Outdoor Technology had a successful Kickstarter campaign for their Big Turtle Shell wireless speaker and now it's shipping for $229.95. A much larger version of the excellent Turtle Shell 2.o speaker, the extra size brings some new capabilities and a lot more power.
These products are designed to be used outdoors. The cases keep out dust and sand and the Big Turtle shell is rated with an IPX-5 water protection rating, which means you can use it in the rain or spray a hose at it but you can't throw it in the pool.
If you're an Android user, it comes with NFC pairing capabilities. You just tap your device on the helpful NFC logo on the top. It also works with the aptX music codec if your (Android) device has that built in. The Bluetooth 4.0 connection is rock solid and you can switch source devices by pressing the logo button on the side.
You can also pair two devices at the same time, which is a huge advantage over most Bluetooth speakers on the market right now. There are also helpful "power on," "power off" and "pairing" voice prompts so you know what's going on even when you can't quite see the indicator light because you're out in the bright sun.
There's an audio-in port if your audio source doesn't have Bluetooth and an audio-out port in case you want to pair the Big Turtle Shell with a second speaker.
You can use the Big Turtle Shell on its side for directional audio, but you're going to get more bass thump if you have the bottom bass port aimed at a flat surface. It comes with a pair of grab handles, which are useful because this thing is kind of a beast, weighing in at 2.3 lbs. and measuring 11" x 6" x 3.5" (compared to the 5.5" x 3.5" by 2.5", 0.75 lb Turtle Shell 2.0).
You can use the Big Turtle Shell as a speakerphone, answering and hanging up calls directly from the device. The call audio quality is definitely superior to the expensive corporate-style conference call speaker we've got at the Military.com offices in San Francisco.
The Big Turtle Shell takes a long while to charge. It's more than a couple of hours, but I've just plugged it in overnight and found it fully charged in the morning. That long wait charges a huge battery than can also serve as a backup charger for your phone. Outdoor Tech claims you can charge an iPhone 4 times, a Samsung Galaxy 3 times or a GoPro 6 times.
The speaker holds a charge better than any I've ever used. I've gone a couple of weeks on a single charge, playing more than the 16 hours of music promised by Outdoor Tech and having the speaker sit idle for days at a time. The battery is really impressive. The Big Turtle Shell only comes in black, so you don't get the color options available on its smaller cousin.
The audio can get really loud without distorting (Outdoor Tech promises 110 db). The sound travels really well in an outdoor setting. The smaller Turtle Shell 2.0 sounds better to my ears, with slightly more clarity and brightness on the top end.
The Big Turtle Shell offers a lot of volume and fantastic battery life. It's designed to stand up to the elements and should be able to give you tunes all the way through a weekend camping trip. It's a worthy successor to the Turtle Shell 2.o if you need the extras it offers.