My friends may argue otherwise, but I’m not immune to fun. I can look at the Barnacle Pro in its Tidal Blue colourway (see above) and say “That’s a hoot!” Even better, this little Bluetooth speaker has a versatile mounting system. and it has a rare IP68 rating.
IP stands for “ingress protection” and in this case 6 means that dust and other particles (sand, for example) cannot enter and cause damage. The 8 means the unit can be submerged in up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) of water. Lower IP67 or IPX7 ratings are much more common, offer protection against submersion in up to one foot of water, and with the latest specification, make no promises about protection against particles. You can read all about IP codes in this other story.
This speaker should be able to withstand a trip to the bottom of the deep end of the pool, but I’m sure it will let me and the company know if I’m wrong. Now if only there were more bass.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best Bluetooth speakers, where you will find reviews of competing offerings, as well as a buyer’s guide on the features to consider when purchasing this type of product.
Barnacle Pro design and feature set
My tongue-in-cheek opening comment aside, I found Barnacle Pro’s 2.75 x 2.75-inch psychedelic blue motif appealing. It looks great attached to the shower wall with the suction cup mounted on the bottom. If you don’t like blue, this eyeball-shaped speaker is also available in six other ocean-themed colors, as well as a textured one that looks like a golf ball and comes with a green suction cup mount. I like this company, even if the Golf model costs an extra $ 5.
An included GoPro compatible mount can be substituted for the suction mount (they screw on and off), or you can use the captive key fob ring that surrounds the mounting point to turn the Barnacle Pro into a key fob. A fairly large keychain, to be sure, but one that can be quite useful in the wild if you are prone to losing those things.
The speaker floats, so it can also be useful as a keychain on a boat. (Yes, I meant ships, and don’t ask me why I think about losing things.) Speaqua also includes a USB-A to micro-USB charging cable.
The controls are on the edge of the Barnacle Pro (I still mean “Bill”!), Near the front grill, though because the raised symbols are on the same multi-colored Tidal Blue trim that keeps the water out, ‘ they are a bit difficult to distinguish visually (see above). It took a few sessions before I became familiar. If you don’t mind being boring, you might consider purchasing this speaker in a solid color, where they are undoubtedly easier to see.
On one side of the unit, you will find volume down, power / memory mode, and volume up on one side of the unit. On the other, about two inches away, you will see: previous track / switch EQ, play / pause, and next track. There is also a micro-USB port under a captive plug. Said plug is actually part of the molded waterproof cover. That’s smart, but it’s a bit difficult to open. Of course, that can be said about the waterproof multi-speaker plug.
Barnacle Pro performance
I don’t normally look at prices until I’ve thoroughly tested a review product, but I took a look at this one and $ 65 made me think the Barnacle Pro might sound special for its size. It turns out that high cost is more of a factor in your onboard storage and ingress protection. Its sound is just okay.
The mid and high frequencies are well represented and there is no audible distortion, even at the surprisingly high maximum volume. You get clear vocals, guitar, and other instruments. There’s an indoor / outdoor EQ feature as well, though from what I could see this only came off part of the top end.
The real problem is that there is almost no low-end sound. You can hear the kick and bass, but only their higher frequency components; that is, you can hear them, but you can’t feel them. The subwoofer that appears on so many hip-hop, rock, and other types of tracks just isn’t there.
The lack of bass was not unexpected in a speaker of this size, but after my review of the Sony SRS-XB13, and given the price, I was expecting a bit more. Note that I even took out a Harry Potter and listened underwater. Same treatment, and it took me a while to get the water out of my ears.
The Barnacle Pro is also monophonic, which generally simply means a lack of stereo separation. In this case, however, I also found that phase cancellation killed the lead guitar on one of my songs. That was the first time for me, although it did reveal a phase issue with the mix. That’s a good thing, at least for me as a recording engineer.
The Barnable Pro will pair with another TWS (True Wireless Stereo) speaker for stereo (best experience would be with another Barnacle Bill, uh, Pro). That should make the listening experience more enjoyable, but will not produce more bass.
The Barnacle Pro’s battery is rated for only around 8 hours of playtime, a surprisingly conservative estimate. However, to Speaqua’s credit, it was a much more accurate assessment than the optimistic figures based on playing at 10 percent volume offered by many providers.
Note that the documentation on the product page talks about Barnacle Pro’s ability to play internally stored iTunes m4a files. Also plays MP3 and WAV files; However, FLAC and WMA are not supported.
The Barnacle Pro is smart
The Barnacle Pro is a smartly designed, versatile, rugged speaker that sounds good enough given its tiny size. Its $ 65 price tag is higher than I expected, but given the multiplicity of roles it can fill, it’s not far-fetched.
Alternatively, I could use it with one of my spare sets of keys, the one I pull out of the water. I mentioned that it floats, right?