Turtlebox 2021 Speaker Review: Portable, Rugged, but at What Cost?
Whenever I get asked about outdoor speakers, I always recommend buying portable speakers. Yes, some people want dedicated speakers for their outdoor areas, but I love to suggest Bluetooth speakers as a better alternative. They can be taken anywhere, they can be easily replaced if you upgrade, and they aren’t that expensive. Plus the convenience! When Turblebox reached out for a review of their portable speaker, I jumped at the chance. Fortunately, Turtlebox had just made some improvements to their speaker for 2021. They sent me their most recent offering.
Turtlebox Speaker Specs
- Waterproof – IP67 Fully Waterproof & Dustproof, Impact Resistant.
- Sound Designed for Outdoors
- Big Battery Pack – 20 hours of music at easy-listening volume and 6+ hours at max volume.
- Charges your Phone
- Bluetooth Stereo Pairing – Wirelessly Connect any Two Turtlebox speakers for True LEFT/RIGHT Stereo Imaging.
- Dimensions: 11.5″ W x 6.5” D x 8.75” H; Weight: 10 lbs (about the size of a lunchbox)
- Marine Grade Speaker – 6″x9″ Polypropylene Speaker Cone with Rubber Surround and High-Efficiency Driver; 1.25″ tweeter
- LED Control Pad – Illuminated LED Rubber Control Pad including Volume Control and Track Skip
- Five-Step Battery Level LED Indicator – Works just like a fuel gauge on your car, you’ll always know how much juice is left
- Tie-down Anchors – Located on both sides for use with 1” straps.
- Auxiliary Output – Standard 3.5mm
New for 2021
- Fuller, richer sound with more bass due to larger amp and driver
- Five-Step Battery Level Indicator so you’ll always know how much juice you have left
- Larger 1.25” Tweeter
- USB-C Charging Input and Output for charging your phone
- Three more battery cells mean a monster-sized 9-cell Lithium-Ion Battery
Turtlebox 2021 Speaker Overview and Setup
The 2021 Turlebox speaker is a beast. This thing feels just as rugged as it looks. The ports are all contained under the protective cap. Yes, I found the cap confusing at first. But it is a pretty elegant solution to the problem of protecting the ports. Too many of my outdoor devices have simple rubber plugs that don’t really stay in place. Putting all the ports in one place and having the cap as a very visual reminder when they were exposed worked well for me.
Powering on the 2021 Turtlebox put the speaker immediately into Bluetooth pairing mode. I paired it with my phone quickly. I didn’t have a second Turtlebox speaker to test out the stereo mode but that too seemed easy to do with a simple button press. The power meter on the control pad was a welcome addition. Too often you don’t know how much battery you have until the speaker announces that you are almost out. The meter was one of my favorite things about the Turtlebox speaker.
The big thing to remember about the Turtlebox is that it is designed for outdoor use. There are slits on the sides so that you can strap the speaker down if needed. IP67 rating means it can resist any amount of dust (important for worksites) and immersion into water. The marine-grade drivers ensure that the drivers can take the elements as well. Along with the protective cap, the hardware is all stainless steel, further protecting the Turtlebox from the elements. This speaker isn’t built to resist the elements, it is overbuilt to defeat the elements!
While pairing wirelessly to the Turlebox was simple, the connection wasn’t as great as I’ve experienced before. The lag was in the range of multiple seconds. What this meant is that as I started a video on my phone or computer (I paired both at different times), the audio would be delayed a couple of seconds from what I was seeing on the screen. If you are just playing music from your phone, this isn’t an issue. But if you want to pair it with a device that also displays video, you’ll want to consider another connection method. Unfortunately, there isn’t one.
The protective cap, I quickly found out, wasn’t just there to protect from the elements. The inputs on the Turtleboox 2021 speaker have full access to the inside of the speaker. I discovered this when I tried to use the speaker while charging it. I was hearing a lot of noise from the speaker and I couldn’t figure out why. When I unplugged the charging cable and replaced the cap, the noise went away. This has a couple of implications.
First, the sound quality was greatly affected by having the cap off. This means that you really can’t use the speaker and charge it at the same time. It also can’t be used while using the other port to charge your phone. Technically, you can use the speaker, you’ll just be compromising the sound quality and adding port noise to your listening experience.
This also indicates that the IP67 rating is predicated on that cap being securely fastened to the speaker. If you leave this speaker out in the elements with the cap off, you are essentially exposing the inside of the speaker to the outside world. While I doubt this would be much of an issue, it does mean you can’t just leave your phone connected to the charging port and walk away. Now, I thought it could just be the Aux port that was making the noise. I tried plugging it, but the sound was still coming from the other two USB-C ports.
Turtlebox Sound Quality
If you read all the marketing material, the Turtlebox 2021 speaker is intended to get loud. And that it does! Volume was never a problem with the Turtlebox. But loud doesn’t necessarily equate to good sound quality. I mostly tested the Turtlebox inside. I played a lot of music through it as well as some sweeps. This allowed me to really hear how good the speaker sounded and where some of the issues might be.
If you look at the specs, you’ll notice there is no frequency response rating for the Turtlebox. In my testing, the speaker could play down to about 50Hz. Honestly, at lower volumes, the speaker sounded pretty good. The bass wasn’t as impressive as I would have expected from a speaker of this size, but it was acceptable. The top end was a little shrill, but at moderate volumes it was acceptable. The real problems were revealed when I started listening to the sweeps.
The crossover between the large woofer and the tweeter was immediately evident. I could clearly hear the change in timbre as the woofer dropped off and the tweeter picked up. It wasn’t subtle. Also, the problems with the bass intensified as I increased the volume. The speaker got more and more shrill at higher volumes. The Turtlebox site talks about their special frequency curve that “cuts through the wind.” I believe this high-frequency emphasis is expressly for this purpose. Having lots of high-end energy should allow the speaker to be audible in a noisy environment. Inside, it didn’t sound great. I have no problems believing that the 2021 Turtlebox speaker sounds much better in a loud, outdoor environment. When you bring it inside, you’ll have to turn it down to more moderate levels to maximize its sound quality.
Price and Conclusion
The 2021 Turtlebox speaker isn’t cheap. At $374 MSRP, it’s hard to contemplate buying two for stereo. But you are getting a very rugged, weatherproof speaker. This is the sort of speaker that can be dropped, kicked, doused in water, covered in sawdust, and more and keep playing. The massive battery promises all-day music. Outside, at the job site, this speaker is likely to be a huge hit and the object of envy. Just make sure you keep that cap on.
For more information, visit TurtleboxAudio.com.