REVIEW – If you search for “Lodge” on Google, you’re going to get a bunch of links to the famous cast-iron cookware followed by Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Great Wolf Lodge. What you won’t see are any links to a solar-powered Bluetooth speaker. That’s a shame because the Lodge Solar Speaker 4 Series-2 speaker deserves to be near the top of Google’s search list. Let me explain why.
What is it?
The Lodge Solar Speaker Series 2 speaker (Lodge uses the lowercase “lodge” for their name—I won’t) is a waterproof, solar-powered outdoor (and indoor) speaker made to be left outside in the elements. The Lodge speaker is as close to a set-and-forget setup as possible.
The Lodge speaker is not large but weighs a hefty 7.5 lbs. Its size is 10.5” X 6” X 7” HxWxD. Only one color choice is available—black with tasteful jade/gray trim bordering the edges.
The reason black is the predominant color is that the sides, back, and top of the speaker are made of 180 sq. inches of solar panels. Solar panels ensure that power is available at all times. If left outdoors, there will be enough sun from day to day to max out the internal batteries for hours of listening. One hour of solar charging provides 2-3 hours of playtime (depending on volume, range, and other factors).
Four small LED lights in the top panel indicate battery life. If there isn’t sufficient sunlight and the batteries are drained, the Lodge speaker can be recharged using an included USB-C to USB-B cable. The USB-C port sits at the rear of the speaker just under the rear solar panel. A small rubberized plug keeps water out. Lodge strongly recommends that the plug is in place at all times except when recharging via USB.
The Lodge speaker can be placed outdoors and never be brought inside. The water and dust rating is IP66, meaning the speaker can endure a dust storm and hours of hard jets of water with no ill effects. However, after the speaker has been exposed for weeks, it may not look so great, but it should still perform great.
Lodge provides a way for many Speakers to be connected in an audio chain. Up to 30 speakers can be set up using their proprietary “LodgeLink” mode. Connecting that many speakers will run into thousands of dollars, but I could see a case for connecting that many speakers in a commercial setup, such as hotel grounds or public gardens. Two Lodge speakers can be set up in true wireless stereo (TWS). Lodge did not provide two speakers for this review, so I can’t say how well it works. Note that LodgeLink mode is not true stereo, but it’s a party mode for connecting more than two speakers. Lodge also has a built-in bass boost feature. More on that later in the review.
Lodge states that their speaker has the latest Bluetooth tech, but they don’t say what version of Bluetooth they use. The good news is that they have incorporated Auracast, the newest BT broadcasting technology, scheduled to be launched later this year. Auracast allows Bluetooth to be used in public places—for instance allowing the listener to hear a specific TV in a sports bar.
- Weight: 7.5 lbs.
- Size: 10.5” X 6” X 7” HxWxD
- IP66 water/dustproof rating
- LodgeLINK connection
- Auracast (when available)
- 50-watt amplifier
- Tuned tweeter & bass driver
- Passive radiator
- High-fidelity sampling rate
Design and features
When unboxing the Lodge Solar Speaker Series 2 speaker, I was struck by how unassuming it is. If the speaker is used outdoors as intended, it will blend well into most landscaping. Plant a few speakers around a large yard and you can have a concert whenever you wish.
Pounding the stake into the ground (rubber mallet recommended) and magnetically attaching the speaker was easy enough. I wish the stake was at least a couple of inches longer for a more secure base. After I first drove the stake into the ground, I noticed that it works better when the speaker is angled upwards toward the listener. However, the stake can’t be angled too much—otherwise, the speaker could fall off the stake.
Although the Lodge speaker’s magnets are strong and hold tight to the metal plate of the stake, a single thumb screw is provided that effectively locks it down. I wish that Lodge included three thumb screws in the package since there are three slots for the screws.
One thing to keep in mind is making sure the speaker can get enough direct sunlight during the day to effectively charge the batteries. Hiding the speaker under a plant will not provide enough solar rays to keep the speaker charged.
As I said earlier, the Lodge speaker has an IP66 rating. This simply means the speaker can be rained on, snowed on, endure a dust storm, and other weather-related challenges. The one thing that cannot happen is total water submersion.
Lodge provides a “LodgeCONNECT” smartphone app (iOS and Android), but currently, it will only connect the speaker or update the firmware. Lodge notes that future app updates will include a graphic equalizer and a battery check. Hopefully, the future will include more features than Lodge has promised so far.
How good can the Lodge speaker make specifically for the outdoors sound? And is it good enough for indoor use?
The speaker doesn’t have the decibel power of the Soundboks speaker. Not surprising since it’s simple physics. The Soundboks speaker is a monster—the Lodge speaker is not. However, the Lodge speaker can get plenty loud for simple backyard or deck parties. Adding a second speaker for true stereo can enhance the audio even more (I haven’t tested this since Lodge only provided a single speaker).
Two things about the sound: The Lodge speaker is distortion-free. I threw some bass-heavy tracks at it (and some 40Hz tones) and there were no discernible buzzing or unpleasant sounds. It all sounded pretty great! Speaking of bass, the Lodge speaker has what Lodge calls “Bass Boost”. This setting pumps bass up on the overall audio, but more importantly, boosts the bass for low-volume listening. Bass Boost may disappoint listeners who are bass heads. Its effect is not that kick-in-the-head, but more subtle. While I appreciated the added bass at lower volumes (as advertised), I barely noticed it at higher volumes. I couldn’t tell the difference standing a few feet away from the speaker outdoors.
An issue I noticed after turning the Lodge speaker off was that when turned on, it sometimes did not want to reconnect to my iPhone. I would have to go to the speaker and press the Bluetooth pairing button. Yet, sometimes the re-pairing worked perfectly without having to go near the speaker. I’m still trying to figure that one out. It’s not a major deal—just an occasional annoyance.
The speaker relies on its flush physical buttons or regular smartphone controls (volume, play/pause, etc.) for controlling the audio. As stated earlier, the app provides no audio controls—yet.
Those flush physical buttons are located along the top edge of the speaker. From left to right are: On/off, Battery indicator lights, Repeat track, Play/pause, Next track, LodgeLINK mode, and Bluetooth pairing. Each button is backlit and easy to see.
What I like
- Great audio
- Built-in solar panels!
- Good bass (even without Bass Boost)
- Stake provided for the secure base
- USB-C charging (if no sunlight)
What I’d change
- The stake could be longer
- Bluetooth connection is not seamless
Nitpicking aside, I like the Lodge Solar Speaker 4 Series-2 speaker. Combine a weather-proof exterior, clear, powerful audio, and solar panels(!), and you have a speaker that can be an effortless and welcome addition to any backyard. Yes, this is a first-gen version—I can only guess how much improved later generations will be. Maybe by then, Lodge will find itself near the top of Google Search!