If you’re looking for an inspiring speaker to highlight in your next party, then Anker’s $ 99 Soundcore Rave Neo is just what you’re looking for. It’s loud with a tight, thumpy low end that will encourage all sorts of rhythmic actions and thoughts. (She had my roommate Bridget dancing in zero seconds flat).
Audiophile, it’s not, but that’s not its gig and Neo’s rave renders the desired air effect of its components.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best Bluetooth speakers, where you will find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.
Design and features
The Soundcore Rave Neo is an upright, monophonic speaker that measures slightly more than 11 inches tall, about 5.5 inches in its thickness, and about 7 inches wide. It weighs in at a little less than 7 pounds, but an easy-on-the-hand, fabric-covered strap makes for easy toting.
The controls for Rao Neo are on top of the unit as you can see in the product image above. There’s the usual volume up / down, Bluetooth pairing, and power buttons, plus a flip to boost the bass. Also on hand is the link button for PartyCast, which will connect the Rave Neo with up to 100 of its ilk.
There’s a button to change the patterns produced by the RGB LEDs indirectly through the 4-inch woofer (there’s a 2-inch full range driver and passive radiator as well), and a very unusual icon (between the plus / minus) representing a multi-function play / pause / before / next button.
Anker includes a “universal” one-picture-is-worth-a-thousand-word type manual for the Rave Neo, but it might be a lot clearer and was incomplete. For example, it didn’t cover switching between the three EQ modes (done via the Soundcore app) or how to invoke the Siri / Google phone function at all. I had to look at Anker’s website on the first, and I discovered the latter (super long press on the weird icon) by absolute luck.
The Rave Neo will evaluate IPX7 for protection against water, meaning you can immerse it in kiddie pools (up to a meter) for up to 30 minutes (you can read more about IP ratings and what they mean in this story). To this end, the USB-C charging port, USB Type-A charge-other-thing port, and 3.5 mm auxiliary stereo inputs are hidden under a captive rubber plug on the back of the unit.
The Soundcore Rave Neo might be the most just named speaker I’ve run across. It is designed for parties, where volume and bass count for more than uber fidelity. Seen (and listened to) from this perspective, it’s a good speaker.
Neo’s best Rave trick by far is its tight, pumped bass. Anker nailed it, and the section in the mid-range it accentuates is one of the most likely to cut through crowd noise, wind, and other ambient stuff.
As usual, I threw a variety of styles at the speaker, and I wasn’t impressed until I cranked it up and hit the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) with hip hop selection. At that point, he came to life.
The EQ’s staff in the Soundcore app made a big difference for the quieter type of music, though it couldn’t fully compensate due to a slight general lack of high-end sparkle, somewhat weak upper mid-range definition, and the absence of stereo separation. Quiet contemplation isn’t really Rave Neo’s thing. That said, with the default “outside” EQ setting, the mid-range portion that cuts through crowds and other noise is definitely there.
I let the bass boost engage for the most part, and use the EQ to call it back as needed.
Battery life was just around claiming the 18 hours of the lowest volumes I used, but is decreasing as things get stronger. If you’re going to hard parts for that long, you’ll need an AC outlet.
Anker also sent me a smaller Soundcore Flare 360 speaker ($ 69) to test features of PartyCast that he and the Rao Neo share. The Flare 360 has better high-frequency performance and stereo separation, but weaker bass. The couple was far more sonically satisfied than either speaker on its own.
Note that PartyCast linking was easy, but that there was no sound from the 360 rocket until I boosted the volume on the Rave Neo. The lack of emanation stunned me for a good half hour.
A great outdoor speaker or party
As it will likely be used in conditions where the relative lack of sparkle and upper-range definition will not matter, the Soundcore Rave Neo is on point for its mission: loud, vibrant, dense music delivery. Buy it for that. And if you want a nicer Sonic experience, pair it with the Soundcore Rocket 2.