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Brane X review: a portable smart speaker with incredible bass

 Brane X smart speaker on deck railing oudoors.
Brane X smart speaker on deck railing oudoors.

Brane Audio Brane X: Two-minute review

Brane Audio’s Brane X has managed to achieve the unthinkable in the mostly mundane realm of the best wireless speakers, which – to be clear – is full of models that don’t leave much of an impression. Some are good, some are okay, and many are bad. But the Brane X makes an impression.

The main way the Brane X impresses is by delivering bass output extending into the sub-bass range. That’s unheard of for a portable speaker. Still, the Brane X isn’t an ordinary portable speaker, but one with proprietary Repel-Attract-Driver (R.A.D.) technology that uses a magnet array to cancel out air pressure within the speaker’s enclosure. This allows big bass to be generated from a small woofer in a highly compact box, and it needs to be heard to be believed.

Aside from its sub-bass output capability, the Brane X comes off as a normal-looking portable wireless speaker. It has a lunchbox-like form, complete with a carrying handle, and an unassuming design. Its built-in battery carries a charge for up to 12 hours of playback time and requires three hours to fully recharge. The IP57-rated speaker is dust and waterproof, making it ideal for both indoor and outdoor use.

Wireless streaming support includes Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth 5.1. An app lets you configure bass and custom EQ settings, and it can also be used to group multiple Brane X speakers for multi-room playback. Controls to adjust volume and bass level are located on the speaker’s top surface, and there are built-in mics for Alexa voice control.

Sound quality is where the Brane X makes its mark by delivering a notably dynamic and detailed sound for a portable speaker. Hip-hop, techno, rock, and even classical music are equally well served, with the speaker’s deep bass providing a strong foundation for other layers in music mixes. Voices, in particular, sound natural – something that benefits both music and podcasts – and the Brane X also manages to convey a sense of stereo separation and depth.

The catch with the Brane X, and you probably saw this coming, is that its performance comes at a price. At $599 (around £475 / AU$915), it’s more expensive than other premium portable speakers such as the Sonos Move 2 ($449 / £449 / AU$799). That factor makes the Brane X a tough sell if you simply want a portable speaker for casual outdoor and indoor listening, but if you’re looking for one with best-in-class sound quality, the Brane X is it.

Brane X review: Price and release date

Brane X smart speaker on table
Brane X smart speaker on table
  • Released December 2023

  • Currently available only in US

  • Priced at $599 (around £475 / AU$915)

The Brane X is currently sold exclusively through Brane Audio and is only available for shipment in the US. International shipments will start in late 2024 according to the company’s website.

At $599 (around £475 / AU$915) the Brane X is very much on the pricey side for a portable wireless speaker, though it has sonic tricks up its sleeve that the competition lacks. To put it in context, you can buy a Sonos Move 2 for $449 / £449 / AU$799, which gets you a portable wireless speaker with a similar feature set plus twice the battery life. You can also spend quite a bit more on the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A5 ($1,099 / £899 / AU$1,950), a portable wireless speaker that generally looks similar to the Brane X, but has a more attractive design that’s typical for that brand.

Brane X review: Specs

Brane X smart speaker on table showing top controls
Brane X smart speaker on table showing top controls

Brane X review: Features

Brane X smart speaker on table next to Sonos Move
Brane X smart speaker on table next to Sonos Move
  • Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth support 

  • Voice control using Amazon Alexa

  • Built-in battery provides 12 hours playback time

Brane Audio’s Brane X streams music wirelessly via Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and also supports Bluetooth 5.1. A Brane app is available and can be used to select low, medium, and high Bass presets for best sound (most likely dependent on where the speaker is located), create a custom 5-band EQ setting, and store speaker groups for multi-room playback on multiple Brane X speakers. There are four built-in microphones for voice control, which is carried out using the Alexa voice assistant.

The driver array of the Brane X consists of two 0.75-inch tweeters, two 2-inch mid-range drivers, and a 6.5 by 9-inch (165 x 229mm) woofer. Four class-D amplifiers are packed into the compact speaker, for a total of 200 watts of power. A built-in battery allows 12 hours of playback at a reasonable volume level, and it can be fully recharged in 3 hours.

I would be amiss to describe the bass driver in the Brane X simply as a “woofer,” since the company applies unique technology to it to achieve extended bass. Woofers in conventional speakers generate bass by moving forward and back in an enclosure. That movement is driven by the passage of magnets on the woofer’s voice coil through a magnetic field, and it affects the air pressure within the speaker.

Brane Audio’s Repel-Attract-Driver operates similarly to a regular woofer, but in this instance, additional magnets are used to cancel out air pressure within the speaker. The cancellation effect allows for the use of a smaller woofer, along with a smaller enclosure, enabling Brane Audio to generate powerful sub-bass from a lunchbox-size speaker.

  • Features score: 4.5/5

Brane X review: Sound quality

Brane X smart speaker on table  showing back panel
Brane X smart speaker on table showing back panel
  • Excellent bass extension and substantial output

  • Well-balanced sound with natural voice reproduction

  • Can play cleanly at party-like volume levels

The Brane X may be compact, but there’s nothing small about its sound. After reading about this portable speaker that’s capable of not just substantial bass extension, but also substantial sub-bass output, I was ready for something different and upon first listen I got that.

