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Tdk Trek Wireless Outdoor Speaker
TDK Life on Record TREK Max A34 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker Review: An indoor/outdoor speaker that sounds great and is affordable.
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Managing editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of the Review’s team since 2000. Covering a wide range of gadgets, he is a renowned reviewer of mobile devices and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He is also an e-reader and e-publishing expert and author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
The Trek Max A34 is the successor to TDK Life On Record’ highly rated A33 Wireless Weatherproof speaker, which I found to be a great value at $150. (Availability outside the US has not been announced, but that price changes to just over £87, or just under AU$160, for comparison.) The new Trek Max A34 looks the same as the A33 and costs the same, but has slightly improved sound and adds some new features. This includes NFC tap-to-pair technology, as well as a pause/play button and navigation controls on the speaker itself.
The affordable TDK Life on Record Trek Max A34 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker offers improved sound over the previous A33 and offers excellent sound for its size. It has a rugged, waterproof design, speaker functionality and a USB charging port to charge your smartphone or tablet. It also has navigation controls on the device itself, as well as NFC tap-to-pair technology.
You have to charge the speaker with an AC adapter instead of the usual small USB cable. Although the battery life has improved to 8 hours, it is still not good.
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The TDK Life on Record Trek Max A34 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker delivers great sound for its size and capabilities, and is well-suited for indoor and outdoor use with a rugged, weatherproof design.
Like the A33, the first thing you notice about the Trek Max when you pick it up is that it has a certain heft to it. It weighs 2.7 pounds (1.2 kg) and measures 3.7 inches high by 2 inches deep by 9.5 inches wide (94 mm x 51 mm x 241 mm), making it a mid-sized wireless speaker rather than a true mini bluetooth speaker. If you’re looking for something truly portable, it’s not, but the extra size – at least in this case – means better sound.
Although it has a simple, boxy design, I liked it. It has clean lines, and the buttons on the top of the device are well placed and clearly labeled with LED lights. As I said, this model has some extra buttons on top, and that’s where you’ll see the biggest difference in design between this and the old model.
The speaker has two 1.5-inch drivers and a 2.5-inch subwoofer in the front and two rear 3-inch passive radiators in the back. It is splash proof, has active speakers and ports covered with a removable rubber door that keeps moisture and dust out. Behind the rubber cover you’ll find an audio input for non-Bluetooth devices, a USB charging port (for charging your smartphone from the speaker’s internal battery), a power switch and a 12-volt DC-in charging port. Unfortunately, like some of these powerful compact speakers, you have to charge the unit with a separate AC adapter and not with a standard Micro-USB cable.
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It is worth noting that at first I found it a bit difficult to turn on the speaker. If you are using the speaker from the AC adapter (in battery mode), you must turn the aforementioned power switch to “on”. You now just need to gently press the power button on the top of the unit for a second and release (you should wait a second or two for the light to turn on). If you have paired your device with the speaker once, it should be paired again from now on (or, if you have a phone that supports NFC pairing, you can tap your phone on the speaker to pair it).
There is a built-in speakerphone capability (the speakerphone worked well as long as I was standing close to the speaker) and the unit has rubber feet on the bottom to prevent it from moving or the vibration increases when you play loud music. The previous model (A33) has a small stand that allows you to prop the speaker up at a small angle and push it up a little. This new model does not. Neither the A33 nor the Trek Max come with a bag or backpack.
The old A33 sounded great for its size and price point, but I noted in my review that it fell a little short with some songs. TDK engineers apparently read the reviews and tweaked the sound to make it better. It doesn’t affect any of the tracks I mentioned in my previous review, which doesn’t seem like a coincidence.
Overall, this speaker sounds great for its size, has a good punch in the bass and provides a reasonable amount of detail, although its treble performance is not great. Overall, it’s a pretty good speaker, and it fared better in our tests than most speakers in this category and at higher prices. There is little stereo separation, but that is par for the course for this type of speaker when the drivers are very close together.
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A lot of people are wondering how this compares to the EU Boom ($199.99), another weather speaker I like a lot, and I think their sound is close. The Boom is a smaller speaker, so it’s easier to carry, and it has almost twice the battery life (15 hours compared to the Trek Max’s 8 hours). Another small advantage of the EU Boom is that you can combine the two together. But the Trek Max offers a USB charging port and costs $50.
I also think the cylindrical boom and its “360-degree” sound are best suited for outdoor use (it’s really designed to be an outdoor speaker). On the other hand, TDK’s bass performance can be improved by placing the speaker closer to a wall or something that allows some reflection. Well designed, the TDK undoubtedly holds the edge in listening.
If you want to leave something in the quality department, TDK also makes the smaller A26, which weighs 12.2 ounces and features Bluetooth 4.0 technology (the A33 and Trek Max use Bluetooth 2.1). It charges with a standard Micro-USB cable rather than a power adapter (battery life 6 hours). I haven’t tried the speaker yet, but it’s around $80 online.
Finally, if you want to go even smaller, there’s the Trek Micro ($59.99), which is similar to JBL’s Clip speaker and other “micro” Bluetooth speakers.
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In the final review, TDK eliminated many of the flaws I found in my A33 review and even improved the measured battery life by several hours, extending it to 8 hours. The Trek Max isn’t perfect, but at half the price of the Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III, it’s arguably one of the best portable Bluetooth speakers for the money, especially if you’re looking for a speaker you plan to use both indoors and outdoors. .
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