At this point in my career, I thought I had managed to try out Bluetooth speakers from all the major audio brands that offered them. Turns out I’ve missed one, and it’s a pretty major name: Denon. The company recently released an all-new line of portable Bluetooth speakers called Envaya, so the timing was pretty good to find out what Denon has been up to in this space. The company sent me a Denon Envaya DSB-250BT, the largest and most powerful speaker in the new lineup.
Initial impression: looks like a classic Bluetooth speaker, but a little more upscale
Based on visual appearance, the Denon Envaya DSB-250BT could have been released a decade ago. It adopts a familiar candy bar form factor, with rubberized black material covering the end caps and small feet on the bottom (it’s meant to be positioned horizontally). No upright cylinder, no 360-degree audio, no multi-colour LED light show.
However, that’s not to say the speaker looks cheap or even dated. Denon has covered most of the surface with a unique cloth that adds visual interest and a touch of elegance. The front face is angled up slightly for better sound dispersion. The Denon logo is front and centre. There are LED lights to indicate power level when started up, but they are small, white LEDs that turn off once the unit is powered up. Call it an elegant take on the classic Portable Bluetooth speaker design.
There is a microphone for voice call and Siri support, but both of these actions do require pushing a button on the speaker and rely on your smartphone.
Outstanding audio performance
The surface may look a little unremarkable, but under the cloth, Denon’s speaker reveals its performance audio heritage. This is a fairly small speaker, just 21cm wide. Yet Denon has stuffed a pair of oversized full range drivers and a positively huge passive radiator inside, along with a digital amplifier that puts out 13.5W per channel. That’s a total of 27W of output in a speaker that easily fits in one hand! In addition, Denon engineers have custom tuned the audio, which the company says will automatically optimize based on the input source.
Listening to tunes streaming from Apple Music using my iPhone, the DSB-250BT sounded fantastic.
Not many Bluetooth speakers in this class can pull off audio that sounds so good, in particular the mid-range and bass performance. Otherwise good wireless speakers in my collection that are in the same price range tended to sound thin and even tinny in comparison to the rich sound coming out of the DSB-250BT. The audio isn’t quite balanced (the highs are there but the overall sound is weighted more toward the low-end), but it’s energetic, detailed and really enjoyable to listen to. Even sitting outside (especially when sitting outside!), where the wide open spaces tend to rob speakers of their volume and low-end performance …
If you long for true stereo sound, you can buy a second Envaya speaker and pair them for left and right channel audio.
A rugged, water-resistant package
Denon says the DSB-250BT is rated IP67 water-resistant. That means you shouldn’t have to worry about dust or water. The speaker should be able to survive a half-hour submerged in one metre of water—so long as you remember to secure the plug covering the USB and AUX ports.
I tested that out and indeed, the DSB-250BT fared well with water exposure. Rain basically ran right off it. However, when submerged, that fabric eventually absorbed water and became waterlogged. Besides making the speaker heavier, all that water made for muffled audio until the cover was thoroughly dried. It was fine, despite being submerged multiple times during testing, but make a note that if you drop the DSB-250BT in the pool, you’ll need to do without tunes for a few minutes until it’s dried off.
Overall, the speaker package seems pretty rugged.
I should mention that the portability cred is enhanced by a battery life of up to 13 hours (that depends on how loud you like your music, of course), Bluetooth 4.1 with a wireless range of up to 30m and an included strap handle.
Denon Envaya DSB-250BT key specs:
Is there anything not to like?
No product is ever perfect. I really liked the Envaya DSB-250BT, but there are two things I found slightly annoying. Don’t worry, they’re both pretty minor in the grand scheme of things …
The first I already touched on—the thick cloth cover’s tendency to absorb water. For most people, 99% of the time this is a non-issue, but if you do get the speaker really soaked, be prepared to either wait or put some effort into drying it.
The second is the buttons. They’re covered with a rubber membrane to keep them watertight, but I found they require more effort to activate than they should. I really had to push that power button …
Is The Envaya DSB-250BT the Bluetooth speaker you’ve been waiting for?
In all the fuss over Wi-Fi connected smart speakers, portable Bluetooth speakers don’t get the same attention they once did. There are so many options now that in many cases they are considered a low-cost commodity product. But it’s still tough to beat a really good portable Bluetooth speaker for versatility, especially if you value high-quality audio, battery life, and durability over the integration of a voice assistant who can tell you the weather forecast.
The Denon Envaya DSB-250BT is a throwback to the glory days of Bluetooth speakers—compact and highly portable—but it brings the latest technology and high-performance audio, along with water resistance and a little bit of an upscale look with its cloth cover. If you’re shopping for a portable wireless speaker that sounds great and is easy to carry around, this one should definitely be on your list.