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Jawbone Jambox review: Jawbone Jambox

Jawbone Jambox

Donald_Bell.jpg
Donald Bell
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Donald Bell Senior Editor / How To

Donald Bell has spent more than five years as a CNET senior editor, reviewing everything from MP3 players to the first three generations of the Apple iPad. He currently devotes his time to producing How To content for CNET, as well as weekly episodes of CNET's Top 5 video series.

4 min read

Editors' note, 4:14 p.m. PT Wednesday: Jawbone issued a free software update for the Jambox on August 24 enabling a sound-enhancement feature called LiveAudio. The new feature is a worthwhile addition and addresses some of our earlier concerns about the speaker's sonic limitations.

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7.7

Jawbone Jambox

The Good

The <b>Jawbone Jambox</b> is a rechargeable Bluetooth speaker with advanced features, a stunning design, and a balanced sound that defies its small, convenient size.

The Bad

The Jambox isn't cheap and the money could buy a larger, wired speaker with superior sound.

The Bottom Line

The Jambox is the most stylish portable speaker we've seen, with features and sound quality you won't find in comparable compact designs.

One of the most overlooked features in any laptop, iPad, smartphone, or iPod Touch is Bluetooth music streaming. Sure, everybody loves the idea of music without wires, but in reality stereo headsets are often awkward, and Bluetooth speakers typically sound wimpy.

Enter the Jawbone Jambox--a rechargeable speaker that breaks our preconceptions of what Bluetooth can do (and how good it can look doing it). Priced on the high end at $199, this little speaker bar uses two 1.25-inch drivers on the front and a passive radiator woofer on the back to deliver surprisingly balanced sound for its size. Just as importantly, the Jambox includes an integrated microphone, capitalizing on Aliph's expertise in wireless voice communication.

Design
The Jambox comes in four colors, black, red, blue, and gray. The top and bottom have a nonslip rubber coating, and the middle is covered with a wraparound metal grille embossed with a geometric pattern. On the whole, it is a seriously solid design, with a reassuring 12-ounce heft. Total dimensions are 2.25 inches high, 6 inches wide, and 1.5 inches deep. Even after knowing this, you're still likely to be shocked by how small the Jambox is when you glimpse it in the wild.

At the very top you have three oversize buttons--two for volume control, and a multipurpose button that gives the battery status, answers and ends calls, engages voice dial (when available), and can be programmed as an autodial button when paired with your phone. On the side, there's a three-position power button that triggers the pairing mode when you hold it up. Beneath that you have a minijack aux input for use with non-Bluetooth audio devices, and a Micro-USB port for recharging the speaker or connecting to a computer.

Features
You'll have a difficult time finding a portable Bluetooth speaker with more features than the Jambox. All of the proprietary software features included with Aliph's Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset are available on the Jambox, as well. For example, the system voice (used to announce caller ID, battery levels, pairing mode, voice dialing, and so on) can be changed to one of six languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Spanish, French, and German) as well as customized between male and female voices.

By connecting the Jambox to your Mac or PC using the included USB cable and launching the Jawbone MyTalk Web site, you can customize the speaker's buttons to activate noise cancellation (dubbed "Noise Assassin") and configure Dial Apps, such as Voice-to-SMS, Voice Dial, and a preferred autodial number. This same USB connectivity allows you to update the Jambox firmware to help maintain compatibility as new Bluetooth features and devices become available.

Other notable features include compatibility with Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, as well as A2DP stereo audio, HFP 1.5, and HSP 1.1. The Bluetooth connection is multipoint, allowing you to connect two devices at the same time. Also included are a 3-foot stereo aux cable for connecting non-Bluetooth devices, two Micro-USB cables (1-foot and 5-foot), a form-fitted case, and a USB wall socket adapter.

Performance
The Bluetooth range of the Jambox is an expected 30 to 40 feet, depending on obstructions in the room. Sonically, the Jambox is a mixed bag. Its sound is undeniably impressive for its size, but not great overall, and certainly not for its price. Aliph uses a pair of proprietary 1.25-inch drivers on the front of the Jambox, along with a rear-facing passive radiator woofer on the back, responsible for its surprisingly present low-end punch. When you turn it on, it even gives a little subfrequency kick just to show off.

A larger Bluetooth speaker, such as the Creative D100 or D200, will easily outgun the Jambox for much less money, but lack the Jambox's speakerphone capabilities and custom features--not to mention its more compact size.

During testing, we paired the Jambox effortlessly with an iPad, iPhone 4, and iPod Touch. Once paired, the Jambox emits a little tone to signal the established connection, and you're off and running. While routing sound to the Jambox for video playback and games, we noticed no obvious audio latency.

Incoming call quality was very good using an iPhone 4 as the paired device. Outgoing voice quality using the Jambox's integrated microphone was decent when placed within arm's reach, and free from the background hiss associated with cheap speakerphone units. Name recognition during voice calling mode also worked well.

Aliph rates the battery life of the Jawbone Jambox between 8 and 10 hours, depending on volume levels. During our informal testing, we were impressed by how well the speaker maintained its charge in standby mode. It's also worth noting that Jambox uses a quick-charge technology, bringing the battery level near 80 percent after 90 minutes of charging and reaching full charge in 2.5 hours.

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7.7

Jawbone Jambox

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 6
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