The Tronsmart Element Force is a well featured 40W compact ruggedised and waterproof portable Bluetooth speaker. It has three EQ modes including one for enhanced bass, a wireless stereo mode for pairing to another speaker, the latest USB-C charging and Bluetooth 5.0 – with NFC one-touch pairing, 15 hours of battery life and you can even play music off a microSD card.
At around £50 or $50 it faces stiff competition. I’ll be comparing it against the JBL Flip 4, Anker Soundcore Boost and the Tribit MaxSound Plus. How do its features stack up, and most importantly how does it sound?
Inside the box, you get the speaker itself, a USB-C charging cable, a 3.5mm audio cable and a multilingual instruction manual.
The speaker has an industrial design, quite different from other speakers in this class I’ve looked at recently. It’s wrapped around in soft rubber and has a metal grill front and back, with the Tronsmart branding appearing rather too prominently for my tastes. It’s a little heavier and larger than the other speakers I’m comparing it too, weighing 796g and measures 204mm x 64mm x 80mm.
It certainly feels robust and there’s no flexing or creaking. I quite like the design, although the rubber finish does attract fingerprints and dust.
Around the back you can just see the large passive radiator behind the grill and above is a rubber flap for the speaker’s IPX7 waterproof rating which reveals a USB-C charging port, microSD card slot and a 3.5mm audio in port for a wired connection. I’m always happy to see the modern and robust reversible USB-C port. You don’t often see a microSD card slot and I would have preferred a USB charging port like on the Anker Soundcore Boost. But it does allow for completely untethered music playback which might be useful for some.
Around one side is a buckle, I guess for clipping to your bag, and along the top are the speaker’s controls and the NFC sensor both of which I’ll come back to. The black on black controls are a little difficult to see with limited lighting.
The speaker has a decent 6600mAh battery and is meant to support fast charging at 3A at 5V. I didn’t get anywhere near these speeds myself, even using a 30W USB Power Delivery charger with a dual ended USB-C cable. I got a maximum of 1.6A and a full charge took just over three hours.
The power LED lights red whilst charging and then turns off when fully charged. You can use the speaker whilst it’s charging. The red light will flash when the battery is low. I found when the speaker got to around 20% according to its rather optimistic battery status on my phone, I’d get the warning light, and I’d only have another five or ten minutes of playback time before it turned itself off.
A two second press of the power button turns the speaker on accompanied by a sound that can’t be disabled. The power LED flashes blue indicating the speaker is ready for pairing. Tap on Tronsmart Element Force in your Bluetooth settings. There’s another sound and the power LED goes a steady blue. The speaker will power off automatically after 15 minutes if there’s no music playback.
Like the Boost and the Tribit MaxSound Plus, you can only pair to one device at a time. Only the JBL supports multi-pairing. But like the JBL, the Tronsmart does support stereo pairing if you have a second speaker. Unfortunately I don’t have another speaker to try out this feature.
If you want to pair to another device, press and hold the M button for two seconds until the blue light starts flashing indicating it’s again ready for pairing.
If you have any connection issues, you can reset the speaker by holding down the M button for 6-8 seconds with the speaker on, until it powers off. All Bluetooth pairing records will be deleted.
If you have a device with NFC support, you can quickly pair to the speaker using its NFC sensor when it’s in pairing mode. Make sure NFC is turned on in Settings on your phone, and tap the phone on the NFC logo. You’ll get a pairing request on your phone which you’ll just need to confirm. It’s a handy feature that not enough devices have, probably due to the fact that Apple don’t support this capability of NFC.
With all the features of this speaker, it’s not a huge surprise that the controls are a little confusing. I had to refer to the manual on several occasions. The power button turns on and off the speaker with a two second press. But a single press with a device already paired also controls your preferred voice assistant, either Google or Siri, using the speaker’s built in microphone.
The M button switches playback between Bluetooth, the microSD card and a wired connection. It’s also used for Bluetooth pairing and resetting the speaker as already discussed.
