Hands-On Review: the Jawbone Big Jambox Portable Bluetooth Speaker

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When choosing a portable speaker, there are several factors to consider when comparing different models, including size, weight, sound quality and battery life. A portable speaker is useful for enjoying playlists or audio podcasts while you're at home, but it should also be small and lightweight. Chief among its features is, of course, sound quality; you want to hear your media loud and clear with minimal distortion. A wireless connection option or add-on feature like speakerphone capability can be useful depending on your needs. If the speaker is easy to use and visually appealing, all the better—that's simply an added bonus.

I recently tested Jawbone's Big Jambox portable Bluetooth speaker, and found it has a good mix of all these qualities. In this hands-on review, I'll write in detail about my experience with the speaker.

Portability

The speaker is about the size of a small loaf of bread. It fits easily into the palm of your hand and has a solid feel. It's small enough to carry from room to room at home, to work, school or anywhere else your day takes you. While the most exotic locale I brought it to was midtown Manhattan, this speaker would also make a good travel partner for trips. It fits into a mid-size tote bag and weighs 2.7 pounds, so it wasn't much of a hassle to carry during my 30-minute commute.

To enhance its portability, Jawbone offers a custom-made, lightweight carry case, which I tested as well. The black case features a cloth exterior with cushioned padding. The cables and charger included with the Big Jambox fit into a dedicated compartment next to the main storage area, and zips shut with a Jawbone-inscribed pull tab. The handle on top made it easy to carry. If portability is high on your list, then this case is a great way to protect your investment when you bring the speaker along.

Sound Quality

Next, the Big Jambox provided respectable sound and offered a vast improvement over the built-in speakers on my computer. It's equipped with a pair of precision-tuned neodymium drivers and dual opposing passive bass radiators to deliver ample, smooth sound and impressive bass, especially for its size. I was even able to fill a 350-square-foot room with deep, rich sounds without a problem. Measuring from a 5-foot distance, the Jambox reached sound pressure levels (SPL) of up to 97 dB.

Spatial imaging was accurate, allowing me to visualize the location of instruments and vocals in music recordings during playback. The speaker excelled at reproducing musical genres with wide dynamic ranges such as jazz, classical and folk and, surprisingly, it only exhibited slight distortion at high volume levels. In a test run of The Walking Dead, special effects like explosions and gunshots were robust, while dialog was clear and detailed. A feature called LiveAudio utilizes digital signal processing to engulf you in "3D sound." It's an added bonus to an already rich feature set for this portable speaker.

Battery Life

The built-in lithium-ion battery recharges using the included AC wall charger, and lasts for up to 15 hours on a single charge. I had no complaints about the battery life, as it lasted well into a full weekend of testing

Wireless Connection

I found that the Big Jambox paired easily with my iPhone 4S and MacBook Air as well as a Samsung Galaxy Nexus. You can also connect non-Bluetooth mobile devices using the included 3.5mm cable. Jawbone's claimed range of 33' held true (and even tested farther) with no signal problems. Two devices can be connected at the same time, and you can toggle between them.

As a Speakerphone

The speaker has an add-on feature too—a built-in microphone, which is great for speakerphone calls. The newly designed omnidirectional microphone allows 360-degree sound input and improved echo cancellation. Full duplex communication lets both people talk at once during a conversation. Paired with my iPhone 4S, it had no trouble picking up my voice or projecting a conversation into the room. Additionally, music automatically paused when I got a call on my phone, while a voice prompt repeated back to me the number that was calling.

Ease of Use

Also important is ease of use. The Big Jambox features oversized, rubberized buttons on top for Play/Pause, volume control and skipping tracks. On the side is an LED button for turning the speaker on and off, and another button for pairing devices. There's also a button dedicated to alerting you about the remaining battery life—a single push and it will tell you if it's fully charged or running low. By downloading MyTALK software from Jawbone's website, you can customize all the voice prompts. There are nine prompts you can choose from, which you do by connecting the Big Jambox to your computer with the included USB cable.

Design

Finally, the Big Jambox has another added bonus I mentioned: visual appeal. It's a beautiful object, featuring modern deisgn elements that enhance any environment. Its form is simple yet functional, with clean lines and an understated color. Each button has a dedicated function and tactile feel. Since it can connect wirelessly, this adds to its contemporary look. I tested the Graphite Hex model, which features a rugged steel-gray grille with a subtle hexagonal design molded into the body. It's also available in White Wave (with a wave design molded into its face) and Red Dot (that has a dot design molded into its face).

Jawbone is no stranger to innovative technology and no-nonsense functionality paired with modern designs. Behind most of their products is renowned Swiss industrial designer Yves Béhar, Chief Creative Officer for the company.

In Conclusion

The Big Jambox appeals to those valuing portability, sonic quality and a unique design. I even found that its voice prompts and big buttons made it fun to use—and you might, too. If you have any more questions about the Big Jambox, we encourage you to stop by the Portable Entertainment department of our SuperStore in New York City and speak to a B&H sales professional, give us a call at 1-800-606-6969, or join us online for a Live Chat.

Configuration Stereo
Battery Rechargeable lithium-ion
Run Time Up to 15 hours
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
Wireless range Up to 33' (10 m)
Bluetooth Profiles Supported A2DP 1.2, HFP 1.5, HSP 1.1, SPP
Microphone IEEE 1329 Type 1-compliant speakerphone
Drivers Proprietary acoustic drivers (stereo pair)
Bass Radiators Proprietary dual passive bass radiators
Digital signal processing LiveAudio
Input 1 x 1/8" (3.5mm) line in
Buttons & Controls Talk, Play/Pause, Pprevious, Next, Volume Down, Volume Up, Power button, Pairing button
MyTALK Compatibility Windows 7, Vista, XP; Mac OSX 10.5 & higher
Charging method USB
Dimensions (LxWxH) 10 x 3.1 x 3.6" (256 x 80 x 93mm)
Weight 2.7 lb (1.2 kg)