Sol Republic’s new Bluetooth speaker is as stylish as it is portable and it makes our Audio Tech of the Month for December 2014 - just in time for Christmas. Clocking in at AU$99, the Punk Wireless Speaker is a fantastic option for anyone chasing solid sound for small-to-medium sized area.
In terms of sound, the little guy is actually rather rich. I was able to crank it up to full volume on a number of tracks without any distortion whatsoever. The only area it seemed to fall down in was when playing tracks with pretty lots of sub-bass content - it really struggles with deep low-end at higher volumes, but that isn’t uncommon in speakers at this price range. It doesn’t suffer from wild distortion either, which is a rather nice surprise, though I did notice it start to shake and get a bit fuzzy when I was really blasting it. And blast it you can - this little fellow actually gets surprisingly loud when you’ve got it inside.
This loudness, unfortunately, didn’t seem to translate when I took it outside. Though clearly built to deal with the elements, it was hard to hear the Punk when you started to get further than about fifteen metres away from it. The top-mounted speaker blasts sound into the air, but it dissipates quite quickly. For more moderate volume, you can wring a surprisingly rich sound out of the Punk. Low range bass won’t cause too much carnage and on R&B tracks in particular it seemed quite capable of pushing the vocals ahead of some pretty intense mixes I threw at it. For those of you chasing big bass on a budget, you will be left wanting unless you step up to a more expensive, more powerful model.
Designwise, this is a very attractive little model. You can scoop one up in bright red, blue or black, though Sol has promised a number of other colours in the very near future. It’s dimensions sit at 4cm x 8.9cm x 8.9cm and it weighs in at just 212 grams. The sides are covered in a rubberised material that allow the Punk protection from the elements - it’s water, dust and shock-resistant which is a major bonus for a portable speaker. The top features a grill that hides it’s upward-pointed drivers. It’s a stylish look but I did notice that the rubberised surfaces were like magnets for cat hair. We have a domestic medium hair and the Punk looked like a bit of a furball by the end of this review. Something to be mindful of.
On the left hand side, you’ve got snap-shut panel that houses the port for the micro-usb charging cable and two ports for 3.5mm auxilliary connections, a line-in and a line-out. The front facing panel features a suite of controls in the same rubberised material as the sides - you’ve got power, volume up and down, play/pause and the Bluetooth button for pairing. I found the buttons to be a bit on the difficult side to operate and they aren’t very easy to see when they aren’t in direct light. Thankfully, you don’t have to mess around with the volume buttons too much because you can control the level from your device. There’s a small LED underneath the row of buttons that will let you know which mode you’re currently using which is a nice tough and on the underside of the device is a quarter-inch mount so you can hook the little guy up to your backpack or a tripod for when you’re getting around.
In terms of battery, the device has an advertised 8-hour battery but your mileage will obviously vary depending on how you use it. At one stage I was able to get a full 8 hours out of it by playing it quietly in a corner of my room all day. When I cranked it up one evening when we had friends over, it was calling for help within a couple of hours. The Bluetooth range is nothing to be sniffed at either - I was able to get the little fellow to around 20m from my iPhone 6 before it started to lose the Bluetooth connection, which is very impressive indeed.
Overall, the Sol Republic Punk is a perfect speaker for a flat, bedroom or dorm. It has an extremely high quality of sound projection for a model in it’s price range and they look super cool to boot. If you’re looking for something that’s going to really start the party the next time you have your friends around, you’ll probably want to aim higher - the JBL Charge and the Bose Soundlink Mini are still the high-end monsters for raw volume and clarity in a portable speaker - but this offers a great alternative if you just want to rock out in the comfort of your living room.