Earlier this year I wrote a review of Aliph’s Jambox, a $200 Bluetooth speaker made with Apple’s iDevices in mind. The review, as you might remember, is very much favorable. The sound, build and design quality on this minuscule speaker is absolutely top-notch.
The only real issues I have with the Jambox is the price. While I do not find it overpriced for what it provides, especially considering the features, it is the first product I reviewed that required a use case section. My conclusion for the Jambox is basically this; buy it if you are a…
- traveling salesman that puts on presentations and hates the crappy audio he gets
- business with the need for a great conference call system on the go
- person with money to blow and a peculiar need for portable sound
The device I am reviewing today is the quirky cousin or even the black sheep to the Jambox. The devices I’m writing about today cost $100-140 less and has looks that don’t necessarily kill but definitely stun.
The devices I am reviewing today are the BoomBotix BB1 and BoomBotix BB2 ($40/$60). They do exactly what they advertise and do it with a certain je ne sais quoi that absolutely reflects the style and personality of the people behind BoomBotix.
If you are a regular reader of this blog you probably know that when it comes to audio, I am a stickler for high quality sound. If you are looking for an “audiophile” speaker for your iPhone, this isn’t where you want to go. However, if you are looking for a great little speaker that puts out some solid tunes, is affordable, as portable as George Costanza‘s wallet and has a style all its own, I urge you to read on.
I discovered the BoomBotix BB1 and BoomBotix BB2 from the comments by readers of my blog insisting that it was a better solution to the Jambox. There is more to this story as they also work for BoomBotix but I’m more forgiving than others might be. After a few tweets and some emails, I found myself walking to the BoomBotix offices for my review units.
BoomBotix is aiming the BB1 and BB2 at a specific user. The fixed-gear cyclist who likes to listen to ironic non-pop while racing down Market Street, the skateboarder who won’t give up their music just because they want to try a 360 Pop Shuv It and their co-patriots. The BoomBotix allows one person to share music amongst friends with unique style and incredibly portability.
Worth noting is the warranty. It’s short, sweet and actually pretty
All BoomBotix speakers come with a “no matter what,” one year warranty. This includes, but is not limited to, break-dancing accidents, fixed gear bicycle stunts gone wrong, overshooting or over- rotating a jump on skis or a board, you name it. We want to hear about it. Pictures, video, and/or a good story are strongly encouraged.
The BoomBotix BB1 and BB2 speakers are nearly identical with two key differences.
- The BB1 is a wired device that uses its source to control volume.
- The BB2 is a wireless device that has its own volume controls.
These two devices can be combined for stereo output which is pretty nifty. The BB2 works as the both a speaker and host as you connect a standard stereo cable from it to the BB1. You now have stereo, almost totally wireless, audio.
Connecting the BB2 to my iPad proved incredibly simple. Double-tap the power button to put it in pairing mode, select it as a Bluetooth device on the iPad and seconds later it is up and running. I remember when setting up Bluetooth devices took patience and a shot of Jack Daniels.
The first fifteen minutes with the BoomBotix BB2 left me wishing for a little more. I needed it to play lower, to play louder without distortion and to put out the silky tones I’m used to with other iPhone speaker. Then I had a eureka moment.
I needed to walk downstairs but didn’t want to stop watching my iPad. Without thinking, I clipped the BoomBotix BB2 to my iPad case and started walking down the stairs. That’s when it hit me. This thing is crazy portable. It isn’t meant to replace your desktop speaker dock. Its true calling is as a disembodied appendage to your Bluetooth device.
It wasn’t long before I found myself leaving the iPad in one room while walking into the other room listening to the BB2. The thing is insanely portable. It is about as light as a pair of headphones and nearly small enough to fit in a jeans pocket.
When I say the sound quality isn’t up to my usual level, I don’t mean to say it sounds bad. It just sounds like a $40-60 speaker, not a $200 speaker. It allows your iPad, and especially iPhone, play music louder and with better sound quality.
In the above photo you can see the BB2′s motherboard in green on the left, a silver and yellow battery sitting behind it and on the top left the multi-colored LED status light. To the right a 3 watt woofer, a tiny tweeter and the star cutout for the status light.
What you give up in sound quality you get back in affordability, durability and customization. The BoomBotix look is pretty wild on its own in plain grey but also come in several colors and even have replaceable grills. On the back of the speakers is a spring-loaded clip that allows the user to attach it to a backpack, belt, iPad case (as I did), etc.
This isn’t a review where I write about the sound stage or dynamics. It is instead a review where I write about a product that sets out to carry out a singular goal and does it. Create an affordable, eclectic, super-portable wireless speaker. Done.
There really is no comparing it to the Jambox when it comes to sound quality or boardroom-sexy looks. The Jambox will wipe the floor with the BoomBotix plus it adds a Bluetooth microphone inside its more conservative enclosure. It’s also a lot more money.
Both of my BoomBotix speakers put out a hiss and whine which is covered up during music playback but audible when no audio is playing or you’re listening to speech such as a podcast. Obviously the further away you are from the speakers, the less you hear it. If you have them turned up and you’re at least 5 feet from them, chances are you aren’t going to hear the hiss. I’m pretty sure they could fix this hiss pretty easily as it doesn’t increase with the volume increase. It’s just floor noise. I might even be able to hack a fix.
That being said, if you need a Bluetooth speaker for your iDevice (or other Bluetooth capable device) there isn’t anything else in the same price range and as portable, durable and fun looking as the BoomBotix BB2.
If you are looking for a wired, portable speaker for your audio device of choice, the BoomBotix BB1 is a decent solution. However, I might suggest you look at the X-Mini II Capsule speakers first. At less than half the price ($18) and three times the battery life, it might be a better option.
Plus, with the X-Mini II Capsule speaker, you can daisy-chain an unlimited number of speakers. A novelty feature for sure but handy when you need a little extra volume.
For $30 you can get the X-Mini MAX II which give you stereo sound from larger speakers that are still pretty darn portable. Though, neither of these speakers come with the warranty that BoomBotix provides or the straight out of Haight Ashbury look. So you might find yourself compromising one way or the other.
- Review: BoomBotix
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