Getting straight down to business, I streamed Boom by Tiësto, Sevenn, and Gucci Mane to the speaker from Tidal HiFi via AirPlay. This is a track with bass to spare, and if the Brane X could handle that, it would pass the test. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my mouth flapped open when I heard the deep, pounding bass put out by the Brane X, which wasn’t far off from what I expect to hear from a hi-fi system with a capable subwoofer. The speaker’s extended dynamic range also allowed other elements in the mix to come through clearly, especially vocals, which had a natural, unstrained quality. Pushing up the volume to, naturally, satisfy my curiosity about how loud the Brane X could play, it went up to party-like levels without distorting or sounding congested.

Radiohead’s Desert Island Disks features a spare acoustic guitar that’s played over a low, pulsing beat. On my regular portable speaker, the Sonos Move 2, that beat comes across as more of a tap. When I played the song on the Brane X, however, it had a surprising low and full quality that dynamically anchored the sound and allowed for details in vocals along with the song’s more subtle ambient elements to come across clearly.

Even classical symphonic music fared well on the Brane X. When I streamed Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition – The Great Gate of Kiev, as played by the Cleveland Orchestra, on Tidal HiFi, the tympani rolls were conveyed in an appropriately thunderous manner and the volume sweeps of strings sounded smooth and convincing. Comparing the Brane X’s performance here again to my reference Sonos speaker, the Sonos came across as comparatively flat-sounding, with no sense of low-end muscle in the percussion and double basses.

Given the Brane X’s hi-fi prowess, it seemed almost weird to set it up in my kitchen in the spot normally occupied by my Sonos Move, where it is used mainly for listening to news and podcasts. When I did, I found I needed to dial down the bass in the app for best sound in the new spot. That done, the Brane X made voices sound completely natural, with none of the strained quality that can typically be heard when listening with low-cost Bluetooth speakers. Brane Audio’s portable may have been overkill in this setting, but I certainly wasn’t eager to swap it out.

The only sonic quirk I encountered when using the Brane X was a faint level of noise when the speaker was turned on but not being used for playback. This didn’t exactly bother me, and in most cases when I had the speaker turned on it was streaming audio, which fully masked the noise, but it was there nonetheless.

  • Sound quality score: 5/5

Brane X review: Design

Brane X smart speaker on table  showing bottom moiunted woofer
Brane X smart speaker on table showing bottom moiunted woofer
  • Basic, unassuming design

  • Carrying strap for portable use

  • 1P57-rated dust and waterproof

There’s nothing particularly fancy about the Brane X’s design. As noted in the Features section of this review, it’s about the size and shape of a lunchbox. A rubber carrying strap is attached for toting the speaker around, and the black plastic top surface contains capacitive touch controls to adjust volume and bass level, as well as toggle the microphones on and off and set up Bluetooth and Wi-Fi pairing mode. A black mesh grille covers the speaker’s full front surface and sturdy rubber feet are provided to secure the speaker and allow clearance for the bottom-mounted Repel-Attract-Driver.

The Brane X’s back panel features a power on/off button and a 3.5mm aux input for connecting sources like a disc player or turntable. You’ll also find an input here for the speaker’s large, bulky external power supply and a QR code to access the Brane Audio website. With an IP57 rating, the Brane X is both dust and waterproof, making it a solid option for a workshop and a pool party.

  • Design score: 4/5

Brane X review: Value

Brane X smart speaker on table  with sonos move in background
Brane X smart speaker on table with sonos move in background
  • Expensive compared to the competition

  • Unique among portable wireless speakers

  • Has sound quality to back up the high price

With a $599 (around £475 / AU$915) price tag, the Brane X is undoubtedly expensive, making other premium portable wireless speakers such as the Sonos Move 2 look like a bargain in comparison. But the Brane X sounds better and certainly delivers better bass than the Sonos Move 2, which is its top competition. There is nothing quite like it on the market, a factor that enhances its value.

Suppose you’re looking for a compact portable wireless speaker that doesn’t sound like a compact portable wireless speaker, but a regular stereo system with a subwoofer instead. In that case, the Brane X is your only option. Yes, it’s expensive, but it has the sound quality to back up the high price.

  • Value score: 3.5/5

Should you buy the Brane X?

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Brane X review: Also consider

Brane X smart speaker review: How I tested

Brane X smart speaker on deck railing outdoors
Brane X smart speaker on deck railing outdoors
  • Tested with music streamed from Tidal HiFi and Apple Music via AirPlay

  • Used Sonos Move 2 for comparison during listening tests

  • Tested over several weeks of both casual and critical listening

I tested the Brane X using a range of different music genres from hip-hop to classical and also used it for everyday listening to news internet radio stations and podcasts. During my testing, which lasted for several weeks, I moved it around to different rooms in my home and also gave it a listen outdoors.

I used a Bluetooth wireless connection from my iPhone for casual listening but switched to AirPlay 2 for critical listening during my review. Most music tracks played during my test were sourced from Tidal HiFi, with some played from Apple Music. For a direct comparison with a competitive speaker, I used a Sonos Move 2, switching between both speakers using the same music tracks to make a subjective listening comparison.

My audio reviewing experience extends back over two decades, and during that time I have tested everything from full surround sound speaker systems to subwoofers and soundbars.

You can read TechRadar's review guarantee here.

  • First reviewed: March 2024