Since my first iPod I've felt the need for some great portable speakers. Friends and family owned a pair, but I always managed to find some minor pet-peeve with them. The iPhone came and thus wireless playing was possible with Bluetooth (later also AirPlay). I wanted something wireless with great sound and design, and now I have Jawbone's Jambox speaker.
Jawbone is a company who makes wireless gadgets for phones. I own the Icon Bluetooth headset made by them, which I'm pretty satisfied with. Overall I like the company's style and taste (the packaging is wicked cool). They went into the portable speakers market in late 2010 with Jambox.
The Jambox basically looks like a brick of Lego. It's small, elegant and minimal – it has clean surfaces and lines, and has only three buttons (two for volume control, a third for status messages, taking calls, and more).
- Measures 57x40x150 mm
- Jambox comes in the colours red, silver, black and blue
- Around 10 hours of battery time (chargable)
- Connects wirelessly with Bluetooth or via 3.5 mm audio cord
- Ports include mini USB and 3.5 mm audio
- Package includes 3.5 mm audio cord, two USB cables (different lengths), charging adapter, and a carrying case
Setting up the Jambox is a matter of pairing it wirelessly over Bluetooth with the device you want to stream audio from. For instance, on my iPhone I look for my Jambox in the Bluetooth settings after I've activated pairing mode on the Jambox by holding the power button for a second or two.
You're of course able to use the included audio cord instead of going with wireless audio. The cord is a (nicely designed) flat, gold plated piece of work, which makes the Jambox work with devices without Bluetooth (it would suck otherwise, wouldn't it?).
Jawbone also has this service called MyTalk where you can register and install a small helper application on your computer and from the website update the device's firmware, personalise settings, and more. I actually recommend it: firmware updates great, and I'll talk about it more further below.
So how about the actual audio? "It's so small! The sound must suck!", "It's just Bluetooth – of course the resulting music must sound awful!", etc. Actually, no. The Jambox is not by any means comparable to regular speakers and amplifiers, BUT as a portable speaker for phones and laptops, it's great.
I was surprised by the audio quality when I heard it the first time, and amazed how a gadget so small could produce this quality sound. It's all relative. Since the device itself is the speaker (the grill goes all way around) you have the illusion of 360 degrees audio, although Jambox has one front side (where the main speakers sit, I believe).
The bass is impressive. Play some bass heavy songs and feel the device vibrate a bit and fill the space with a solid wall of sound. Compared to other portable speakers I've heard, I think Jambox's audio is the best – hands down. It easily manages to fill up a smaller room.
Jawbone makes well designed products, and Jambox is not an exception. It's like a solid coloured brick. The industrial design focus on one thing, and that's the speakers. No visible screws or joints. There's no cheap, plastic feel, but a solid quality feel to the device. Thanks to its form and colour offers you'll be able to put it almost anywhere in your home and it'll just fit in. Or, use it as paper weight, support for the books in your shelf, or actual building brick (joke).
Jambox comes in the colours red, blue, silver and black. I've got the red one, which goes great with details in my apartment (and incidentally, the accent colours of this site's design).
Nowadays I'm a bit picky with what products I get for myself. Clothes, tools, utils, gadgets – I want them well designed, functional, and made with quality. If they do one thing and do it well, that's great. I believe in few, minimalistic physical things in my home. Jambox fulfills those things very well.
Feature: Speaker phone
It's also possible to use Jambox as speaker phone. Works as you'd expect it to: when paired with a phone, you're able to take calls from the Jambox by pressing the top round button.
Jawbone has (in a previous firmware update) introduced "LiveAudio", which is a technique that creates the illusion of "3D sound". Just hold the two volume buttons in order to activate or deactivate the feature. For many songs, it actually sounds better: it's a more solid, immensed and full bodied sound. The downside is that the maximum output volume gets slightly lowered.
I mentioned firmware updates. When you purchase the Jambox, it's not just like a closed brick. By hooking it up to Jawbone's MyTalk, you'll be able to download and update the device with new firmware. I did that as soon as I got it out of the box and installed the 2.2 update. Pretty neat. Keep an eye out for new stuff, that is.
From the MyTalk web site you can download additional voices for the different status messages Jambox emitts. Nice touch.
In the box there's a carrying case for the Jambox included. It's a black, slim cover for the device and it works okay (perhaps a bit slim and tight).
I love my Jambox. It'll fit perfectly in my small, one room apartment – both design and audio wise. I like the connectivity options – I'm able to stream audio from any Bluetooth device, but with a cord fallback. It's portable and slick – just bring it in the bag and carry great audio wherever you go.
If I could wish for one more thing I would put my vote for "Previous" and "Next" buttons on the device. When I put my phone somewhere in the room and having the Jambox in another location near me, it's tiresome to go to the source device (the phone) in order to skip songs. I think I read that Jawbone's larger version of Jambox – the Big Jambox – has this feature.