetooth speaker combined with a dimmable LED lantern, speakerphone and power bank, all packaged in a very attractive and water-resistant retro style package. WOW!
The first impression that I had when I opened the box was how attractive the device is to look at. It is around 20cm tall, and the bottom three quarters of it is the lantern part, so is plain white. The speaker part then makes up the remaining 25% and is available in a range of colours. We were sent the green version to try out, but it is also available in blue, pink, mustard and teal. The coloured speaker part is home to three ports (USB, 5v OUT & AUX) and the leather handle, and the top of the device is where the control panel is situated. I have to say that I think it is absolutely gorgeous to look at – I know that it is designed for the outdoors, and I’ll get on to that later, but it is attractive enough to be situated in even the smartest living room too. The different colour options mean that there would be one to suit most décor styles and we were lucky enough to be sent one that matched our lounge perfectly!
The first thing that I did when we received it was to plug it in to charge. The device is supplied with a micro USB charging cable (no plug) and an AUX cable. We have plenty of micro USB charging points in the house, so I plugged it in to charge and waited. Because the device acts as a speaker, light and power bank, the battery has quite a high capacity, so the initial charge took around 5 hours. Having said that, once charged, the device can last up to 36 hours, so I don’t think the charge time is excessive. Pairing the BrightSounds 2 to my phone and tablet was really easy and took less than a minute before we were ready to start streaming music.
We were all very impressed by the quality of the sound that the device produced. For such a reasonably priced product, the sound was of excellent quality. Whilst not loud enough to have a booming party, with a 5-watt output, it was more that powerful enough to fill our garden, and would also be ideal for even a large living room. One thing that really irritates me with some cheap speakers and headphones is that they can vibrate and distort when you turn the sound up, or just sound tinny and cheap. The BrightSounds 2 does nothing of the sort and is actually comparable to some far more expensive speakers that we have in the house.
The device is controlled via the flat control panel on the top – four very simple buttons that act to turn the lantern on and off, work the lantern as a dimmer, skip tracks backwards and forwards, adjust the volume and operate the speakerphone. These controls are simple but intuitive and the buttons are responsive and do everything you would need. Because the device is IPX4 water resistant, you need not worry about drying your hands if you have emerged from the paddling pool or just finished watering the plants before you touch it.
Now, usually, the functionality of most Bluetooth speakers would end here. But not this one! As I said, there is also some other fantastic functionality in this little speaker and I think that’s what sets it apart from some of the competition. Around 75% of this speaker is taken up by the LED lantern part, so it seems right to mention that first.
The lantern works from the battery, making it ideal to take into the garden if you’re continuing your party into the evening. It works either in on/off mode, or with the dimmer and can work independently of the speaker element of the device. Because the controls are so easy to access on the top of the speaker, it is very easy to switch on, even in the dark, also making it ideal for camping or any upcoming festivals. The faux leather handle makes it super easy to carry around, again perfect for midnight dashes to the toilet block if you are sleeping in a tent, and the fact that the brightness of the light can be so easily adjusted means you need not disturb anyone else with an ultra-bright light.
I was surprised by just how bright the light can be when turned onto full – it has no difficulty lighting a small room and is ideal for lighting an intimate corner of the garden if you are sat outside with a glass of wine on a summer evening with friends.
The cherry on the cake for the usefulness of this device is that it can share its charge with your mobile phone or tablet. Perfect if you are in the garden, streaming your music to the speaker and your phone battery starts to run low. Simply plug your phone into the speaker with your usual USB cable and let the BrightSounds 2 charge your phone whilst also streaming your music and lighting your table! The makers of the device really aren’t wrong when they describe this device as the Swiss Army Knife of Bluetooth speakers! It is absolutely fantastic for use in the garden, for taking camping or even for a day at the beach or a picnic. It looks fantastic, the build quality is superb and everything it does, it does to a fantastic standard.
It takes between 4-5 hours to complete a full charge, with up to 36 hours of use from a full charge. This obviously will vary depending on how bright you have the lantern, whether you are using it as a power bank and how much music you are streaming, but you would absolutely get a very full day of heavy use out of it, and probably much more!
For £39.99, it really is a bargain. It’s a great bit of kit and I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a 5 star rating.