Upgrade Your Backcountry Audio
We know that sometimes nothing is quite as loud as the welcome silence found deep in the backcountry. But sometimes, a little music can go a long way. Sanity against the elements, camaraderie among friends, fueling that serendipitous moment when unexpected events and the perfect tune become the perfect soundtrack to the moment. For those who agree, you should know that we’re living in the golden age of portable music. Those awkward docking stages are so last decade; there have been some serious advances in small, portable Bluetooth mini-speakers that boast long battery life and high-quality audio. And Grain Audio’s relatively new PWS may be the most handsome of the bunch. This packable wireless system foregoes the rubberized Jambox aesthetic, using FSC-certified walnut to give it a modern yet classical look. The wood is also said to deliver a warmer, more natural sound. Inside, the soundboard and speaker have been tweaked to avoid gaming the audio quality with simple “enhancement” tricks, boasting a clean sound with—audiophiles take note—both Apt-X and ACC. Operation looks simple: a main button, positioned between the volume controls on top of the speaker, lets you pair the Bluetooth system to your smart device, plays and pauses the audio, and has a blacklight that indicates the battery level, which is rated to eight hours at a full charge (via a USB/wall cable). At only seven inches long, it’s easy to stash in your pack, and the weight is comparable to other speakers on the market. But at $250 it’s pricier than even some highly-rated speakers like the Bose SoundLink Mini, which retails for $200. Beauty? It comes at a cost.