Review: Fun in the Sun with the Eco Extreme All-Terrain MP3 Speaker - Macenstein

Review: Fun in the Sun with the Eco Extreme All-Terrain MP3 Speaker

Ever since the app store first opened, I’ve pretty much become addicted to internet radio. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I’ve chosen to keep my unlimited data plan for the iPhone – I pretty much have to have music everywhere, common courtesy and Wi-Fi be damned. And this summer one of my favorite places to listen to tunes is at the Jersey Shore, Snookie-watching. Of course, the idea of letting sand, water, or Snookie anywhere near my iPhone was almost as frightening as the idea of trying to listen to music via the iPhone’s tiny speakers, so I began searching around for a rugged, portable iPhone speaker that could not only crank out the tunes, but also protect my precious glass-backed iPhone 4 from the elements.

Grace Digital Eco Extreme Speaker

Grace Digital, more famous for their wireless speakers, has built a truly impressive portable iPhone/iPod sound system with their Eco Extreme All-Terrain MP3 Speaker. Available in black, blue, or orange and costing only $49.99, you might be surprised to find just how tough and rich sounding this somewhat “toy-looking” speaker is.

Encased in shock-absorbing rubber and designed to be dust-proof, sand-proof, and tested to be submersible in 3 feet of water for over 30 minutes with no leaks, inside the Eco Extreme is probably the safest place your iPhone is ever likely to be. In fact, it even floats, so if you are an avid (but careless) boater, you’ll have time to swing back around and fish it out.

Power-wise, Grace Digital claims 3 AA batteries will give you about 30 hours of audio, and in our tests we found this to be just about right.

Grace Digital Eco Extreme Speaker


As I mentioned, the Eco Extreme is available in 3 colors, black, blue, and orange (although Grace digital likes to call them “Jet Black, Cobalt Blue, and Orange Peel”. The exterior or the case is largely plastic, surrounded by a thick border of rubber to protect against falls. The front of the unit is dominated by the large 3-inch speaker grill, and aside from the volume/power knob, there are no other external controls. On the eisde of the speaker are two latches which will create an air-tight seal (when properly closed). There is a bit of a trick to opening them, as you must first depress a small black button, then pull up on the tabs – nothing too complicated, but if you don’t read manuals, you could risk breaking the latches if you try to force them.

On the front there is a small black, plastic vent cover designed to let you empty the pressure valve if it gets too much sand and dust in it. I have not yet found this to be an issue, as although the speaker is tough, I still view it as a gadget, and therefore even on the beach I like to put it on a towel, or hang it from something. Speaking of hanging it from something, the Eco also comes with a small carabiner clip on the back, presumably to fasten it to a backpack or something while camping, but I was able to hook it to my beach umbrella pole, which was pretty sweet.

Inside the Eco Extreme you’ll find a (slightly) padded, fabric-lined interior with a mesh pocket, as well as a standard audio jack for connecting your device. This means you can use the Eco Extreme with pretty much any portable device that will fit inside, so basically any cell phone or MP3 player will work, but lets face it, you on an iPhone or an iPod, and both work great here. The mesh netting holds your iPhone reasonably secure from flopping about, although something truly thin like a caseless iPod touch might move a bit more. However, you needn’t be worried, this thing is a tank.

Grace Digital Eco Extreme Speaker


The 3” full range forward firing speaker of the Eco delivers some truly impressive sound given its size, price, and the fact that it’s only one speaker. I guess I need to stop being as blown away by how great the recent influx of affordable iPod speakers sound, because it seems these days $50 buys you what used to be $150 of sound just a few years ago. It is worth mentioning, however, that the audio quality relies heavily on not only having the speaker closed, but closed and latched securely. Somehow in creating the airtight seal, the speaker gains a ton of low-end sound, and really can deliver respectable sound for an outdoor gathering. On the beach, with the waves crashing and such, I would not count on being able to annoy your fellow beach goers into clearing anything larger than a 10-15 foot circle around you, but for more serene settings, such as hiking, camping, or sitting on your deck, you probably won’t need to crank the speaker up more than 80%.

There is a slight tendency to introduce a little distortion at the highest volume, but I found decreasing the volume on the iPhone to 85% or so eliminated this.


I have two minor issues with the Eco – one design based, and one functionality based, but neither worth taking points off for. Design-wise, the way the internal audio cable is situated (flopping around loosely) is great in that it allows it to reach a number of device’s audio ports, but it is very easy to get the cable caught in the edge of the device as you close it if you are not careful and sort of tucking it back in as you close the device. If you don’t notice the cable is in the the seal and close the airtight locks, you risk putting a crimp in the cable (trust me, I know). This didn’t seem to have any real ill effects, but it could hurt the cable or worse, make a crease int he airtight rubber that surrounds the seal, so be careful with it.

Grace Digital Eco Extreme Speaker

Functionally, there is really only one issue in using the Eco Extreme, and it is that all protection comes at the expense of accessibility. This means something as simple as wanting to skip a song, or answer a phone call, becomes kind of a pain. Obviously if you’re using an iPod, the phone call thing won’t be a hassle, but I would suggest you make playlists with songs you truly like when using the Eco, as when your hands are covered in sand and suntan lotion, you don’t want to have to keep opening the Eco, removing your device, sliding the screen unlock etc. and then reinserting/relocking just to skip a song.


The Eco Extreme All-Terrain MP3 Speaker is exactly what I have been looking for in a portable iPhone speaker. It’s rugged, it sounds great, and it friggin’ floats! What more could you want?

Price: $49.99
Pros: Great sound, great protection. Water-proof, sand proof, floats in water.
Cons: None worth mentioning

4 Responses to “Review: Fun in the Sun with the Eco Extreme All-Terrain MP3 Speaker”
  1. Jonro says:

    Great review! This looks like a great accessory. By the end of the review, I was hoping you were going to have a contest and give one away.

  2. Richard Turner says:

    Sounds great. Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. The Captain says:

    Great for outdoor fun and unexpected rain burst well outdoors it would seem.
    I think I’d use it more with an iPod though.

  4. Rob says:

    I have something almost identical to this that I picked up about 5 years ago when I got my second iPod Photo. Even back then it was only $15…but it wasn’t made like a tank…but then again I really don’t need a tank.

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