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HMDX Jam Plus review: Popular wireless speaker can now pair up

The $50 Jam Plus version improves on the original Jam and it 'parties in stereo' if you buy two.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Headphones, Bluetooth speakers, mobile accessories, Apple, Sony, Bose, e-readers, Amazon, glasses, ski gear, iPhone cases, gaming accessories, sports tech, portable audio, interviews, audiophile gear, PC speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
4 min read

The original HMDX Jam distinguished itself from the rest of the mini Bluetooth speaker pack with a low price tag ($39.99) and some creative packaging: the speaker came in a "jam" jar made of hard translucent plastic, complete with a twist-off top.

7.0

HMDX Jam Plus

The Good

The affordable <b>HMDX Jam Plus</b> sounds better than the original Jam, it has an attractive, fun design, and if you buy a second speaker you can create a completely wireless pair of true stereo speakers.

The Bad

No speakerphone capabilities; while the bass is a bit improved, the speaker still sounds thin and distorts at higher volumes.

The Bottom Line

With an appealing design, affordable price, and the ability to combine a second Jam Plus to create a left/right stereo pair, the Jam Plus is a worthy budget Bluetooth speaker.

Now the company is back with a new, improved edition, the Jam Plus, which retails for around $50 and comes in multiple colors. The speaker's slightly bigger than the original and also sounds slightly better, but its other selling point is that if you buy two of them, you can combine the two speakers and create a pair of left/right wireless stereo speakers. The Jam Plus is among the first Bluetooth speakers to include such a stereo option and it certainly creates a better listening experience, though it doesn't cover up the speakers' shortcomings in the bass department.

Design and features The original or "classic" Jam is sold in six "flavors"-- Strawberry, Grape, Blueberry, Blackberry, Apricot, and Apple -- that refer to its various color options. This model eschews the fruit reference, but it does come in five different colors. Interestingly, the Plus is slightly larger than the original but weighs a bit less (8 ounces vs. 9.6 ounces).

 
The HMDX Plus has transport and volume controls on the front of the unit. Sarah Tew/CNET

The speaker is attractively styled in a fun way and seems geared toward tweens and younger tech users who might, say, have an iPod Touch (yes, the iPod Touch skews toward a younger audience). It's easy to pick up and carry around from room to room, and while no carrying case is included for transportation, you could use the plastic jar as a case.

Like all Bluetooth speakers, the HMDX Jam connects wirelessly up to 30 feet away and works with all Bluetooth-enabled smartphones, tablets, and laptops/desktops. The rechargeable, lithium-ion battery is rated to deliver up to 4 hours of wireless play, which is OK, but not great (your battery life will vary according to volume level, so you may be able to do better at lower volumes). It charges via USB and has an audio input for playing audio from non-Bluetooth devices.

 
There's a switch on the bottom of the speaker that allows you to pair two speakers in 'stereo' mode. Sarah Tew/CNET

There's no speakerphone capabilities, but as noted, you can combine two speakers to create a stereo pair. If you take a quick look at the instructions, it's easy enough to pair the two speakers (you set the switch on the bottom to left for one speaker and right for the other).

HMDX also sells the ruggedized Jam Extreme ($59.99), which is "splash proof, drop proof, and dirt proof." However, that model does not offer the stereo pairing feature.

Performance The Jam Plus does sound better than the original, with a bit more bass. Despite users high regard for the original Jam, I thought it sounded very thin. By contrast, this model merely sounds thin, which is an improvement.

 
The Jam Plus comes in five colors. Sarah Tew/CNET

With all these mini Bluetooth speakers, I try to review them in their larger context. If an audiophile were listening to them, he or she would be none too impressed (dismayed might be a more accurate description), but mainstream users should be fairly satisfied with the sound.

The Jam Plus does play larger than its size would indicate and its sound can be improved a bit by placing it near a wall to get some reflection. It will distort with bass-heavy material, particularly at higher volumes, so you're best off not cranking the speaker and listening at more moderate volume levels.

As I've noted in many of my reviews of tiny wireless speakers (and even some larger units), they offer no stereo separation. The good news here is that combining two of these speakers remedies that problem. And by creating a wider sound stage, your music will sound fuller. The only issue is that the speakers don't serve up a ton of bass, so the sound comes across as somewhat thin. To be clear, virtually all these tiny speakers sound thin, though the Jawbone Jambox and JBL Flip (and JBL Charge) do deliver noticeably more bass. The Philips SoundShooter is a bit smaller speaker that retails for the same price (around $50). It offers double the battery life, a touch more bass, and has speakerphone capabilities. But the Jam Plus seems like the more durable speaker.

 
Audio input and USB charging port -- the speaker offers 4 hours of battery life. Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion The Jam Plus has some nice pluses working in its favor. I liked its design, the speaker sounds better than the original, and you have the option to buy a second speaker and create a stereo pair. Oh, and at around $50, it's pretty affordable.

There are plenty of other options to choose from, including the Philips SoundShooter and the more expensive JBL Flip and UE Boom Mobile Boombox, which offer better performance. However, the HMDX Jam Plus is one of those products that may have few drawbacks (so-so battery life, lack of bass, no speakerphone functionality), but the sum of its parts makes it recommendable, particularly for kids and teenagers.

7.0

HMDX Jam Plus

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Sound 6Value 7