One of the most frustrating things when reading Internet reviews of audio is that a lot of the guys (and they’re always guys) pretend like they’re evaluating audio gear based on some mythical absolute quality scale. There’s no speaker (or computer or phone or gun, for that matter) that can be all things to all people. The Outdoor Tech Turtle Shell 2.0 Bluetooth speaker has very specific ambitions (hint: the name includes “outdoor”) and does a fantastic job of delivering the goods for the right listener.
So, what you do get here? You get a weird-looking device that’s easy to handle with average-sized adult hands. You’re going to be able to recognize by feel when you fish it out of a backpack in the dark. When you flip the power switch, the a spoken voice announces “power On” or “power off.” That same voice tells you when you’ve successfully paired a bluetooth device and, if you’ve paired more than one, it tells you which device is now active. Attention to that particular detail might not seem like a big deal if you haven’t tried a lot of other Bluetooth speakers, but that particular feature eliminates a lot of the frustration that seems built-in with Bluetooth.
You get a rubber cover that protects the micro USB charging port and the audio-in port from dust and damp when you’re using the Turtle Shell outside. The Turtle Shell sounds better with an audio cable connected from the source, but the gap between Bluetooth and wired connections isn’t as obvious as on a lot of competing speakers.
There are four feet that raise the speaker up from whatever surface you set it on and the rubber grill on the bottom gives some facsimile of bass thump.
There are two speakers up top and the all the geodesic dome–style angles help throw the sound around the room. This is one of the few speakers that sounds good from every angle. That means there’s no stereo effect with this guy, but the designers actually understand that you’re never going to get a significant stereo effect in an open space anyway.
It’s also reassuringly loud and able to take a lot of abuse. Jambox owners who feel like they dented their speaker just by looking at it wrong would especially appreciate the sturdy construction.
The Turtle Shell 2.0 comes with a travel bag, an audio cable and a USB charging cable. There are also some Outdoor Tech stickers you can use on your SUV if you’re a stickers-on-SUV person.
Especially sporty types can add the Turtle Claw Bike Mount, which allows confident riders to stream audio when they’re on the road and avoid getting run over because their earbuds prevented them from hearing that truck.
Actually, the on-bike appeal might have more to do with the Turtle Shell’s ability to function as a speakerphone. You can answer calls by pressing the Bigfoot button on the side of the speaker.
The Turtle Shell 2.0 just came out and it sells for $129.95 pretty much everywhere. It comes in eight different colors, including purple and orange. The Turtle Claw sells for $19.95. You can get free shipping from the Outdoor Tech website.
There’s a larger Turtle Shell due later this year. If you need something reliable that can take a beating, this one makes an outstanding choice.