The Play button controls music playback and handles phone calls. I’m pleased to see the volume buttons also skip tracks with a long press – which I find more intuitive than the double and triple press of the play button, that a lot of speakers adopt.
Finally the EQ button cycles EQ modes from the default Extra Bass mode without any accompanying LED lit, to 3D audio with the LED lit blue, to Standard mode with the LED lit white. A long press of the EQ button is used for stereo pairing to another speaker.
There’s no accompanying app to configure the speaker or control EQ, but you could use your device’s EQ settings for that.
You can copy music to a microSD card in a number of formats for independent playback from the speaker. It’s tricky inserting the microSD card and even harder removing it! Press the M button to switch to microSD card playback. You can still use the playback controls and the various EQ modes. The music will be played back in alphabetical order and loops continuously. Even after turning off the speaker, it continues to playback from its last position which is quite neat.
Sound quality & performance
The default mode is Extra Bass with the EQ light off, but I tend to leave the speaker in Standard mode with the white LED on and experiment with the EQ modes depending on what I’m listening to. The speaker remembers your chosen mode even after it’s turned off.
In Standard mode, the speaker’s two 20W full range drivers and dual passive radiators deliver a balanced sound. There’s still decent bass for the size of the speaker, and the mids come through clearly. The highs can sound harsh with busy tracks and at louder volumes and it doesn’t have quite the clarity of the Tribit MaxSound Plus or the JBL Flip 4 but it still sounds good.
When you turn Extra Bass on, the Element Force does have a surprising amount of bass for a relatively small speaker and it’s also much louder. For some tracks this sounds really good, but some of the music I tried playing did suffer from distortion, and not just at maximum volume. 3D mode with the blue LED had less distortion and did a pretty decent job of expanding the soundstage. You can hopefully hear for yourself in the video as I compare the different EQ modes of the Tronsmart. You can also hear how it compares to three other similar sized speakers: the Tribit MaxSound Plus and the Anker Soundcore Boost both of which I’ve reviewed recently, that cost around the same price, and the JBL Flip 4 that is a little more expensive.
I’ve recorded the sound test in the video with binaural microphones that capture stereo sound, to try and provide the closest representation of what I was hearing. Please listen with headphones for the best experience.
The speaker has the latest Bluetooth 5.0, and I got similar range to the Tribit and Anker speakers, but not quite that of the JBL Flip 4. It could still reach the next room of my 50s brick built house, around 10 metres away. The connection was generally reliable although I did get the occasional very brief dropout in my testing.
There’s no support for the higher quality aptX or AAC codecs, but you could always connect via the 3.5mm cable or use a microSD card for potentially better sound quality.
Even with Bluetooth 5.0, there was some audio sync delay with YouTube on iOS as is commonplace, but it was barely noticeable with YouTube on Android and with Netflix on both platforms.
The microphone quality is adequate for phones calls, although there is some background hiss.
It feels like a robust speaker and its IPX7 waterproof rating held up fine in my testing.
Battery life was pretty decent – I got around 8-10 hours of playback, often at louder volumes and with a combination of EQ settings. So I imagine the quoted 15 hours of playback at medium volume would be achievable.
I can see the Tronsmart Element Force being a popular speaker. Its robust build quality and impressive range of features make it a very good value option at this price point.
Its sound quality is generally very good and it’s certainly loud. You do need to watch out for distortion, particularly in the default Extra Bass mode, but it is nice to have these EQ options available.
I would have liked multi-pairing support and a USB charging port would have been more useful to me than a microSD slot, if it had to be one or the other.
Between the speakers I compared it to in the sound test, if you want the best clarity even at higher volumes, I’d probably go for the Tribit or JBL. If you prefer more emphasis on bass you should consider both this speaker and the Anker. The mid range is a little brighter with the Tronsmart and it’s louder, but the Anker has less distortion.
The Anker also has a USB charging port and is a little smaller, but is not completely waterproof like the Tronsmart so it’ll depend on what features are most important to you.
I think overall the Tronsmart is a good all rounder and should definitely be on your shortlist if you’re looking for a speaker in this category.
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