Review: The Soundboks speaker rocks, but its performance and price may be overkill

Soundboks speaker
It's as loud as a plane taking off, but is it any good? Photo credit: Newshub

I've tried many different brands of speakers over the years but never a Soundboks one.

Recently when I found out about the company's third generation performance speaker, I was keen to give it a blast for two reasons - it has a crazy maximum volume of 126 dB, and it's Danish.

Two of my biggest loves in life are from the Scandinavian country: Lego and legendary Rangers football god Brian Laudrup.

Could a Bluetooth speaker engender anywhere close to the same kind of love and affection its country folks do? Does anyone need a portable speaker this insanely loud?

I was able to use the Soundboks Gen. 3 speaker for a few days last week and here are my thoughts.

The good

From the second you pull the speaker out of its giant box, you know you're getting something special.

It looks like something you'd see on any stage at a heavy metal concert and, before I've even got the battery charging, I'm desperate to blast out some Iron Maiden on it.

It's not exactly what you'd call a modern look, but there's something classic about it that just says 'I'm serious and I'm here to rock'.'

The Soundboks speaker
Photo credit: Newshub

The Soundboks speaker was dreamed up by three high school friends in Denmark who wanted to be heard above the noise of the Roskilde music festival. That meant building a speaker "that would outlast the wildest nights".

Well, I think they've succeeded, even though I haven't visited any music festivals in the last week to be able to say definitively.

It's easy to set-up and, once the battery has been fully juiced and slotted into place, it takes no time at all to connect to my phone via Bluetooth. And then that's when the fun starts.

I have a near failsafe approach to judging a sound system - if I can listen to both Nick Cave's 'Into My Arms' and U2's live version of 'Running To Stand Still' WITHOUT crying then it's simply not up to the job.

Within just a few bars of Edge's guitar intro I could feel myself welling up. By the time Bono was done with the first verse the tears were flowing. Then by the time Cave's baritone is singing about the existence of angels, I was sobbing.

Music moves me in a way nothing else does and a bad speaker can remove that emotional connection with terrible fidelity and distorted sound. There was none of that here, even at higher volumes.

Given the brief review time, I wasn't able to test the speaker out at its very highest of 126 dB volume, mostly because I care what my neighbours think and I didn't want to disturb them. But sitting out in the backyard with the Soundboks playing Metallica live with the San Francisco Symphony from the deck sounded terrific. 

I just couldn't play it for very long at higher volume levels as the entire neighbourhood didn't need to hear 'Nothing Else Matters', even with the stunning accompaniment of the violins.

I'm only partially joking when I say if I'd played it any louder I would have been expecting a visit from the local police wondering what on Earth I thought I was up to. Yes, it's that loud.

You can use the speaker while it's plugged in, of course; but that sort of defeats the purpose, hence the gigantic battery pack.

The Soundboks speaker
Photo credit: Newshub

If offers around 40 hours of playback at half volume, or five hours turned all the way up to 11.  Frankly, anyone using it for five hours at that kind of level probably needs to give their ears a break - but extra batteries can be purchased separately if you really need it.

For an evening barbecue on the beach, you'll get more than enough out juice without worrying it's going to run out while Katchafire or Salmonella Dub are entertaining the entire beach.

As you would expect, more functionality for the Soundboks is available via a companion app, including firmware updates and the ability to tone the default bass-heavy sound down with one click.

The best thing, undoubtedly, was the real time equaliser meaning I could manually adjust fine settings to maximise the quality of each individual song. There was no lag as I did so and it gave me a level of control that I appreciated.

Just in case one speaker that blasts out the same level as a jet plane taking off 60m away isn't enough, you can wirelessly chain up to five Soundboks speakers together wirelessly using the built in SKAA network. I'm not sure I want to live anywhere near anyone who actually does this though.

There are also inputs for professional microphones for DJs and for users who want to make sure their inferior attempts at karaoke can be heard by everyone within 1km radius.

The bad

Given the relative simplicity of the speaker it would be a surprise if there were a long list of faults with it.

But there are just two problems with the Soundboks that I can see: The size and the price.

When I think about portable speakers, I think about something I can pick up easily and, ideally, fit into my luggage or backpack.

You're definitely not getting that level of simplicity with the Soundboks. It's not particularly heavy at around 15kg, but it's bulky at 66cm tall, 43cm wide and 32cm deep.

If you're heading to one of Auckland's west coast beaches and you're having to carry this speaker half a kilometre, you're going to feel it pretty quick. There's no chance you're carrying both it and a chilly bin without having to stop multiple times to give your arms a break.

But that pales into significance with the biggest issue, which is the price. As impressive as this speaker is - and it absolutely is - you're going to have to fork out a massive $1899 to own it.

The Soundboks speaker
Photo credit: Newshub

I have bought high-end sound systems for around the same price as this in the past - but that included multiple components that I used pretty much every day.

The Soundboks is not an inside, everyday sound system; it demands space in a way no other speaker I've ever used does.

Given that, I would find it hard to justify forking out that kind of money for something with limited use, even if I would love to be able to do so.

To put it to the test, I listened to some songs through both this and my surround sound system in my living room.

The Soundboks was louder, unquestionably, but for an overall experience it wasn't any better than the cheaper soundsystem and speakers I already have situated around my room.

Outside that's not the case. This blows everything else away but that comes at a price that's simply unjustifiable for me.

Now, I'm old and boring so I fully accept there are going to be plenty of folk who have both the disposable income and the social calendar that could make this worthwhile.

Regardless, $1899 is still a lot of money to pay for a single speaker.

The verdict

I'm in the fortunate position of being able to buy more gadgets than most people but this is likely the first time I've been tempted to spend close to $2000 on something I know I'll only use a couple of times per year.

I use a Bluetooth speaker for only one thing at the moment - singing in the shower - and I really don't see that changing.

The Soundboks speaker
Photo credit: Newshub

But I could see this sitting on my deck on a warm summer's evening, barbecue on and Jimmy Buffett blaring out.

Alas, I also see the looks I'd be getting from my neighbours which will end with me turning it down and then deciding the best for all concerned is for me to go back inside.

If you're a social beast who goes to parties in wide open spaces which demand music loud and true, however, then this is unquestionably a speaker that will deliver everything you want and more.

For me, it's quality may be right up there with both Lego and Laudrup, but it's just not something my lifestyle can justify.

Newshub was supplied with a Soundboks Gen. 3 speaker for this review.