Owen Burke/Business Insider
- The DemerBox DB2 is the second iteration of audio engineer James Demer and musician Zac Brown’s collaboration on a travel-, water-, and all-around life-proof Bluetooth audio speaker.
- Built into a Pelican 1300 case, the DB2 is nearly indestructible.
- At $300, it’s about the same price as any other high-end Bluetooth speaker, but with exponential durability.
- If you like to spend time in the elements (even if it’s just your backyard), this is the foolproof portable speaker system you want.
Audiophiles and peripatetics alike, unite and rejoice! For here is the be all and end all in all of your audio and electronic delights (and duties) on the go.
Developed by audio engineer (and namesake) James Demer (behind shows like Vice News and Survivor) and Zac Brown (of Zac Brown Band), the DemerBox 2 is a pair of 3" woofers built into a military-grade Pelican case with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that also serves as a charging station. It is an indestructible titan of sound that also serves as a small on-the-go dry box for your personal effects, and it’s something that, as a small boat owner (and a hapless fool), I’ve come to realize, I cannot live without.
I tested the original iteration of the DemerBox last summer and was thrilled, but never got around to writing a review. Last month, the brand sent over its new and improved DB2.
It’s got an upgraded 40 hours of battery life (which I put to the test) and an upgraded audio system with Digital Signal Processing (DSP — more on that below) that puts out an impressive 94 decibels at 1 foot. For reference, that’s about the volume of a Boeing 737 just before it lands a mere mile away, according to Purdue University. Or, if that doesn’t register with you, consider a fully packed restaurant or bar, with everyone shouting almost at the top of their lungs. And, for further, and perhaps more important, reference: Any sound above 85 decibels becomes increasingly harmful to human hearing, according to The Atlantic. So, yes, by now, you get it. It’s loud.
My field notes for the DemerBox DB2
I specifically wanted to test this little new-age boombox on my skiff, an open fishing boat with little more than an outboard and a 12-volt battery for navigational lights and a bilge pump. Naturally, I don’t have a sound system aboard, and just about every square inch of the thing gets soaked in seawater, mud, or blood on an average day’s outing, which is to say that, by and large, no electronic is safe.
Four consecutive weekends (that is, at least one 8-plus-hour day each weekend) saw me out on my little skiff, blasting everything from Sidney Bechet to Elvis Costello and The Imposters to NPR news (for good measure). Even over the cacophonic growl of outboard engines (including my own 30-year-old two-stroke), I was able to pick each note that played, each word spoken. Never in my near 20-year history of owning this vessel had I been able to find a small, lightweight, waterproof, and durable speaker setup that could outbark my (exceptionally loud) motor.
Until this little blue box came along, I’d all but given up my quest for such a device. I grew to be fine with the idea: It’s beautiful and serene out here. Who needs music or the news when they can listen to the wind and the wavelets lapping the hull, that, in its own right, is rhapsodic enough. I wasn’t wrong, but by midsummer, my beloved Long Island Sound is so heavily trafficked that it can start to feel like something akin to Times Square, which, if you’ve ever spent much time there, you can only hope to drown out. There is a season for everything.
So for a month, I have clamored about my boat, knocking over my DemerBox DB2 both accidentally and on purpose (all for you) at least a half-dozen times. And all the while, dear friends, without even a single charge, the band played on.
The specs of the DemerBox DB2
What really speaks for this punchy little speaker set is that it was developed by an audio engineer (and a prolific one, at that) and a musician, both of whom spend their lives on the road. James Demer took this thing from Dixieland all the way up to the coldest city in Alaska. He knew exactly what he wanted and what he needed, and he also had the good sense to realize that, practically speaking, no one was going to develop a better military-grade, virtually indestructible waterproof case than Pelican.
The 3-inch, 8-ohm speakers are enough to dazzle most medium-sized backyard barbecues, the Bluetooth range is rated at 100 feet (within direct line of sight, though I tested it to about 40 feet, separated by walls, which is still remarkable), and there’s Digital Signal Processing happening both through the Bluetooth-pairing system and the 3.5-mm auxiliary input. Digital Signal Processing is, in essence, sort of like having an automatic DJ, an AI sound engineer. It compresses where needed, limits certain ranges, and may or may not adjust EQ based on output. When we think of compressed audio, sometimes it sounds like it’s a bad thing. I first associated it with mp3, which, looking back, was a horrible way to mass-market music. Because it’s of such poor quality, it was never meant to be mass-marketed in the first place, but the convenience of packing that much data into a small hard drive won out.
So I went to a professional to learn a bit more about what DSP is, exactly, and whether this was a bad thing. According to FX Productions‘ veteran audio engineer Peter Gamble, who’s run everything from presidential speeches to blaring concerts and studio sessions, "For a system like that [(one without EQ adjustments)], you might want a little bit of compression so that all your different sources of music come out relatively at the same volume. It could also just be a limiter (which is also compression) that would be more for keeping the speakers from blowing from a source that is too loud." Either way, it’s a little bit of doctoring and control that’s worth having for one reason or another.
The greatest specifications of the DB2, though, are its build (made in the US of A using all 316 stainless steel hardware), and the fact that DemerBox stands by the product for life. The DB2 comes with a one-year warranty, but outside of that, no matter what the problem might be, the brand purports that it’s "serviceable for life."
The bottom line
Back at the dock on Sunday, I was looking for a definitive visual. I set the DB2 adrift, but thought that since it was floating upright, and there was no port or seam for any water to get in, that wasn’t saying much. Then I began hosing down the boat. Here we were, I thought. With the speaker at almost full volume, I did my best to waterboard it. The 3-inch speakers were drowned out for a few seconds, but a few good bass notes within a few seconds kicked out the water and it got back to doing its thing, no worse for wear. And yes, my phone (charging), wallet, and car keys were all inside.
This is the Bluetooth speaker for anyone who wants to take their speakers on a good bit of adventure and not have to worry about what happens to them. It’s also the speaker system you want for your backyard parties and sundry outdoor festivities where, in the chaos, such things might be left outside to collect spilled beverages, rain, or even morning dew. I’ve tested a handful of outdoor speakers this year, but this is the one I make sure to have on hand, rain or shine, whether I’m making way by land or sea or foam.
Pros: Essentially life-proof, loud and crisp sound, ~40-hour battery life
Cons: Pricey, but otherwise none to speak of
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