Best for: audiophiles, technophiles, slaves to fashion
Worst for: cheapskates, rockers
YOU DON'T NEED ME TO TELL YOU the Jawbone Jambox is one sexy piece of industrial design. But looks are only the half of it. Everything about this product screams cool. Flip the power switch, and the unit vibrates to tell you it’s on. The volume up/down buttons are molded in the shapes of “+” and “–.” Each of the four available colors has a different embossed pattern on its grille. The top and bottom are made from flexible material, making it less likely that the unit will get dinged up or ding up the surface it sits on.
Cooler still are the speakerphone functions. Through its Web site, Jawbone offers lots of free apps: different voices and languages for the Jambox’s announcements, and various special speakerphone functions. You can download these apps to the Jambox through a USB cable. If this sounds as useless as some of the apps that come with Internet-enabled TVs, it’s not. I set mine up so that a hot babe purrs “I’m on and ready to go” when I power up the unit. I also set it so the call button on top automatically dials my friend Al.
The front has two 1.25-inch drivers; the back has a passive radiator to reinforce the bass. It feels like the Jambox also has some sort of tactile transducer built in to further amp up the low end; it’s hard to imagine that a passive radiator could put out so much shake. A micro USB jack provides charging for the internal battery but can’t be used as an audio connection. It comes with a nifty case that folds flat when not in use, but while the Jambox is portable, it doesn’t seem tough enough to survive being tossed into a briefcase or backpack every day.
The Jambox has the audacity to violate Butterworth’s First Law of Audio: “Products that look cool usually sound crummy.” In fact, the Jambox sounds fantastic. It delivers far more bass than you’d expect, and far clearer midrange and treble than you’d expect. Someone put some serious effort into tuning the sound of this little box; most other compact audio products are built with about as much care as 7-Eleven lavishes on its burritos. Through the Jambox, voices sound natural and the treble sounds like it’s coming from a good minispeaker. The tonal balance was pleasing whether I played pop favorites like Steely Dan, Herbert von Karajan’s 1977 recordings of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, or delicate jazz stuff like saxophonist Joe Farrell’s Super Session.
In this case, style and strength do not go hand in hand. While the Jambox plays loud enough for light listening, dinner parties, etc., it has the weakest output of all the Bluetooth speakers I tested. I also felt that its internal microphone wasn’t as good as the ones built into the Soundmatters FoxL v2 and the Monster iClarity HD. Listeners on the other end reported that my voice sounded a bit muffled.
I’ll conclude with this: Whenever I needed a Bluetooth speaker for listening around the house, I grabbed the Jambox.
The Jambox’s response looks quite similar to the FoxL v2s, which is no big surprise given the two units’ similar design. Midrange response approaches the purity of the FoxL v2, and off-axis response is admirably smooth although severely rolled off in the treble. The valley at 11 kHz and the corresponding peak at 19 kHz look scary but won’t be terribly distracting for most listeners because the frequencies in question are so high. While the close-miked response goes down to 75 Hz, distortion will be very high at that frequency.
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