Having walked the aisles of iLounge at CES, there were no shortage of companies offering Bluetooth speakers for the iPhone and smartphones in general. The trend may be attributed to the success associated with Jawbone. A company known for the their Bluetooth headsets, their most successful product to date has been the Jambox. Is it the size, performance or both? Read on for our full review of the Jawbone Jambox.
Upon unpacking the Jawbone Jambox I was surprised at the size of the device. Better yet, I was surprised at the sheer lack of size. My one hand can almost wrap the entirety of the device. Initial impressions were this is well constructed speaker with materials that support its relatively high price point. Touch points across the top and bottom of the device are a soft touch rubber material with three raised buttons at the top for volume up, down and a talk button. The four sides are wrapped in a metal diamond grill. The smallish Jawbone logo at the top is a reminder of where the front of the device sits. On the right side is a power button that doubles as a way to put the Jambox in pairing mode, along with a 3.5mm jack for wired connections and microUSB to connect the included power cable or make a connection to your computer. Battery life was exceptional with a full work day without having to charge. They rate it as having 10 hours of playback, which sounds about right. With a free account at mytalk.jawbone.com, the Jambox can actually connect to receive software updates and customizations such as changing the voice of the tiny person inside your speaker. While the idea that a speaker might need software updates sounds foreign, it means Jawbone can push updates should a future version of iOS include some wonky Bluetooth support.
It comes with a carrying case and you will want to travel with it. It’s perfect for a hotel room, poolside or anywhere you’d like to infuse a bit of music in your life. But you don’t have to travel for to enjoy the portability. During my testing, I used the Jambox throughout my house. On occasion, it would go missing thanks to my wife who found it to be an easy way to bring her sappy folk music to various rooms in our house that I’ve yet to equip with a Sonos. The size will instantly make you think of places you can take your Jambox. On a recent trip to Starbucks I saw a 16-teen year old carrying one in his front shirt pocket, a reminder that we’ve come a long way from the boombox of yesteryear.
Paring mode and why Bluetooth is the rage
Sliding the power switch up for 3 seconds sends it into pairing mode. It will work with virtually any Bluetooth device, so your Mac, iPhone, iPad and *gasp* Android phones. I didn’t have to enter a code on my iPhone. I just went to Settings > Bluetooth and selected the Jambox. The advantage here is that the device works with any phone or Bluetooth capable computer or mp3 player. Where as iPod docks are rendered incompatible with the new Lightning connector, this isn’t an issue with the Jambox.
How does it sound?
It’s small, well built, but what about the sound? When you first power up the Jambox, you hear a beep and rumble, the latter to remind you there is some serious bass on board. Jawbone recommends you crank up the volume of your iPhone to the max output and then use the soft-touch volume buttons on the Jambox. I found the sound quality of the Jambox to be extremely good when using it at 13 or below, which was pushing the volume limits. The aforementioned bass helps create a foundation for an impressive dynamic range for such a small little speaker. Where this speaker struggles is at highest volumes. I wouldn’t expect the Jambox volumes to be sufficient for parties of more than four, without forcing it to push the boundaries of its capabilities. At its highest volume levels, the booming bass cannot make up for what I found to be speakers that sounded thin and experienced some minor distortion.
Their foundation is in making audio headsets and the Jambox also doubles as a speakerphone. The Jambox is equipped with a microphone. In my tests, the quality of the callers was very good. They found my sound to be of considerable less quality than if I had been on my iPhone.
- Great sound quality
- Extremely well built
- Allows for software updates
- Quality of sound diminishes at high volumes
- Microphone quality is average
Whether the Jawbone Jambox is for you is dependent upon your expectations. If you think of it as your personal speaker system, you’ll be more than pleased with the sound quality. The booming base and pleasing dynamic range will be more than sufficient to fill a small room. It struggles at its highest volumes, so pushing the limits to soundtrack a big party might end up in disappointment. For many, the portability and sound quality will be a perfect mix that you’ll look for places to take your Jambox. It might just be the perfect travel companion for your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad.
The Jawbone JAMBOX retails for $179.95 from the Apple Store, but can be found for less than $150 at Amazon.