Denon Envaya (DSB-250BT)

Big, powerful bass from a compact wireless speaker

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Our Verdict

The Denon Envaya DSB-250BT doesn’t have advanced features like multi-room, Wi-Fi or Alexa support, but it’s one of the best and biggest-sounding in its class. A Bluetooth speaker star.

For

  • Powerful, rich, room-filling sound
  • Better balanced audio than most
  • Water-resistant

Against

  • Stiff buttons
  • Slightly larger footprint

Far from the first of its name, Denon’s Envaya range began in 2014. The latest  product to bear the name - the top-tier Denon Envaya DSB-250BT - is part of the second wave of speakers in the series. 

The Envaya DSB-250BT is the biggest of the three new models and, perhaps not coincidentally, it’s also among the best-sounding wireless speakers you can buy. Among its super powers are powerful bass, smooth tone and the ability to fill bigger rooms than it has any right to, all of which make this speaker rather special. 

 Price and availability 

Sitting high up at the top of the range, the Denon Envaya DSB-250BT costs $199 (£149, AU$229) and is the most expensive speaker in the current Envaya line-up.

It’s joined by the Envaya Mini ($149, £109, AU$98)  and the $99 (£79, around AU$130) Envaya Pocket. Be sure to avoid the older Denon Envaya DSB-100 and Envaya DSB-200 when shopping for one of these speakers - while both of those speakers are solid, the newer versions deliver even better sound quality.

Design

Considering the Denon Envaya DSB-250BT is the largest of three siblings, you might have expected it to be downright massive. But it's not. This is still a small Bluetooth speaker that you could pack in a cabin bag for a weekend break without having to leave all your clothes bar a t-shirt at home.

If you're a numbers person, the Envaya DSB-250BT measures in at 209 x 77mm (W x H), making it a fair bit smaller than its rival, the UE Megaboom.

In typical Denon style, the Envaya looks quite grown-up. Rather than embracing colour and obviously tough-looking fabrics, it’s all-black apart from the silver Denon logo. And the speaker grille uses a fairly soft fabric that wouldn’t look out on place on the front of a bookshelf speaker. 

It’s a slight surprise, then, that the Denon Envaya DSB-250BT is water-resistant. Rated to IP67, it can handle being submerged in water of up to 1m depth. Running it under a tap, the water just cascades over the Envaya. A very small amount seems to be absorbed by the fabric’s soft top layer, but this will evaporate fairly quickly.

The Denon Envaya DSB-250BT’s end caps are rubber-coated, giving them the ability to soak up some impact force should you drop it. This speaker wouldn't look out of place in a swish living room, but it’s tough enough for the outdoors too.

There’s also a cut-out on its back, letting you attach the speaker to a rucksack with a cord.  It's a feature we've seen before on the UE Roll 2, but it's good to see it again here.

Feature set

The Denon Envaya DSB-250BT has a few extra features but one of the most important things to note is what it lacks: smart speaker status. It doesn’t connect directly to Google Assistant or Alexa as a Google Home or Echo speaker does. 

That said, you can bring up Google or Siri by long-pressing the Bluetooth button on the side. There’s a mic in the speaker that lets you talk to the assistant, but this is actually just the same functionality recent wireless headphones have.

It's worth noting that the Envaya DSB-250BT's side buttons are stiff and have almost zero click feedback. If there’s a design weakness here, it’s these buttons. 

That said, however, they do work and you don’t really need to use them other than to power the speaker off and on. 

The Denon Envaya DSB-250BTs battery lasts for 13 hours at moderate volume, and is recharged using a microUSB socket on the back. This port is covered by a rubberised panel to keep water out. 

Such battery life is solid rather than excellent, and while another competitor, the Sony SRS-XB40, lasts up to 24 hours, the Denon sounds better. You can also check the battery level with a quick press on the power button. Doing so lights-up a 5-LED array on the front, to show you roughly how much charge is left.

If wireless isn't your forte, a 3.5mm socket next to the microUSB charger also lets you plug in non-wireless sources

There’s no companion app, no Wi-Fi. However, you can link up two of these speakers by pressing their Bluetooth buttons for five seconds. We haven’t had a chance to try out a stereo pair, but expect such a combo to sound great. 

Performance

Inside the the Denon Envaya DSB-250BT you'll find two 40mm active drivers and a 53x135mm passive radiator. 

This radiator is larger than most in this speaker class, and it helps give the speaker impressively authoritative  bass, digging 10-20Hz lower than most of its rivals. This makes bass drums and bass guitars sound weightier and more powerful. 

It also adds to the speaker’s sense of scale, particularly as the low-end is better controlled and separated than that of something like the Bose SoundLink Mini II. Lots of small speakers deliver bass that seems impressive for the size, but a combo of tiny active drivers and a radiator can leave them with very obvious masses in the treble and bass, but a flawed bridge between the two. 

A combination of some mid-range texture and better bass control make the Envaya DSB-250BT sound far more cohesive and coherent than many. This is a “small” portable speaker, but one with the sound quality of a speaker for the home. 

Similarly, the soundstage is relatively clean and clear, allowing for much better stereo imaging than most. 

The Denon Envaya DSB-250BT can also go pretty loud without the telling “shouty” mids of a speaker having its limits tested. It filled our 4x5m test living room well ... much as we’d still rather have a Sonos One as a speaker solely for at-home music. This is one of the very best choices you can make if you want something that will cover home listening and holidays, though.

Verdict

Despite a nearly flawless performance, the Envaya isn't perfect: While sound quaity is full, powerful and rich, it doesn’t have the treble bite some like. Treble detail is there, but it’s presented to blend in, not stick out. 

The rival Riva S also has cleaner, more detailed mids. However, considering the Riva's  sound is less powerful and doesn’t hold up as well at high volumes, the Denon Envaya DSB-250BT would still be our pick for a party.  

Overall, we feel that the Denon Envaya DSB-250BT is a great small wireless speaker, and one of the first speakers from 2018 that absolutely blew us away.