Jabra Solemate review: A Bluetooth speaker with some kick

Jabra Solemate
The sound bag lets sound out, not dirt and water in. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance
I used the Solemate in a couple of different ways and played around with its positioning, placing it on a table, then closer to a wall to get better bass response. As with a lot of smaller portable speakers, sound will vary on depending on your environment (inside or outside) and placement in a room.

I connected an iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S3 to the unit using Bluetooth as well as a wired connection. I got slightly better sound from the wired connection than the wireless one, but it wasn't a major difference.

The Solemate can play pretty loud and delivers a decent amount of bass. Like virtually all these small speakers, it has little to no stereo separation and it really performs best in the midrange and sounds quite good with well-recorded acoustical tracks (for instance, I'm listening to Coldplay's "U.F.O." as I write this). If it has a weakness, the sound just isn't incredibly detailed and things can start to sound a little harsh at higher volumes; the sound holds together OK but I tended to listen to the speaker at lower to midlevel volumes rather than crank it.

If you do raise the volume, the speaker can fill a small to medium-sized room with sound and like the Jawbone Jambox plays much larger than its size. I think most people will be impressed by its sound -- and be quite happy with it -- so long as you don't expect the world. I also thought speakerphone performance was quite good. Jabra does have plenty of experience making speakerphones, so that's not surprising.

As for battery life, it's rated at 8 hours of music playback, which is good.

The Solemate is bigger than the Jawbone Jambox, but is still very compact. Sarah Tew/CNET

It's worth noting that while the Bluetooth worked fine in our tests with iOS and Android devices, we did get some dropouts when connecting a Mac laptop via Bluetooth. We're not sure what the issue was, but Mac OS X has been known to be a little finicky when it comes to connecting with Bluetooth speakers, so it's more than likely a software issue (and it could very well be isolated to certain systems).

Performance
I liked the Solemate and, as I said in the intro, I think it's one of the better Jambox-esque speakers to hit in 2012 (it even has similar voice prompts to the Jambox when you turn it on and pair the speaker). While it delivers a bit bigger and slightly better sound than the Jambox, it's also physically a bit larger and heavier and you lose some sound quality at higher volumes. In other words, there's a bit of a trade-off. You get the smaller size with speakers such as the Jambox and the tiny Soundmatters FoxLv2, but the Solemate has a little more oomph to it.

All that adds up to a solid compact Bluetooth speaker that I don't think you'll regret buying (and most people will be quite happy with it). But if Jabra had priced it lower than the Jambox (closer to $149), I'd have an easier time recommending it even more strongly.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Color black
  • Speaker System Type wireless speaker
  • Speaker Type Portable Bluetooth speaker
  • Wireless Technology Bluetooth 3.0
  • Amplification Type active
  • Connectivity Technology Wired
    Wireless
  • Type Portable speaker