To put the word "audiophile" in the name of your product is a bold claim indeed, but that's exactly what Soundmatters did with its FoxL Personal Audiophile Loudspeaker. This travel-friendly speaker is among the most compact we've seen, and yet it manages to offer exceptional range and clarity--not to mention a tight low-end. However, you'll need a wired connection to enjoy the speaker's audio capability. The FoxL comes in a Bluetooth model ($249) and a standard version ($199), but we don't recommend dropping the extra $50 for wireless connectivity.
No doubt the Soundmatters FoxL speaker is compact and super portable. It measures just 5.6 inches long by 2.2 inches wide by 1.3 inches deep, and a pouch is included in the package to offer minimal protection during transport. (Considering the price, though, we would prefer a hard-sided case.) The unit is all black, with a metal grille covering the face and two bulbous speaker drivers sticking out of the front. It's also well-constructed, with a weighty feel, and has two rubber feet and a pop-out kick stand in the back to support it during music playback. Other physical characteristics of note include volume buttons and a power switch on the back; a 3.5mm line-in port and a power-input jack on the left spine; and a mic/subwoofer input, LED status light, and mini USB port (for charging through your computer) on the right.
As mentioned, the FoxL Soundmatters speaker comes in two models: one with integrated stereo Bluetooth and one without. The Bluetooth version offers the added bonus of wireless connectivity with any audio device that operates on the A2DP Bluetooth protocol. (Examples include the Samsung P2, the Samsung T10, and many smartphones.) It also offers a built-in mic for making and taking hands-free calls. Both models feature an internal Li-Ion battery rated for a rather paltry 5 hours of play time. The package for each includes both an AC adapter and a USB cable for charging. There's also a 1/8-inch stereo-patch cable--with gold-plated straight plugs at either end--for attaching an audio source to the speaker. And to get the best audio quality, this is the method we recommend, even with the Bluetooth version.
Wireless is all well and good, but nothing beats a good-old corded connection when it comes to sound quality. The Soundmatters FoxL Personal Audiophile Loudspeaker speaker is capable of an impressive audio response given its size (and as well it should with "Audiophile" actually in the product name). This is no doubt thanks to the two 1-inch-in-diameter Linear Magnetic Drive "Twoofers" (tuned to 100Hz) on the front, combined with the FlatMagic bass radiator on the rear. The FoxL offers exceptional clarity, with plenty of detail on the high end, and mids are smooth and warm without being overly forward. Bass, while not super thumping, is tight and present...and you will feel it if you're touching the surface the speaker is sitting on. We'd recommend hooking up an external subwoofer if you really want boom, though. Stereo separation is not on par with what you will get from two separate speakers, but this little unit sounds surprisingly open, and you needn't necessarily sit directly in front of it to enjoy the music. (It also gets rather shockingly loud.)
We paired the Soundmatters FoxL mb Personal Audiophile Loudspeaker with a Blackberry Storm in order to test the Bluetooth capabilities. Pairing was a mostly simple and quick process, though you may want to note that the Bluetooth button on the speaker feels unresponsive. It actually works fine--just make sure to follow the instructions in the manual. Unfortunately, sound quality deteriorates noticeably over the wireless connection: high-hat cymbals and other high frequency sounds came through with some static, and music suffered from a bit of distortion on the whole. Because of this, while we highly recommend the Soundmatters FoxL Personal Audiophile Loudspeaker, we don't suggest you spend $50 more for the Bluetooth connectivity unless you really loathe wires.