The Chainlink

Product Review: Dreamwave Explorer Bluetooth Speaker with Bike Mount

By Sarah Dandelles


I’m not really a gadget person. I like riding bikes, but I’m not even a big bike-gear person. I’m definitely a functional bike person, though, and I cross over into the décor zone for special occasions (fine, I’ll admit it - any holiday or event...). While some riders “ooh” and “ahh” over components or each lost ounce of bike weight, I get excited by new places to put more things on my bike, and better ways to not have to reach far for anything as I am riding. Everyone is different.


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The Dreamweaver Explorer mounted on my Cross-Check’s handlebar stem, McClory Trail.

But when I started riding with the DreamWave EXPLORER 15W Outdoor Bluetooth 4.0 Portable Speaker System, it was a bit jarring: not only did I worry about making room for it on my bike (it fits fine just where it’s supposed to go; see pics), but I had to mentally make space for “out-loud” sounds coming from my rig while riding, something I hadn’t experienced before. I’ve always been mostly an ambient bike rider, relishing the sounds of the city, and once in awhile am someone who listens to podcasts, crime fiction on Audible, or WBEZ’s “Worldview” - all through earbuds. I’ve enjoyed many group rides with friends who have speakers, and it can be lovely when music flows through the group. Or it can be terrible, depending on what’s playing and the volume. When I tested the Explorer, I was cognizant of my fellow riders and never turned it up too loudly on the road. Before we start in on the earbud versus speaker discussion, please check out this 2012 experiment by RideOn, which found that people on bicycles with earbuds heard more traffic sounds than people in cars with nothing on. So, let’s agree to agree: It’s OK to listen to something while riding at a reasonable personal volume, as long as we are also paying attention to the road and respecting the people around us.

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Even with other additions to my bars, the Explorer mounted easily, and the sound is perfectly situated for riding.

The Explorer was a snap to set up and pair with my phone, and the initial charge took a few hours, easily indicated by an orange light near the port (a blue light in the speaker lets you know it’s paired with your device). And this speaker was seriously charged - it lasts 20 hours with normal use (!) and six at top volume with full bass. You can also use the Explorer to charge and power other things - it charged my always-dying phone in less than an hour. The bicycle mount (which comes standard with this speaker) took a painless five minutes to install, and is very sturdy. Riding in the city, I listened to music and tried to listen to a nonfiction book, and although both sounded fantastic through the Explorer, I wasn’t able to “stay tuned” to the book while dodging doors. Besides the power charging option, another great thing about this speaker is that it’s fully functional as a bluetooth device for your phone: when I got a phone call mid-ride, it paused my book and the call came right through, allowing me to talk on the phone hands-free in the same way I would in my car. Very easy to operate, too, with big accessible buttons.

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The Explorer’s handy size and weight makes it ultra portable on- or off-bike.

This speaker, at 15 watts, a mere 1.5 pounds, and about 7.5 inches long and 2.75 inches deep, in a neutral olive green color, is quite powerful for music. Dreamwave Audio is a California-based company that only makes bluetooth speakers - eight of them, at last count - ranging from $30 to $300 in price. The Explorer comes in at the midpoint, $149, and is a robust and well-thought-out piece of equipment from which you’ll get many hours of enjoyment.

 

The sound is really high quality. I was surprised by the variety and subtlety of sound it reproduced, even at lower volumes. Riding through a forest preserve trail with Yo La Tengo was just blissful, and the Explorer handled a mix of very eclectic music elegantly. To be honest, I never thought about the quality of the sound because it was so clear and nuanced, without even a hint of distortion, ever. In the past I’ve said that the best way to listen to new music is in a car, but riding on an empty gravel path with a new album as my companion came in a close second in terms of really being able to hear the music.

 

A friend who is a DJ and builder of bike sound systems suggested that I test the speaker with “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega - apparently, this song is the mother of the mp3, so I did that, too, just for fun. Sounded great! For my last ride, I took a long afternoon trail ride, and listened to a book the whole time. Lovely. Even when it rained a bit, I wasn’t worried, because the Explorer is rated IPX5 for water, dust, sand, and snow. Very impressive, and that protection would make this a great year-round camping speaker as well.

 

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Ahhh, bike maintenance outside - with music!

Besides riding accompaniment, there were other uses I found for the speaker, too: Since it can be removed from the bike mount easily (without removing the mount itself), I brought it outside into the back yard on more than one occasion and was able to work on my bikes while Iron and Wine crooned next to me, and I brought it onto the porch with NPR and into the kitchen when I needed my hands free for chopping but wanted to hear the end of my audiobook.

The Explorer is a welcome addition to my rides, and a very handy, hardy piece of equipment that I found myself using much more often than not. It brought music into my life without interrupting my normal on- and off-bike routines. I find that to be highly functional, and pretty darn fun! If you’re looking for a wireless bluetooth speaker, this one is truly excellent, and so user-friendly that even the gadget-avoidant just might get hooked.

About the Author:

Sarah Dandelles, a cycling advocate, editor and nonprofit director in Chicago, began commuting by bike in Chicago in 1999, went car-free in 2006, and rides a rotating stable of non-flashy bikes year-round (slowly and usually upright) for work and pleasure.

Recent Article: Product Review: Brompton H2L Folding Bike "B-Romp"

 

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Comment by Sarah D. on June 26, 2017 at 1:59am

Yaco, thanks so much and I love your story! 850 miles?!! 

Comment by Mitchell Levin on June 24, 2017 at 7:02am
Why would you listen to music while riding a bike? That seems dangerous.
Comment by yaco boobies on June 23, 2017 at 10:36pm

Excellent review. Made me think back to the summer of 1969 when I got a neat light and FM radio for my new Schwinn Sting-Ray from my aunt. About the size of the Explorer. It actually worked really well. I was able to listen to Rock music for the first time (my father forbid the listening of Rock & Roll). The bike was the only place I could listen - I was hooked and as a 7 year old rode 850 miles that summer. The old man was convinced I really liked riding the bike. Totally clueless - it was the music that motivated me! Hadn't thought about music on the bike since till now - I gotta get the Explorer!

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