Unless you have had your head in the sand for the last five years you know the name Jawbone, the bluetooth headset with the infamous NoiseAssassin technology. The name “NoiseAssassin” takes greater importance (is even scarier) when paired with ti’s definition “[an] adaptive signal processing technology, which was originally developed for DARPA…”
Government conspiracy theories aside, the technology behind Aliph‘s headsets has been an industry leader since its inception. The JAMBOX represents a diversion for the company from headsets to speakers. And for a first effort, it isn’t so bad.
The JAMBOX is a marvel of design and sound output versus physical size. It is feature-rich and about as sexy as a tiny speaker can get. It is also too expensive for what it actually accomplishes (depending on your use case).
If you’re looking for a bedside iPhone speaker/alarm/dock system that just might fill a room with sound, charge your iPhone and not costa bundle, check out the offerings from Altec Lansing, Logitech, Klipsch and iHome. For the full review, read on.
For now on, I will refer to the JAMBOX as Jambox because I refuse to yell names of products at you in text. It’s just not nice.
Before I get to the review of the Jambox, let me explain that this is a very niche product. While there are a few use cases I can think of for the Jambox, most of the time, a cheaper, better alternative does exist. As a bluetooth speaker for a portable audio device (iDevice, computer, MP3 player, etc) it works. It is also built like a tank.
The Jambox frame is steel wrapped and rubber. Inside is a pair of dual-purpose drivers (woofer + tweeter) and a rectangular passive radiator (which provides much of the bass and prevents distortion by regulating airflow). It definitely earned its name, Jambox. This box is jammed with tiny yet capable speakers, electronics and a long-life battery.
There are only three buttons and one toggle slider on the device. A talk/status button, volume up/down and on the side a Sleep/Power toggle slider. Below the toggle slider is an audio line input for a “dumb” device and a mini USB power input to charge the speaker.
Considering it fits in the palm of your hand, that it is battery powered and physics, the sound is impressive. In my testing of the product, distortion was hard to come by, even at full volume playing bassy tracks from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Busta Rhymes.
Its bass output is so (relatively) big that it actually moves the speaker around. Check out this video I shot with my iPhone 4 at an Apple Store of the Jambox playing Snoop Dogg and Lil’ Kim.
Why do you need a Jambox? You don’t. Honestly, it’s really just one of those fun little, expensive, toys you buy because you can, or because your credit card can at least. As a speaker for your iDevice goes, it fails the useful test for me. It doesn’t charge your iDevice, it doesn’t use AirPlay to play music and it doesn’t fill a room with sound. Its batteries last nearly nine hours of use which is impressive but it drains your bluetooth devices batteries faster than a traditional device. Bluetooth, as with any wireless data transfer technology, always has this caveat.
You can get better, larger, speaker docks for around the same price, some more and others less expensive. These speaker docks will charge your iDevice, provide bigger and better sound and some will actually fill a room with sound. You are of course sacrificing the tiny package of the Jambox.
As a speaker phone for a bluetooth capable device it works. Audio quality is pretty good, better than most speaker systems, and the built in microphone does a fine job picking up everyone at the table. Bluetooth conference call speaker phone systems are expensive. At $199, the Jambox actually fits just fine in this category. Weird huh?
I haven’t yet said how elegant this thing is. It’s like a super-tiny version of the B&W Zeppelin ($599) plus it comes in a handful of fun colors and patterned speaker grills.
So what are the use cases I see for this device?
The traveling sales person, speaker or presentation giver. The sound out of the Jambox is better than what your laptop or video projector will put out. If you’re giving a presentation to a group of people in a small to medium size room, the Jambox will do just fine.
After your presentation, with Jambox-powered sound effects, is over, you and your partner can conference call your boss, with the Jambox as your speaker and microphone, discussing how well your PowerPoint presentation went and then to your hotel room and celebrate the victory with some moderate-volume party music (via the Jambox) and booze from the hotel wet bar.
If the above doesn’t seem likely in your future, the Jambox probably isn’t for you.
Would I buy the Jambox, considering all of the above is definitely something I can see happening to me? No. Probably not. I’d much rather rely on a more stable and reliable audio technology and power-source than bluetooth and batteries (yeah, I know it can plug in via USB/Line in but that defeats the purpose of this device).
That being said. I would love to see Aliph create a bigger version of the Jambox. Give the Jambox 2 some three to five inch drivers, AirPlay capability (alongside Bluetooth) and we might be in business. If I’m going to spend $200 on a speaker, it either has to sound amazing and not charge my iPhone or sound pretty dang good and charge it.
The Jambox is a marvel of design and sound output versus physical size. It is feature rich and about as sexy as a tiny speaker can get. It is also way to expensive for what it actually accomplishes.
If you’re looking for a bedside iPhone speaker/alarm/dock system that just might fill a room with sound, charge your iPhone and not costa bundle, check out the offerings from Altec Lansing, Logitech, Klipsch and iHome.
- MacStories Product Review: Jawbone JAMBOX Portable Speaker (macstories.net)
- Best speakers for the iPad 2 (sfgate.com)
- Jawbone Jambox Bluetooth speaker (go.theregister.com)
- State of the Art: Portable, But Not Puny, Speakers (nytimes.com)