Wireless speaker & speakerphone
Last August I reviewed the foxL v2.2 Bluetooth speaker from soundmatters. This portable speaker system delivers surprising audio quality for such a compact package. Recently I have been using a relative of sorts—the Jawbone Jambox. The Jambox uses the “core analog acoustics” of the foxL, with a modified enclosure. Head-to-head, the two deliver a very similar listening experience. In the end, the biggest difference is in design and visual appeal.
Similar to the foxL speaker, the Jambox is extremely portable, albeit slightly larger and heavier, measuring in at 5.9 inches by 2.2 inches by 1.6 inches (length by width by height) and weighing 12 ounces. The speaker has a rubber base and top, the former helping prevent the unit from “dancing” if you are listening to it at high volumes or with a lot of bass. A metal grille wraps around the speakers, giving the Jambox very clean lines. The Jambox also comes in six different colors. I must admit, however, that the Jambox didn’t feel quite as sturdy or solid as the foxL, even though its dimensions are larger and it weighs more. That being said, however, I wouldn’t classify the Jambox as cheaply made.
On top there are three buttons—volume up, volume down and talk. You use the talk button to answer and end speakerphone calls, access DialAps (more on those later), or receive voice alerts of how much listening time is left before the Jambox needs recharging. On the right side of the speaker is a backlit power switch, a 3.5mm stereo aux-input jack and a micro-USB port.
When I first opened my Jambox, the first thing I did was charge it. It took about hour to top off the battery using the included AC adapter via the micro-USB port (according to the company, it takes 2.5 hours to charge a fully drained battery). You can also charge the Jambox with any powered USB port, although it does take longer to do so. The Jambox comes with a 60-inch USB cable as well as a shorter 12-inch cable.
When using the Jambox for the first time, you must slide the power switch up to the on position and hold it for a few seconds to get the speaker to enter pairing mode. I had no trouble pairing the Jambox with a variety of devices, including my iPod touch, iPhone 4S and Dell Studio laptop. You can connect Bluetooth-enabled devices within 33 feet of the Jambox.
You can also plug the Jambox into non-Bluetooth devices using the included 36-inch 3.5 mm audio cable.
With the MyTALK service you can update the Jambox’s software and customize it with downloadable apps. You can choose a number of different voices for the Jambox’s spoken announcements as well as for DialApps. These apps, which you activate using the talk button on the top of the Jambox, allow you to listen to your emails, navigate and post to Facebook and Twitter, dictate SMS text messages or access Siri on iPhone 4S or Voice Actions on Android, and more. With MyTalk you can also enable Simultaneous Multipoint, which allows you to connect two Bluetooth devices to the Jambox at the same time.
I was generally pleased with the sound quality I got from the Jambox when paired with my iPhone 4S and iPod touch, especially considering the size of the speaker. Given its size, however, don’t expect overly robust sound. Overall, I found the audio to be mid-range heavy and, at times, it sounded a bit tinny. Also, at high volumes I experienced some distortion. But overall, I was impressed with the depth of the sound. I did give up listening to my Dell laptop in less than a minute. I have no idea why, but the audio was choppy and muted compared to that from my iOS devices.
The Jambox is perfect as a desktop speaker system or for your bedside table.
Speakerphone audio was also good. Not surprisingly, people I was speaking to could tell I was on a speakerphone. But they had no problems hearing me, nor I them. You do need to turn up the volume on the Jambox quite high in order to hear the people on the other end of the conversation.
According to the company, the Jambox should deliver eight to 10 hours of talk and listening time, depending on the volume level.
Head-to-head, the Jambox and foxL are very evenly matched. The MyTalk apps do give the Jambox a leg up on the foxL, but for most the choice will probably come down to look and sound quality. Here, the differences are ultimately a matter of personal taste. I prefer the look of the foxL, and I felt that its audio quality was slightly better, but I wouldn’t want to live on the margin. Both speakers suffer from a slight case of sticker shock, retailing at $200. Interestingly enough, neither is significantly discounted at sites such as Amazon.com. While you can find wired portable speaker systems costing much less, the portability and sound quality these systems provide make the price tag palatable for those looking for a portable and wireless speaker. If I had to choose only one, however, it would be the foxL v2.2.
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of “Gadget Corner.” All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.